Comedy: Unity through Trinity

There is nothing more subjective than comedy. What is amusing to one individual may be conversely interpreted as tragic to another. For “comedy depends on the eye of the beholder…not the character…he has in view” (Potts 198). Comedy’s livelihood depends on the presence of three critical elements: timing, the audience’s familiarity with the subject matter being presented, and the delivery of the material. These rudiments have a tightly knit, interdependent relationship with one another and thus make up the comedic triad. Each individual component works together with a particular purpose, much like the muscles in the human body function harmoniously with one another to execute various tasks. The more highly developed the muscles are, the stronger the collective body will be. The more cohesive the comedic trinity is, the greater the response from the audience will be – in most cases laughter and to some extremes hysterical howls of joy.

The timing of comedic dialogue, whose intention is to delight, is of greatest importance; it can be likened as the heart of the comedic triad. It sets the pace, the flow, and the beat of the humor. Without this pacesetter, the dialogue would be read or dictated as a jumble of words and phrases, whose humorous intent would dissipate into the ether. On some occasions, it is the contravention of the rhythmic wave that elicits humor from the audience. “Discussing Hero, Claudio and Don Pedro slip into patterned, formal prose, whose rhythm is parodied” and subsequently “broken by Benedick” (Leggatt 153).

CLAUDIO: That I love her, I feel.
DON PEDRO: That she is worthy, I know.
BENEDICK: That I neither feel how she should be loved, nor know how she should be worthy, is the opinion that fire cannot melt out of me; I will die in it at the stake.

(Shakespeare I. i.)

An increased pace, a rapid-fire succession of words can also be set forth to build laughter while concurrently heightening suspense. This technique is most notably carried out during the heated round of ridiculing between Benedick and Beatrice upon his arrival.

BENEDICK: God keep your ladyship still in that mind! so some gentleman or other shall ‘scape a predestinate scratched face.
BEATRICE: Scratching could not make it worse, an ‘twere such a face as yours were.
BENEDICK: Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.
BEATRICE:A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.
BENEDICK: I would my horse had the speed of your tongue, and so good a continuer. But keep your way, i’ God’s name; I have done.

(I. i.)

In order to succeed at comedic prose, the use of timing must be crafted carefully into the piece. The extremes of dialogue pacing must be examined; a dialogue that is sustained at a rapid pace may very well cause the “heart” of the triad to arrest and subsequently disjoin the audience from the action. Conversely, dialogue that is continually stagnant and lacking pace ultimately creates dullness throughout the work and consequently causes the rhythm of the work to collapse. To combat a straight-line effect, there are often periods of high comedic action contrasted with periods of conflict. These periods occur in series of undulating waves with the two extremes being a high of pure comedy and a low of extreme tragedy. Benedick’s and Beatrice’s unadulterated comprehension and use of whimsical language are truly the pinnacle of high comedic action. In contrast, the foray of Don John on Claudio’s intent to marry the fair Hero and the false indictment of scandalous encounters by her are nothing but the trough of tragedy. While favoring one extreme, the mind tends to discount feelings for the opposite end of the spectrum. This deprivation causes a heightened sense of emotion when the differing extreme is later revisited. Shakespeare, rather than inundate his audience with superfluous tormented exchanges between Benedick and Beatrice, sprinkles the debates lightly throughout Much Ado About Nothing. This “seasoning” flavors the play to appeal delectably to his audience while avoiding a “salty” over-saturation. As previously stated, the reaction from the audience is directly related to each of the three reactors. The removal or overuse of one element forces a domino effect on each of the others; the muscles of the collective therefore become stiff and their effectiveness begins to subside. Often, an author may employ “pace-makers” in his or her story to set the rhythm of the comedic action. These “pace-makers” are characters of normal demeanor, such as Claudio and Hero, whose attributes lie within the confines of acceptable societal norms.

The rhythm fosters a link between what the audience comprehends as familiar and tranquil contrasted to the unusual or uncomfortable. It is the familiarity with the subject that is the second element in the comedic triad. L.J. Potts writes, “It is the main concern of the comic writer to discriminate between what is normal and abnormal in human behavior” (199). As Shakespeare obviously makes apparent in Much Ado About Nothing, “[the] tale of a credulous lover deceived by a false friend, the business of the disguise at the chamber window, and the final exposure of the trick is, to say the least, highly improbable” (Parrott 155). A groundwork of normalcy needs to exist throughout the piece of work to which the audience can relate. The relationship exists to contrast the realities of human nature against the fictitious nature of the comedy. The closer the relation among the participant, the characters, and the character’s situation the higher the response will be to the distorted reality. There cannot subsist any humor in truthful accounts of events without any disparity to what is normally expected in the social order. The “Claudio” and “[Hero] plot is a conventional story” (Leggatt 151) and therefore does not deviate from the norm of most audience members – the courtship between Claudio and Hero is, for the most part, a fairly common occurrence, at least during the time in which the play is set. The regularity of events such as the latter do not elicit laugher because of their commonplace in society. “Beatrice and Benedick, on the other hand, are freewheeling, invented characters, whose unorthodox love affair and airy use of tongue are generally regarded as presenting a more convincing kind of drama” (151). It is this drama that readers will recognize as deviating from the usual and therefore emit a mirthful response. Benedick quickly detaches from his usual line of philosophy and subsequently rationalizes his love for Beatrice once he is made aware of her “love” for him.

