William J. Clancey: Home > Essays


A collection of everyday speeches and commentary, scientific essays, expedition journals, and photographic stories.

Everyday Essays

Also Ran
A poem about life composed for a Kentucky Derby party, Foster City, May 1, 2010.

St. Matthew's Commencement Address
An invitation to help humanity create colonies on Mars. Presented to 6th Grade class in St. Matthews church, San Mateo, CA June 2002.

The Next Voyager Record: A Qatsi Perspective
Essay about art, aliens, and ET -- explaining how we might create a new kind of time capsule based on Reggio and Philip Glass's audiovisual collaboration. Presented at Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, February 2003.

The Target Stores Urban Legend
How public opinion is manipulated by inciting emotional reactions, which play to and reinforce biases, and subsequently inhibit thinking.

How to be a Politically Correct Human Being
My response to another chain email.

Return from San Marino
Adventures flying from Italy back to San Franciso, June 2001

Rapelling in Lomatium Canyon
A family letter about our weekend near Moab, UT, April 2002

Two Drunks
A brief encounter

Le Deux Composé
An imaginary encounter

Tool Kitsch
A reflection on selling everyday fix-it tools in a plastic box

Scientific Essays

Why Pluto is Now Not a Planet
A Wall Street Journal editor claims scientists are being unnecessarily precise in recategorizing Pluto as a dwarf planet.  His mockery of scientific naming is ignorant and alarming, showing no grasp of  how scientists explain natural phenomena.

Automating CapCom
A first-person report on our field test at the Mars Desert Research Station in April 2002.

Living on Mars Time
Working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA in February 2004, I realized I didn't really understand what it meant that Mars had longer days.

Don't Confuse Geologists with Their Tools
Reporters and researchers alike use grandiose metaphors to make their subject matter more alluring. So instead of calling the machines we send to Mars tools, the press releases call them "robotic geologists." Whatever will we call a machine that could actually decide which rocks to pick up, let alone write a paper about finding water on Mars?

Okay, so I'm a MetaScientist: New Kinds of Tools for the New Kind of Science
Reflections on why my work during a scientific expedition is not called "science."

You are conscious when you dream

Synopsis of my theory of the nature of dreams. Written in 1999 for Why: Questions in Science, a new journal that unfortunately never came to fruition.

Can a computer count? What the mechanism of consciousness reveals about forms of intelligence
Summary of my Contact 2000 presentation, in response to a question posed to me, "What is consciousness good for?"

Robotic geologists (Martian Chronicles 7, 2000, http://www.marssociety.org/youth)
One-page summary of how our work at Haughton Crater is helpful for inventing tools for Mars geology. The editors chose the title, which I think is very strange, like calling your Cuisinart a "robotic chef." See my related essay above.

Photographic Essays

Voyages of Discovery with the Mars Exploration Rovers
Invited presentation for the CONTACT 2008 Conference, NASA Ames, April 2008.  How working with a rover changes the nature of field science.

The Mars Room: Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (November 2001)
A scientist-artist collaboration to bring the public into dialogues about Mars.

Mars, A Place to Go
Invited essay illustrated by Mars simulated image from HMP-1999; Appeared in Bonami, F. & Obrist, H. U. (Eds.), Sogni/Dreams, pp. 30-31. Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Per L'Arte (Venice Biennial of Visual Arts).

How would you feel after 500 days on Mars?
Haunting photographs from Haughton-Mars Project 1999 Expedition, with captions from Lopez's Arctic Dreams.

Ethnographic Gallery from HMP-1999
Sixty photos with poetic captions composed during the Haughton-Mars 1999 Expedition. Illustrates the romance of our last camp on the Haughton River.

Other Arctic Photographs
From my intial trip in 1998 through 2001.

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