Some Thoughts on The #CoronaVirus and the #PaleBlueDot #Covid19

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Lost in the brilliance of a sunbeam, our tiny world is barely visible in this epic image sent back by Voyager 1 as it left the solar system in 1990. On Valentine’s Day of that year, cruising away 6.4 billion kilometers from the Sun, the spacecraft looked back one last time to capture the first ever Solar System family portrait. Image Credit: Voyager Project, NASA, JPL-Caltech

As the country and the world struggles to cope with the Corona Virus, it is instructive to contemplate the words of the late Carl Sagan as he shared his thoughts on the state of the world in 1994. The world was different then in some ways but, in many respects, it remains the same today.

There are no political or geographic boundaries when our home planet is observed from space; likewise, the Corona Virus knows no boundaries either. When are we going to learn to get along together, as one global community, bound together by a singular commonality, our shared humanity? In this time of challenge, we should share knowledge and experience, regardless of national identity; all of us should reach out to our neighbors on this tiny, pale blue dot with the hand of friendship and assistance.

At this moment, it is paramount that we follow the guidance of the world’s scientists and doctors as we get a crash course in exponential growth, a heretofore abstract concept often discussed in mathematics courses or science journals.

I reproduce Carl Sagan’s famous exhortation below but first, it is fitting to share one of my favorite quotes that echos Carl’s thoughts:

This is the nexus that binds us all together, the oneness with that great canopy of stars above, fellow travelers upon this beautiful blue miracle in orbit about our home star. We, all of us, bound by this common origin, composed of elements forged in the nuclear cauldrons of long-dead stars, look up at the stars and, in humility, connect with each other, fellow travelers on this magnificent blue oasis
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From Carl Sagan’s famous work “The Pale Blue Dot

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 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.

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

James Daly, Ph.D, Astronomer, Curator and Author


Imagination is more important than knowledge

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