BENEDICK: Shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets of the brain awe a man from the career of his humour? No, the world must be peopled. When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married.

(Shakespeare II. iii.)

The audience is aware of Benedick’s disposition toward marriage, and it is the sudden and drastic variation in his thought process that educes such a humorous reaction.

The third and final element that unifies the trinity is the delivery and inflection of the comedic content. The specific manner in which the dialogue is spoken to the audience can enhance or diminish the reaction that is produced by them. Delivery is closely bound to the element of timing; the two work in concert to produce a livelier response from the reader or watcher of a written work. If well timed dialogue is read in a monotonous and unwavering voice, the two elements will clash and produce little or no reaction – hence no laughter. If the following exchange between Conrade and Dogberry were read with no variation in tone, the humorous undertones would become gray and shadowed.

CONRADE: Away! you are an ass, you are an ass.
DOGBERRY: Dost thou not suspect my place? Dost thou not suspect my years? O that he were here to write me down an ass! But, masters, remember that I am an ass; though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass.

(Shakespeare IV. ii.)

An upbeat delivering, however, does not correlate to a guaranteed laugh every time. The context in which the delivery is performed must draw a parallel to the content that is being dictated. There are many instances where a dull and droning inflection can elicit a higher response than if the script were read with a lively step. It can be implied that a larger emphasis is placed on the context of the comedy rather than the content. A greater weight is placed on the manner in which the content is delivered, which ultimately determines how the audience interprets it. Inflection is a conditioner; where timing and subject awareness build muscle mass, inflection and delivery condition the muscle thereby enhancing its effectiveness.

Comedy’s livelihood depends on the presence of three critical elements: timing, the audience’s familiarity with the subject matter being presented, and the delivery of the material. These rudiments have a tightly knit interdependent relationship to one another and thus make up the comedic triad. Comedy cannot exist without the presence and cohesiveness of the comedic triad. Much like the human body will succumb to death when it is dissected, “…when a joke is [analyzed], it abruptly ceases to be funny” (Styan 231). It is the unified bond between each triadic element that permits comedy to remain strong and prevalent. The more highly developed an individual’s muscles are, the stronger the collective body will be. The more cohesive the comedic trinity is, the greater the audience will respond – in most cases with laughter and to some extremes hysterical howls of joy.

Corrigan, Robert W., ed. Comedy: Meaning and Form. San Francisco: Chandler, 1965.
Leggatt, Alexander. Shakespeare’s Comedy of Love. London: Methuen, 1974.
Parrott, Thomas Marc. Shakespearean Comedy. New York: Russell and Russell, 1949.
Potts, L. J. “The Subject Matter of Comedy.” Corrigan 198-213.
Shakespeare, William. Much Ado About Nothing. New York: Dover, 1598, 1994.
Styan, J.L. “Types of Comedy.” Corrigan 230-42.

Morals: Purpose Through Conflict

Morals – some may see them as guidelines, fostering an understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Others may interpret society’s code of conduct as a wall, preventing the self-expression of individual values. Everyday people are confronted with situations in which they have to make a conscious choice to do one thing or the other: to run the red light or not, to return the extra change received at the checkout counter or not, “to be or not to be.” These are all choices which ultimately have a positive or negative outcome based upon the actor’s conscious decision to make the choice. The struggle for balance between that which has been deemed “good” by society contrasted with that which has been labeled “bad” or “evil” continues, even in today’s modern society. Morals have always existed among the people of the world, and they will continue to evolve and change (Landis 75) at the expense of those who commit to rise up and confront them, either directly or through written verse.

