Carl Sagan

09 Nov 2012. comments

Today is the birthday of someone, who in my mind, is one of the most important people to have ever lived. Carl Sagan was a scientist, astronomer, cosmologist, and physicist. He helped popularize science and created Cosmos. Cosmos was a television series in which he eloquently and simply explained science, the universe, whether we are alone, and whether we as a species will survive. He worked with NASA for many years helping launch spacecrafts such as Mariner, Pioneer 10 and Voyager. He warned us of the dangers of nuclear winter, global warming, and highlighted the importance of searching for life on other planets. He helped start SETI and was a member of the board for 12 years.

The following quote is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever read. It is in reference to a photograph Pale Blue Dot, which shows a photo of Earth as shot by the Voyager 1 spacecraft 6 billion kilometers away as it exited our solar system.

“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 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. 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.

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


Tagged: space science

2018 Ben Lakey

The words here do not reflect those of my employer.