At the end of the XIXth century, wealthy astronomer Percival Lowell studied long straight lines running over the surface of planet Mars, which had first been described by Giovanni Schiaparelli. had He claimed those lines were canals constructed by Martians. This happened to be an optical illusion, but at the time there was vigorous debate (Lowell was supported by newspapers such as the New YorkTimes and the Wall Street Journal).

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