It is human instinct to desire a sense of security from all of nature’s beasts (Weiten 384). One of the ways morals facilitate that need is by creating an unwritten societal handbook that dictates right from wrong as deemed appropriate by a circle of peers working and living in that society. As people interact socially, they begin to develop their own rulebook according to personal values and beliefs (Landis 72). When societal morals and individual values are similar and agreed upon, there exists a harmonious exchange of understanding between the people living in that particular society. Morals exist for many reasons; in Kate Chopin’s, The Awakening, it would appear as though the author calls attention to morals having a purpose to serve as a guideline, for which Edna is to follow, but not question. Are the guidelines these morals lay down definitive or can they be reorganized to reflect the changes in thinking society often goes through? Infidelity to ones marriage partner, questioning authority (specifically husbands), and acting on ones free will were all very much discouraged and frowned upon with harsh scrutiny during the 1890’s. Some of these principles have staying power, but others have been reconstructed to portray the equality rights that prevailed through the “modern” early-twentieth century. By assuming the role of wife and homemaker, Edna’s status in society has already been determined. Edna understands this as she reflects on her marriage; “She felt she would take her place with a certain dignity in the world of reality, closing the portals forever behind her upon the realm of romance and dreams” (Chopin 33). However, Edna chose to defy the moral code of conduct through a rebellious act because of the unfair chains she feels society has placed upon her.

The expectation of individuals to comprehend right from wrong, according to societal rule, is both evident in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”, as well as “The Birthmark”. The moral presented in both these stories is the universal question of what is right. That moral is also present throughout The Awakening as Edna must choose between what is socially accepted versus what she believes to be right, according to her personal values. The unwritten rules that accompany the morals in selected societies are often delineated by traditional thinking rich white males whose supremacy has been strongly cast through the community in which they live. Thus, the rules have a tendency to be slanted toward male dominance and respect for the white male. While Chopin takes the liberty of challenging traditionalist thinking head-on, Hawthorne merely questions the mindless acceptance of life’s sphere of influence as it is presented everyday. Commenting on the moral connection in “Young Goodman Brown,” Fogle writes, “Hawthorne does not wish to propose flatly that man is primarily evil; rather he has a gnawing fear that this might be true” (16). Hawthorne uses the ambiguity of Goodman Brown’s situation to foster thought in his readers’ mind. Hawthorne writes, “Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting” (318)? Are people inherently evil, or do they just inherently make evil decisions when confronted with multiple choices? How can Goodman Brown effectively make a socially correct decision when everything he has learned has been taught by participants in a supposedly evil society.

The breakdown of mutual feelings relating to these morals cultivates a discrepancy between how one is expected to act, according to the societal code, and how one actually chooses to live and carry out their lives. This conflict is prominently apparent in Kate Chopin’s, The Awakening. Edna is expected to live a certain way without straying from the societal boundaries put in place for her. This is often the case; people are to remain complacent in their environment, living life not as individuals but as mechanical cogs that serve but one purpose. When the cog asks questions, the machine breaks down. Edna can be likened to the cog in that once she begins to question authority, her husband, and live her life according to her own terms, her familiarity with the societal machine around her begins to break down. “The beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing” (Chopin 25). Her awakening leads her to the principles of “…[doing] as she liked and to feel as she liked” (95), “…[drifting] whithersoever she chose” (58), and “…[not wanting] anything but [her] own way” (184). Edna’s personal values are conflicting directly with the beliefs of society’s majority paving the way for tribulations and ultimately her sacrifice for the ultimate prize – freedom. Many times sacrifice serves as a catalyst to promote moral conflict.

Goodman Brown sacrificed all who were familiar to him by choosing to believe there is no good in the world and that he lived among evil. By his recognition of seemingly ever-present evil in the world, he consciously chose to disagree with society’s beliefs, which state otherwise, (thereby eliciting conflict), and live according to his own cognizance. In Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark,” Aylmer forgoes his wife at the expense of “his experimental methods essential to human progress” (Grant 150). Mr. Grant continues, “His obsession with perfection, his drive to achieve some ultimate and transcendental effect through science, and his personal ambition are Faustian qualities that doom him morally” (151).

Such is the case in today’s modern society where genetic research is attempting and succeeding at creating clones of living creatures. There rages a heated debate at how far these scientists should push the moral envelope. How far is too far? At what expense will the human race have to endure the quest for worldly knowledge in exchange for spiritual value? Hawthorne is, perhaps, enlightening his readers to some of these universal questions. While God has bequeathed onto His people the mental capacity for logic and reasoning, He has also entrusted them to utilize the knowledge for the common good and not as a replacement for spirituality. As science begins to unravel the mysteries of the unexplained, man runs the risk of running the gamut for control and supremacy. Man will stop at nothing to acquire the understanding needed to create the perfect creature from the mold of his own vision, as Aylmer attempts and fails in “The Birthmark”.

