A Pale Blue Dot
An uplifting animation with commentary by Carl Sagan, offers us an unexpected perspective of our earthly existence.
0 – 5 | Animation | Astronomy | Canada | Video Essay | 2011
Many of the problems that plague our small terrestrial existences can be often “solved” with a change of perspective, a change of scale. Sometimes just widen up the perimeter of an issue, and see it placed in a broader context, can alleviate its “gravity”.
But when this change of perspective concerns the whole of humanity and our presence in the deep space, then you understand why astronomy, before being a science, it’s a “character-building experience” as suggested by scientist and writer Carl Sagan, in a famous passage of Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994), one of his most famous works.
A teaching so important to push Adam Winnik, former student of Applied Arts and Design at Sheridan College, to graduate with this animation that illustrates, with simple but catchy designs, the famous passage, directly read by Sagan, and accompanied by the music of German composer Hans Zimmer.
The “Pale Blue Dot” referred to the American scientist is, in fact, our Planet photographed twentyfive years ago by the Voyager 1 a probe launched in 1977 to explore interstellar space escorting the Golden Record: a disk containing sounds and images representing different variety of life and culture on Earth (as well as, among other things, the brain waves of Annie Druyan, which later became Carl Sagan’s wife).
That picture, taken from about six billion kilometers away, has become one of the most important astronomical images of all time, and deeply inspired Sagan’s reflections on our existence in this small solitary dot in the space.
Reflections that have touched the heart and trigger the imagination of the young Canadian illustrator: «I have always thought of Carl Sagan’s writings as “scientific poetry” since they lack the cold touch that science is often cursed for having. I think Sagan’s words resonate more than ever […] The first time I heard this excerpt from his book “Pale Blue Dot” it literally changed my life, and I hope it does for you too. Enjoy.»
Here below the transcription of Carl Sagan’s excerpt:
«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, ever 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 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
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