June 1, 2010

A Pale Blue Dot: 20 Years Later.

“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us.”

Hi Elephants!

Can you believe it’s been 20 years, two whole decades, since the famous image of “the Pale Blue Dot” was sent to Earth from Voyager 1?

(I know that Lynn put up a lovely post a few weeks ago linking to this image and video, but can you ever have too much of this speech? I can’t!)

Do any of you remember where you were when you first heard (or saw) Carl Sagan gave his famous speech about this blue dot we call home? I do. It wasn’t 1990 (I hardly remember that year, since I was three). It was in my astrophysics class in high school. I was lucky enough to have one of the coolest astrophysics teachers on the planet who, on more than one occasion, made us watch pieces from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

Year’s later, after YouTube was invented, I rediscovered the “Pale Blue Dot” speech.

The video, posted below, is one of the most influential clips/films/speeches I have ever seen/watched/heard. Anytime I am “lost” in work or school or relationships or crapola (which is more often than I’d like to admit), I re-watch this video. It’s beautiful and perfect in its cheesy, low-budget way. I love it, and I hope you all do too. Sagan’s words are posted below the clip, so you can read along.



From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known. – Carl Sagan

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