Hawthorne uses the written word, specifically “The Birthmark” to serve as a messenger, voicing his concerns “that science should exercise great caution before plunging into experiments, the results of which could not be anticipated” (Grant 160). The masterful scientists conducting genetic research may soon realize their inept ability to control the monster they so desire to create. The Awakening can be interpreted not only as Edna’s fundamental understanding of her individuality but also as enlightenment for readers to rise up against the hypocrisy of a society which preaches conformity to the morals believed to be the “common voice” of all who breathe air through their lungs. It is not until this common voice of society is breached that its existence is recognized, and when the normative system breaks down, it disrupts the social harmony of society (Landis 72, 74). Goodman Brown resides to a life of solitarian existence and Léonce Pontellier consults the wisdom of a mindful doctor in his efforts to discover what ails his wife – both resulting from the dismantlement of the societal machine that is familiar to them.

Living a life without questioning ones own actions and the worlds around one is not living; morals exist to serve as a guideline not as a definitive guide for living. They will continue to evolve and change (Landis 75) at the expense of those who commit to rise up and confront them, either directly or through written verse. For, it is the natural progression of man to seek knowledge, and what fosters a better comprehension of the world around him than to ask questions and challenge that which is unfair, unpleasant, or unruly?

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York: Avon 1899, 1972.
Fogle, Richard Harter. Hawthorne’s Fiction: The Light & the Dark. Norman: U Oklahoma P, 1964.
Grant, William E. Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Short-Story Writers Before 1880. The Gale Group, 1988. 143-63.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Birthmark.” Meyer 329-40.
—. “Young Goodman Brown.” Meyer 310-19.
Landis, Judson R. Sociology: Concepts and Characteristics. 11th ed. Sacramento: California State University, 2001.
Meyer, Michael, ed. The Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing. 5th ed. New York: Bedford, 1999.
Weiten, Wayne. Psychology: Themes & Variations. 4th ed. Santa Clara: Santa Clara University, 1998.


What is happiness? Is it something that is easily attainable? How do we get to a state of well being and contentment? Happiness is subjective; what is pleasurable for one person may not be as satisfying for another. It seldom stays with us for more than a day or two, for we are constantly battling to achieve balance in our daily lives. As part of that balancing act, happiness is short lived and is often followed or preceded by despair, sadness, vexation, or misery. Like clouds high above, our moods are constantly changing from one state to another. Sometimes we need to become gray and dark in order to pave the way for a bright, sunshiny mood. Happiness is the sun which breaks through the clouds, scatters them throughout the azure sky, and paints a beautiful rainbow across the heavens. It’s what brings hope to despair; it can quell severe emotional distress and help put aside feelings of grief or sadness. If happiness means having a pleasurable or satisfying experience, then wretchedness, having feelings of being deeply dejected or distressed in mind and body, is an excellent antonym for happiness. A few other choice opposites include: dissatisfaction, unhappiness, sorrowfulness, and mourning.

The word happiness can be traced back to the Old Church Slavonic word hap, which meant good fate in the early thirteenth century. It progressed through time to stand for suitable in Old English dialect, and it then developed onward to Old Norse meaning “a state of good luck.” In the 14th century Middle English linguistics picked up the word and used it to describe being akin to or having good fortune. This word might have been used to describe how Columbus was feeling when he bumped into America. We can theorize he experienced many emotions upon discovering the New World – which he thought was India. Blissfulness, cheerfulness, pleasure, blessedness, and joyfulness are all words having similar meaning to the word happiness. Imagine the bright, beaming smile on his face once he laid eyes on land after sailing for months on end. He might have danced around in pure bliss, splashing around on the sandy shore. Like a child frolicking in the salty ocean for the first time, Columbus most likely experienced a natural high on cloud nine. While he enjoyed his present state of happiness, the Native Americans would soon become distressed, quite the opposite of happiness.

Happiness presents itself in many different forms and at many different times in our life. Its symbol is universally known, a smiling yellow face. Its opposite is quite recognizable, an upside-down smile accompanied by a tear or two. Happiness is cumulative, formed from bits and pieces of good times and memorable experiences. It’s not the entire walk in the park, but the moment at which you notice a blue jay perched high in the trees singing a soft lullaby. Happiness is becoming aware of the strong redolence of pine in the forest, scratching your dog’s head while positioning his snout right up to your nose, and laughing after hearing a funny joke. Happiness is savoring each bite of a perfectly cooked steak and realizing that there is nowhere else you’d rather be. Happiness is vacuuming the living room floor on a brisk autumn afternoon while hot tea brews on the stove and warm croissants rise in the oven. It can be complex or simple, long or short, fast or slow; happiness is like a chameleon. The different shades of happiness change with varying environmental conditions. What elicits happiness in a homeless man may cause a scowl from wealthy individual. Happiness to an ant or a beaver could be quite different than happiness to a yak or zebra. Personal happiness often differs from group or tribal happiness. Sometimes being happy doesn’t feel right and sometimes being right doesn’t make us feel happy. Happiness can quickly develop into jealousy; it can often be used as a mask to hide our true feelings.

