Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Pale Blue Dot

Due to my favorite series' season break, I started watching The Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. It's a science-oriented documentary series, discussing the universe seen as an ordered whole and the people related in its research. It is hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose major life works concentrates on astrophysics and physical cosmology.

Taking a technical course of electronics engineering, I love to think that I am a person of science. Seeing familiar names in this series like Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, William Herschel, James Clerk Maxwell and of course, Albert Einstein, made me feel a little bit relevant. On the other hand, learning how they viewed the world like a vast and endless cosmos, made me feel small and insignificant.

The 13th and final episode of this series concluded with Carl Sagan's narration. He was the original host and brain of this series' prequel. This narration was about his thought when they sent out the Voyager 1 into the space. Voyager 1 was on a one-way ticket when sent into space in 1977. It has 2 missions - one is to collect outer space data and the other is to contain earthling data in case other intelligent beings were able to find it. It will just float away in space unless other force acts upon it. Before exiting our solar system (border of Neptune), Carl Sagan suggested it should take a souvenir "family" portrait of our solar system. From that distance, our planet would only look like a pale blue dot. Carl's thoughts about this moved me: 

"From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any 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."

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