Taken in 1990 by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft, the "pale blue dot" photo shows what our planet looks like from 4 billion miles away. Earth is the tiny speck of light indicated by the arrow and enlarged in the upper left-hand corner. The pale streak over Earth is an artifact of sunlight scattering in the camera's optics.
A New Perspective On The Planet
The late astronomer Carl Sagan eloquently tried to express how he felt about this photo in his book Pale Blue Dot:
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.
After a long and difficult fight with myelodysplasia, which included three bone marrow transplants, Sagan died of pneumonia at the age of 62 at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, on December 20, 1996. He was buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Ithaca, New York.
Carl, may you rest in peace. Ever the scientist, ever the poet. Your blood turned on you far too early in your life and we lost you. We lost you.
As a child I was into science fiction so deeply it has never left me. I was definitely one who rooted then for big changes in that way, loved the actual space program, would still prefer that someone would figure a way around the light barrier somehow. So now I am rooting for both cosmology and quantum physics to get the TOE, the Theory Of Everything in a useful way.
We already have big pieces of it but in the form it currently is, there is no way we are going to leave the local neighborhood. Bummer. That means the strange lands of Frank Herbert, Ursula leGuin and all those other really really good writers are unlikely to manifest.
But in truth, if we ever manage to harness sunshine using truly large space platforms and also harness the transmission challenge, we will become so energy rich that civilization will change again, based on a truly sufficient for the long term supply of energy. Whatever.
We will have to survive the ever increasing multiple crises in the near term to ever get to such a place. There is not the belief, the will, the available resources, or the time at present. I am more than half convinced that there is something pretty difficult brewing, but I confess that I have felt that way most of my life...
We have hung that anxiety lately on the 2012 winter solstice. Maybe. Probably not.
I heard another prediction, that time is literally speeding up, in such a way that since everyone and everything is undergoing it, it only manifests as how we all feel time is speeding up, but no one can prove it. I heard that sometime around 2011-13 the nexus will be reached, time will be compressed to its maximum, and then it will begin to slow down. It started speeding up near the end of the 1800s. Time is supposed to do this on some cycle. I like that one as much as the alignment with the center of the galaxy, better even because it is independent of man's measurement systems.
I have trouble building cosmic significance out of alignments that are largely revealed through our mapping devices and simple math related to navigation. Mapping conventions are not scientific discoveries, are not realities somehow out there, but are man centered conveniences. The sources of the maps that tell time in the 2012 way are in man's psychology. We would have a whole different set of them perhaps not on the moon, but certainly if we were long established on Mars or a moon of Jupiter or Saturn. You see, it really depends on perspective.
That brings me to my next poem.
At Saturn's Rings
I look back at you
In this far cold empty place,
Can see only dust.
I know you're there still, at home
Perhaps, or in the city.
From here all is one.
All of you are found in one
Tiny pale blue dot.
December 30, 2008 5:10 PM
I was recalling a History Channel show, where they literally did this, kept going out further and showing what earth had to look like. Tiny pale blue dot - that's a phrase from the show. In the sixties certain astronauts found it a compelling and even spiritual experience to see Earth from the orbit of the moon.
Perspective is nearly everything.
First posted, May 1, 2009