To me, happiness is a job well done. It’s going home at night with the window down and the wind spiraling through my car. When I was little I felt feelings of gleefulness playing with my Legos and G.I. Joes and Transformers. The days leading up to Christmas, my birthday, Thanksgiving, and swimming at grandma’s house all brought forth pleasurable feelings. Waking up to the rich smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls drenched in gooey icing was pure bliss. A lot of times I was happiest when I was alone. I was content being in solitude, either playing with Lincoln Logs or rummaging through the attic. As times change so do the things which make a person happy. In my teen years, happiness was earning my driver’s license, obtaining my independence, and being challenged every day at work. Happiness matures just like people do. Today, I feel the most joy being with friends and sharing special moments, lifelong memories that will forever be etched in my heart. Happiness is as diverse as the color spectrum; throughout our years we see many hues and tones of happiness, from loud and bright to subdued and soft. Life is the prism which bends our daily experiences exposing a plethora of feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Happiness is always present somewhere in our life, it’s just a matter of being able to see the happiness wavelength and recognize it as such. It can become increasingly difficult for happiness to find us, especially if we aren’t looking for it. I have learned that being aware of my surroundings and paying attention to things around me has made me more mindful of the feelings that I’m having on a daily basis. The simple act of having a positive mind keeps my happiness level up. As mentioned earlier, it’s impossible to be happy ‘round the clock; it is not impossible, however, to maintain a heightened level of awareness. An increased consciousness enables me to spot happy moments and act on them.

Taking a time out to stop and smell the roses seems like an unattainable feat in today’s non-stop, fast-paced lifestyle. Happiness is often overlooked in a society which is plagued with hopelessness, crime, hurt, and despair. It can be shared, rather than sheltered, with those experiencing great anguish, and it can become contagious like laughter. Happiness can spread like a wild fire, reaching hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of seconds. It is, perhaps, the link which bonds the human race together as one seamless entity.


Cutler, Howard C., Lama, Dalai. The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living.
New York: Riverhead Books, 1998.

Lara, Adair. “The One Secret to Happiness.” Redbook June 1995: 57-60.

The New Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc., 1999.

Prose, Francine. “The Rules We Must Break…To Be Happy.” Redbook
April 1996: 108-9, 128.

Earth & Mars: Similar but Different

Try to think back in time to your younger years. The period when life was simpler and you would gaze up at the darkened sky at night and wonder if there was anybody else out there in the vast void of space. You would watch Han Solo and Luke Skywalker travel immense distances at the speed of light. They would engage in space wars spanning the far reaches of a fictitious galaxy. Intelligent life was abundant and not limited to just one planet. As with most Hollywood action adventure movies, “Star Wars” was fictitious and heavily dramatized, but is it possible for life to exist on planets other than Earth? Obviously, our home planet is rich with growing organisms that seemingly occupy every square inch of available space. What about the other planets in our galaxy, the Milky Way. If there is a planet most suitable for sustaining life, it would surely have to be Mars. Earth and Mars are similar in many respects; however, they are quite different from each other and both have their unique qualities.

While Earth is the third closest planet to the Sun and fifth largest, Mars is the fourth closest and seventh largest planet. It is more brilliant than any object in the sky less the moon, Venus, and the Sun. There are no other planets that display as many qualities as ours than Mars does. The red planet was named after the Greek God of War, in part to its striking red color. If you were to look at Mars through a moderately powerful telescope, under good conditions, you would notice a considerable amount of detail. Included in that detail would be one of Mars’ two polar caps. The snow on these caps is not made up of water though. In fact, water cannot exist as a liquid on Mars. It is carbon dioxide snow that covers the Martian caps, however, under the snow lies water in the form of ice. One interesting fact about these polar caps is that they are the same size as the polar ice caps on Earth, relative to the planets’ size. Winter in the northern hemisphere corresponds to summer in the southern hemisphere; the relationship between hemispheres causes the northern cap to grow while the southern cap diminishes. Half a year later (306 Earth days) the situation is reversed. When it reaches its maximum size, the sourthern polar cap covers a larger area than that of the northern cap. You might ask why this is so. The reason is that the autumn and winter is longer in the southern hemisphere than in the northern hemisphere. While the caps are forming, white clouds cover them so that the caps themselves are barely visible. Just before spring arrives, the clouds begin to life exposing the newly formed snow caps.

