Our place in the universe

6 February 2014

This picture was taken by the Curiosity Rover on Mars yesterday. It might be one of the most awesome pictures humanity has ever taken.


It may even be even more awe-inspiring than the Pale Blue Dot, but I believe Carl Sagan said it best:

“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.”

I find it comforting to think about how inconsequential some of our failures can be and dream about ways to make an impact on this scale.

Not much changes in the scheme of things if your product flops, your app crashes, you have to shut down your company, or you lose all your money. People have and are enduring worse.

But, if you succeed at something, you can make a much more important impact. Maybe you, like Elon Musk, build a space company that sends ships away from our lonely planet. Or you build a device that solves global warming. Or you build an app that saves people time - our most valuable asset. Or you simply give hope to someone who was all but lost.

My grandfather, Frank Dorsey, passed away Wednesday afternoon. He was a Reverend in the First United Methodist Church in Kansas City, KS and he spent his life helping others. He did a lot to make that dot a little less fragile.

He loved science and I know he would have loved this picture.

Rest in Peace Grandpa.