missing the point

Great Missing The Point Moments In History – 6 – Most People, President Included

This “missing the point” episode is a little different from the others in the series in that this time, it was the majority of people who missed the point.

1385main_MM_Image_Feature_17_rs4Giovanni Schiaparelli was born today in 1835.

Schiaparelli was an astronomer and a historian. His most famous discovery was of what he called “canali” on Mars and here is where the problem begins. “Canali” could mean “channels”, as in river channels, or “canals” is in man/alien-made. It was  translated into English as “canals” – and that word implies something that has been constructed and is artificial.

People around the world took this as evidence of life on Mars and subsequently all kinds of theories sprung up, books were written, maps were published, and all of these, without meaning to exaggerate, were utter bollocks. Some of these were even written by astronomers who in other areas were extremely successful, such as Percival Lowell.

Nevertheless, in an age where telescopes were not yet powerful enough to disprove the outlandish theories that had been constructed around the mistranslation, there were many true believers.

The best part of this story is that it provides a good example to point to when we would like to show that our (sic) leaders have any better idea what is going on than anyone else.

This example came when the story was finally disproved by the Mariner missions taking photos of Mars from closer in. Apparently, when Lyndon Johnson was shown the first pictures the first thing he said was “But where are the canals?”.

It would have been rather interesting to watch the presidential aides trying to explain that without offending him.

Great Missing The Point Moments In History – Five – An Old Work Colleague of Mine

This one hardly ranks as a famous moment but is worth a mention. For the others in the series click here.

Anyway, I had completely forgotten about this till I was just reminded of it there in an email.

In the run-up to euro 2004 tournament there was talk of an office sweepstake for the winner. Voice from other side of the office shouts “Can I have Brazil”.


Another missing the point moment, and this one is a beauty.

One of the most ridiculous gaffes in literary history was made by the first American publisher to receive the manuscript of Animal Farm who rejected it because ‘there isn’t much of a market for animal stories in the U.S. at the moment’.

The picture below was taken when Orwell received the news and had just decided to go and see the publisher in person.

Other great missing the poing moments can be found here.


This is the second in the series and the people who missed the point this time were a large part of the public.

In 1991 Doug Bower and Dave Chorley admitted that they had been responsible for the crop circles appearing in part of England and believed that they inspired others around the world. Doug Bower also had to tell his wife...from wikipedia

Bower’s wife had become suspicious of him, noticing high levels of mileage in their car. Eventually, fearing that his wife suspected him of adultery, Bower confessed to her, and subsequently, he and Chorley informed a British national newspaper. Chorley died in 1996, and Doug Bower has made crop circles as recently as 2004. Bower has said that, had it not been for his wife’s suspicions, he would have taken the secret to his deathbed, never revealing that it was a hoax.

They made it quite obvious that it was human work too, even going as far as to write their initials next to some of them. Another act was to make one in anti-clockwise direction instead of clockwise to show up a someone who had been discussing how they were always clockwise in the media.

Other groups like circlemakers.org have also shown that they can create just about any kind of pattern.

A large industry started up around crop circles and it is because of this industry that a lot of the ideas about it being aliens etc are still taken seriously by a few people…who obviously missed the point because Bower and Chorley also said that they did it to demonstrate that a lot of pseudoscientists and UFO spotters were gullible.

All of that said…some of them do actually look quite nice and it could be considered an art form. Can’t we just enjoy them on that level now…

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too? – Douglas Adams


I feel a series coming on and this is the first instalment.

Yes, it is “Great Missing the Point Moments in History”. Some of these may be someone wilfully missing the point (you can expect Bishop Wilberforce to make an appearance) or it may just be stupidity (you can expect Bush to appear too). Some will be serious and some just stupid.

Anyway, let’s have an easy one to start with…