Because Mars is farther from the Sun, its orbit is slower than Earth’s is. Mars travels 24 kilometers per second around the Sun opposed to Earth’s 29.8 kilometers per second. Though it moves only slightly slower; it takes approximately 687 Earth days to complete one full revolution around the Sun. Therefore, a Martian year is almost twice as long as Earth’s. Unlike the seasons of Earth, the Martian seasons are not equal to one another. The seasons range from 146 days of the northern autumn to 199 days of the northern spring. This can be accounted for by the elliptical shape of Mars’ orbit. The path that Earth follows around the Sun is more circular resulting in seasons that are equal in duration. Winter in Mars’ northern hemisphere are both shorter and warmer; summer is longer and cooler. The opposite is true for the southern hemisphere; winter is longer and colder, and summer is shorter and hotter. Remarkably, this scenario is the same for Earth’s northern and southern hemispheres. The longer spring and summer in the northern hemisphere of Mars might have you thinking that the summers are hotter than those in the southern hemisphere. This is incorrect, however, because the Sun is farther away from Mars when the northern hemisphere is tilted towards it. Noted in Earth time, the length of time it takes for Mars to complete one full rotation on its axis is 24 hours 37 minutes and 22.67 seconds. Since the days are approximately the same on Mars as they are on Earth, but the average time it takes Mars to orbit the Sun is more than Earth’s; Mars moves a smaller distance in its orbit than Earth does in the same amount of time.

Similar to that of the Moon, Mars does not have active plate tectonics, therefore, telltale signs such as folded mountains seen on Earth are nonexistent on Mars. With no lateral plate motion, hot-spots under the Martian crust stay in a fixed position on the surface. But there is no evidence of current volcanic activity. There is, however, new evidence from the Mars Global Surveyor that there may have been some tectonic activity in the early history of the red planet, making comparisons to Earth all the more interesting. As we all know, erosion leaves behind evidence of the gradual wearing away on a planet. Because of these signs, we know that a significant amount of erosion occurred on Mars including large floods and small river systems. Four billion years ago there may have been large lakes or even oceans on the planet’s surface.

Early in its history, Mars was much more like Earth. The lack of plate tectonics, however, disabled the red planet’s ability to utilize carbon dioxide to establish a greenhouse effect. Without a way to keep solar heat inside the planet’s atmosphere, the surface temperature drops to a point inhabitable for intelligent life. Mars’ atmosphere is composed mostly of carbon dioxide (95.3%) plus nitrogen (2.7%), argon (1.6%) and traces of oxygen (0.15%) and water (0.03%). The average pressure on the surface of Mars is only 7 millibars, which is less than 1% of Earth’s. The pressure varies greatly with altitude from 9 millibars in the deepest basins to 1 millibar at the highest point, Olympus Mons. Even though the pressure is considerably lower than that of Earth’s, it is still thick enough to support very strong winds and vast dust storms that on occasion engulf the entire planet for months. Maximum surface temperatures on Mars occur about an hour after midday and decrease rapidly, at first, and then more slowly after Sunset. The temperature on the surface may reach as high as 100Ëš C (180Ëš F) near the equator. During the night, there is no part of the planet where the temperature is above freezing, 0Ëš C (32Ëš F). As a result of the low nighttime temperatures, a large amount of the water vapor in the atmosphere condenses as frost before Sunrise. It will vaporize again, and possibly melt into liquid water in certain locations during the daytime. Surface temperatures are higher during the winter in the southern hemisphere; the winter temperatures are conversely lower.

