“A Mote of Dust Suspended in a Sunbeam”

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Dec 10, 2012
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One of the greatest scientific passages ever written—and I hesitate to add the adjective “scientific,” the prose is so powerful—is Carl Sagan’s reflection entitled, “Pale Blue Dot.” It was written after Sagan saw a picture taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1990, after it had traveled 6 billion kilometers (3.6 billion miles) from home. The image was a family portrait of the solar system that showed the Earth, our entire planet, as a single bluish pixel almost drowned out by the glare of the Sun.

Sagan’s words have inspired countless people, including artists. One person, at the art studio ORDER, created this lovely short video animating Sagan’s words:

As powerful as that is, it’s only about half of what Sagan wrote, and I strongly urge you to read his whole essay. It will only take a minute, but it may have a profound impact on your life. It did mine.

And (to totally change the mood) it had an impact on another man’s life as well. This short (10-minute) comedy piece is set in a small restaurant, the Pale Blue Café. I found myself laughing quite a bit watching it—I’ll note that there is some NSFW language and a very brief adult scene—but I really got a kick near the end when an old friend of mine shows up.

SPOILERS for those who don’t get the joke: Brian Cox is a physicist who does a lot of television documentaries, including the very well-done Wonders of the Universe, and yes, he does a lot of pointing up in the show.

I visited the Large Hadron Collider with Brian a few years ago and we had a lot of fun. He interviewed me for a podcast, and I put together a short video of the trip as well. One of these days I’ll have to go back. The LHC is awesome, and I would love to get more Geneva chocolate.

Tip o’ the lens cap to kuriositas via io9; and to Trunkman Productions and Gia Milinovich.