Sunday, January 07, 2007

All your beliefs are belong to nothing

For the record, I was not looking for porn when I discovered this awesome picture of the Earth.

Carl Sagan said it best when describing this life-altering photo of Earth, in his book Pale Blue Dot, taken by Voyager 17 years ago:

"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.

Of course, what blog post would be complete without a few links to Wikipedia? What is even more awesome is that Sagan promoted the ideas of space colonization and terraforming, (Thank you again wikipedia) the idea of turning an uninhabitable planet into an oasis for human life. But where will we go?

How will we do it? A lot of effort has gone into thinking about this. Thankfully, we finally have a true simulation of what to expect.

According to, giant mirrors could play into it:

  • Large orbital mirrors that will reflect sunlight and heat the Mars surface.
  • Greenhouse gas-producing factories to trap solar radiation.
  • Smashing ammonia-heavy asteroids into the planet to raise the greenhouse gas level.
That last one sounds AWESOME!
More precisely:

Scientists have thought about attaching nuclear, thermal-rocket engines to ammonia-heavy asteroids and redirecting the asteroids so that they crash into Mars and release the meteor's ammonia and water. The ammonia could raise Mars' greenhouse gas level. The rocket engines could be able to move the asteroids 3 miles per second, for a period of ten years, before they shut down and allowed the asteroids to coast into Mars.

So why am I bringing everyone down with this post about how insignificant we all are? The real answer is, why not? And that answer is a question, which is a bullshit cop-out. If you can view this photo and dismiss its impact and importance on how it should shape your entire philosophy on life, then you need to look at it again. Even if you agree that "Yes, we are insignificant in the grand scheme of things, so I'm going to just make a go of it here on Earth since this will always be my entire reality", well, then at least you're being responsible to yourself.

It's tough to comprehend infinity, if not impossible. To say "I get it" is all we can probably ever do. Until then I suppose we can all keep striving for the 5 bedroom house and HUMMER (or at least the means to own a HUMMER but then reject it outright since it such an unnecessarysuburban vehicle.) Contemplating the breadth and scope of the universe doesn't pay the mortgage..unless you're Stephen Hawking or the late Carl Sagan, et al.

I like living in a time when pictures like the one above exist. I like contemplating how many people will view that photo and dismiss it, because it represents an entire overhaul of their reality. That's a lot to ask of yourself. Are you up for it?

If you enjoyed the post, enjoy a souvenir. T-shirts available at the gift shop out front.