People have always seemed intrigued by the possibility of life on Mars. The thought ignites excitement at the notion that we aren’t they only life forms living on a planet. There are certain requirements that must be met for humans to inhabit a planet. Temperature, light, gravity, atmospheric composition and pressure, and water are all necessary to sustain life. Obviously, all of these criteria have been met for us on planet Earth or you wouldn’t be reading this essay right now. Mars, however, does present some extreme conditions which may prevent life from ever existing on the red planet. The temperatures during the night are very low as mentioned earlier; this simply means that any enclosed structures would have to be heated at night. This feat would not be terribly difficult if there is sufficient insulation. Humans need light to see and plants need it for photosynthesis. The average amount of light falling on Mars is roughly the same as that falling on Earth. In fact, due to Mars’ less dense atmosphere, there are probably less clouds on Mars. The only major difference between the solar radiation falling on the surface of Earth to that of Mars is the greater amount of ultraviolet in the latter. UV rays are harmful to all organisms, plants and animals. Protection from this kind of light would be accomplished through the use of materials which would absorb the ultraviolet light. The force of gravity needs to be neither too great or too small on a planet. With a gravitational acceleration of about 38% of that on Earth, the gravitational conditions on Mars should be quite tolerable. An artificial atmosphere would have to be constructed to combat the unsuitable pressure and composition of Mars’ natural atmosphere. Oxygen would be extractable from the different forms of ferric oxide believed to be present on the surface of Mars. A more practical approach would be to take advantage of the abundant supply of carbon dioxide. The plants would then use the gas in the process of photosynthesis; thereby, emitting oxygen as a waste product. The adequate supply of water presents one last problem. Since water is the primary building block of all life, without it colonization would be impossible. In all likely events, many materials, including water, would have to be brought from Earth to Mars. We are fortunate enough to have all of these requirements available to us on our home planet. Except at the north and south poles, the daily and nighttime temperatures of Earth are quite tolerable. There is more then enough light available for humans and animals to see by day and for plants to thrive. The ozone layer, high in the atmosphere, shields us from the Sun’s harmful UV rays. The force of gravity on Earth is one that is not too strong, weighing us down, nor is it too weak causing us to float up into the atmosphere. Perhaps one of the biggest factors differentiating Earth from Mars or any other planet is the existence of water in a liquid form. Water is fundamentally important; it causes the weather to change, enables plant growth, and is the building block of all life.

Even though each planet has their own distinct characteristics; both Earth and Mars share some similarities. Both have roughly the same overall surface temperature. Seasons of the same type occur in each of the planets’ two hemispheres. Just like the Earth, there is a difference between the northern and southern hemisphere. Almost all of the massive volcanoes lie in Mars’ northern hemisphere while the prominent basins are located in the southern hemisphere. On Earth, most of the great oceans lie south of the equator and all of the major land masses can be found north of the equator, in the northern hemisphere. Their likenesses certainly do not shadow their differences; the lack of water on Mars sticks out like a sore thumb. The color of Mars is another quality that is quite dissimilar than that of Earth’s. These two planets seem to be related like brother and sister, and like many siblings, they each posses qualities that are unique to themselves; there are also many properties shared between the two. Earth and Mars appear to be the same, but closer examination reveals each has their own personality causing each one to be quite different from each other.

American, Scientific. The Planet Earth. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1957.
Attenborough, David. The Living Planet. Boston, MA: David Attenborough Productions LTD., 1984.
Cross, Charles. Mars. New York, NY: Crown Publishers, Inc. 1973
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My Twenty First Birthday

Becoming a legal adult is supposed to be a fun and exciting time. It’s amazing to think of all the changes that occur once you turn twenty one. You’re allowed to legally drink, your car insurance goes down (albeit a very small amount), and being carded no longer evokes feelings of anger. I expected a lot of these things to happen to me, and when they did, I wasn’t surprised. There was one tiny thing that happened to me that made my eyes shoot out of their sockets. I walked out of work the night before my birthday, and to my dismay, I discovered that my 1998 Dodge Stratus had been stolen!

Shocked, upset, and gasping for breath, I started laughing. I couldn’t believe it; my car was gone, nowhere in sight. I said to myself, “I know I parked it right here.” I work at WROC-TV 8, and though the neighborhood isn’t bad, it deteriorates quite rapidly three or four blocks away from the station. There are two parking lots at channel 8. The parking lot in the back is usually lit with bright overhead lights, but on this night the lights were not working. Recognizing this when I got to work, I parked my car closer to the building where there was some light. I locked my door as I always do and went into work at 7:15pm. At 12:02am I walked out of work exhausted and hungry; I headed over to where I parked my car earlier that evening. Noticing that it wasn’t there, I slowly turned around and scanned the back parking lot thinking I had parked in the back. “No,” I thought to myself, “I am 100% sure I didn’t park in the back. Where in the bloody hell is my car?” Not knowing whether to cry or scream, I started to laugh. I inspected the ground to see if there was any broken glass scattered about. I didn’t see any glass; so, I immediately thought I had left my door unlocked. I couldn’t be more positive that I had locked my door. I never forget to lock my door. Two years ago I accidentally left one of my doors unlocked, and someone stole all of my college notes, books, book bag, and art supplies out of the back seat of my car. To this very day I always lock my doors. After I calmed down a bit, I went back inside and called the police. They came and took a report, and the officer told me that 4 other Dodge vehicles had been stolen in the past three days around the area. One of the cars was stolen in broad daylight. When he was done asking me questions, Officer Friendly gave me a copy of the report and said someone would contact me if my car was located.

