Remembering Carl Sagan – The Pale Blue Dot Video Phenomenon
In February 2007, in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the death of Carl sagan, a video appeared on You Tube by an Irish artist Ice Core Scientist called Pale Blue Dot.
It quickly began to attract attention from prominent science and astronomy bloggers. It was inspired by an essay written by the late Carl Sagan, reflecting on a single profound photo of planet earth taken by one of the Voyager spacecraft as she passed the outer rim of our planets.
As Voyager reached the edge of our Solar System in 1991, the late astronomer Carl Sagan suggested that they instruct the craft to take a parting shot of Earth.So they did.
The photo sent back by Voyager was humbling indeed, a low resolution image showing a small blue speck caught by accident in a ray of sunlight. It moved Dr Sagan along with his wife Ann Druyan to write a book entitled Pale Blue Dot : A vision of the Human Future in Space.
Part of the book includes a profound philosophical essay read by Dr Sagan at a commencement address shortly before he died in 1996.
This is what he wrote:
” Look again at 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, Pale Blue Dot, 1994 “
These words made it to the front page of You Tube when the Editors chose to feature Ice Core Scientists video in June 2007. It immediately created a storm of comments between religious and atheists,but more often just simple amazement.
Literally hundreds of different versions of Pale Blue Dot have appeared since, which only goes to show you can’t keep a good idea down! The most viewed has actually pipped Ice Core Scientists original version in views, perhaps appropriately,as it features the voice of Dr Sagan himself,using a sample from the audio book version of Pale Blue Dot. In May 2008 as part of Pangea Day, another version of Pale blue Dot was released, highlighting yet again this profound perspective of our place in the Universe.
This humble photo of our small planet, has sparked a unique challenge to view our planet in a way that humanity has not done so, since we believed it was flat.
Read also Dr Sagans book Contact – which explored similar themes and was made in to a feature film starring Jodie Foster.
Watch the original version of a Pale Blue Dot by Ice Core Scientist that started it all off and and pass it on to your friends as an inspiring gift.