Sunday, June 6, 2010

TED and A Blue Dot

As of late I have started watching TED talks. For those of you who don't know what they are, you should get to know them. People, from all over the world, get together and discuss creative ideas that they have. I have watched talks on health care, homeopathy, penguins, music videos, social networks, etc. Most of them are fantastic and all of them are quite innovative.

I was watching a few of them tonight when I came upon a talk about why we need exploration. During the talk this picture was shown. It does not seem like much, but by the end of his talk, the speaker had managed to change my perspective about who I am.

The change came when the speaker showed this picture:

I am betting there are many of you who know of this picture and its significance, but for those who don't, see if you can find a pale blue dot in the last sun beam on the right.

That dot, that teeny tiny insignificant dot, is our earth from 3.8 billion miles away. Amazing? I thought so. The speaker then quoted what Carl Sagan (The man who turned Voyager 1 around and took this picture, among others) said about this picture.

"From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of 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, 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."

This quote and other information can be found here.

Can you believe that we are that small? I would never have looked twice at something I considered to be a smudge in a picture. Yet that smudge, or dot, contains 6 billion people who all think that they are, to some degree, important. We can be viewed as nothing more than a speck in another universe.

I like how at the end of the quote Sagan asks us to learn to cherish the things we have and deal more kindly with one another. How much better would our world be if we viewed ourselves as the little blue dot.


  1. Wow. That is pretty cool. Its crazy to think how small we really are.

  2. I loved this quote. Thanks. However it feels good to know that even though we are small, I am still a daughter of the God who made it all. :)