I hitched a ride home from my friend, Mary Beth, that night. When I got into my apartment I wasted no time locking the door. I entered my room, fell backward on my bed, and began to cry. “Why is this happening to me?”, I thought. I popped two extra strength Tylenol and cried myself to sleep. Morning arrived way too early. The bright warm rays of the sun struck my face like a warm blanket gently covering me. I rolled out of bed; shortly thereafter the phone rang. Anxious to hear any news about my car I lunged for the handset and very excitedly said, “Hello!” It was Mary Beth calling to see how I was doing and to wish me a happy birthday. She told me to keep my chin up and keep a positive attitude. I thanked her for wishing me a happy birthday and for being such a good friend. After talking for a couple minutes I told her I would talk to her later at work. About an hour later I received another phone call. Ah! This was the phone call I had been waiting for. My car had been found at 3:30am in a rather rough section of Rochester. The gentleman I spoke with said I could come down to the city pound and pick it up anytime. Elated, I called Mary Beth and told her the good news. I think she was happier about it than I was!

The impound was only eight to ten miles from my apartment; so, it didn’t take me long to get over there. I must have been driving ninety five miles per hour; I couldn’t wait to get my car back. I started to get nervous as I approached the entrance. Terrible thoughts entered my mind. What if my car was smashed to smithereens? Would all my tires still be there? How would I drive home if my windshield was missing? I tried to put those nasty images aside as I walked into the impound office. I crept up a small flight of stairs, palms sweating and heart racing. It was a cramped lobby containing nothing more than a few chairs, some telephones, and a glass window with a man in uniform hiding behind it. I glanced around the room then approached the window. “Hi. I’m here to pick up my car. It was stolen last evening.”, I said to the gentleman. He looked at me like I was a piece of meat, examining me from head to toe and back again. “Fill this out. Sign here, here, and here. I’ll need two forms of identification, your social security card, and your police report.”, the man rattled off like guns firing in rapid succession. I turned over all of the necessary paper work; consequently, as a reward, he gave me directions to where I could find my car. Finally, after going through all this rigamarole I was going to get my car back.

I followed the instructions on the piece of scrap paper that was given to me. The junkyard contained so many twists and turns it reminded me of a pretzel. I managed to find my car after a few minutes of seemingly driving in circles. When I stopped the car and shut off the engine I swear I could hear the sound of my heart beating deep in my chest. In between a totaled Cavalier and a rusted out old pickup truck was my purple Stratus. Amazingly the car was fine; so, I thought. The driver’s side of the car was perfectly all right, but my heart sank when I saw the other side of the car. Both doors on the passenger side were completely annihilated; I couldn’t even open them, they were smashed so badly. The front wheel was now residing under the car, but none of the windows were broken. I opened the driver side door and sat down, pulled my hair back, and let out a frustrated sigh. All of my CD’s were stolen, and left behind by the perpetrator was a pair of sunglasses, a black ski hat, a snack cake wrapper, and a bullet. I called AAA and had them tow the car to a local garage.

With my car in the shop for the next four weeks, I had to find some way of getting to and from work. I rented the cheapest car possible since my insurance only paid for part of the cost of rentals. I ended up with what I think is a go-cart on steroids, a Chevy Cavalier. Even though the world was crumbling before my eyes, I remembered what Mary Beth said to me, “Try to keep a positive attitude.” I wasn’t about to let this minor setback affect my birthday, a time of jubilee. Mary Beth had made plans to take me out for dinner and a movie. We had so much fun, and I totally forgot about my car being stolen and all the trouble associated with it. Just spending a couple hours with her put my mind at ease. We ate at a quaint little restaurant in Henrietta. The food was absolutely fantastic, it really hit the spot. After dinner we saw “The Green Mile”, an incredible film; I would recommend it to anyone. When the night started to wind down I started to become sad again. Reality set in, and I could feel salty tears beginning to form near the corners of my eyes. Mary Beth looked at me and said, “Don’t cry. Everything is going to work out; you’ll see. In a couple weeks, you’ll have your car back and everything will be as it was.” She was right, she usually is.

Four weeks later my car was completely restored. I felt like a huge burden had been lifted off my chest. I no longer had to drive the go-cart; so, I promptly returned the little bugger. For many reasons, I will have long lasting memories of my twenty first birthday. Sure, I’ll always remember the feelings I had walking out of work and discovering that I had become a victim of car theft. More importantly though, I’ll never forget the advise Mary Beth gave me, “Keep a positive attitude.” Now, whenever I’m presented with a stressful or upsetting situation, I just try to maintain a positive outlook. Life is too short to waste time dwelling on the negative side of things.