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  • Wednesday, December 06, 2006


    Carl Sagan Put Things In Perspective

    In 1990, the spacecraft Voyager 1, as it was leaving our solar system, took these photographs of the Earth from 4 billion miles away.

    In the photograph on the left, the Earth appears smaller than a single pixel between the white lines. The photograph on the right is an enlargement of the photograph on the left. The Earth is that little white dot in the center.

    According to the Big Sky Astronomy Club of Flathead Valley, Montana: In a lecture at Cornell University on October 13, 1994, astronomer Carl Sagan presented these photographs and said the following:

    We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at
    it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever
    heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate
    of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and
    economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every
    creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young
    couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every 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 in
    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 the dot on
    scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. 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. It is up to
    us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a
    character-building experience. To my mind, 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 and
    compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot,
    the only home we've ever known.

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