New York Times Reports Martians Building Canals on Mars

A lesson in science, pseudoscience, and information literacy

A woman gazes in wonder at a model of Mars showing canals spotted by Percival Lowell a century ago. The issue of Cosmopolitan included writings from both scientists and fiction write H.G. Wells, author of The War of the Worlds. Public domain photo of illustration by William R. Leigh, published March 1908.

The headline is real: “.” The subhead elaborates: “Vast Engineering Works Accomplished in an Incredibly Short Time by Our Planetary Neighbors.”

We may scoff and call it “fake news,” but this story actually appeared, in all seriousness, in…