Carl Sagan and his Cool Reflections

Pale Blue Dot WidePale Blue Dot Close

The photo above was taken by Voyager 1 in 1990 as it sailed away from Earth, more than 4 billion miles in the distance. Having completed its primary mission, Voyager at that time was on its way out of the Solar System, on a trajectory of approximately 32 degrees above the plane of the Solar System. Ground Control issued a command that directed the distant space craft to turn around and, looking back, take photos of each of the planets it had visited. From Voyager’s vast distance, the Earth was captured as a infinitesimal point of light (between the two white tick marks in the image above), actually smaller than a single pixel of the photo. The image was taken with a narrow angle camera lens, with the Sun quite close to the field of view. Quite by accident, the Earth was captured in one of the scattered light rays caused by taking the image at an angle so close to the Sun. Dr. Sagan was quite moved by this image of our tiny world. Here is an enlargement of the area around our Pale Blue Dot and an excerpt from the late Dr. Sagan’s talk:

 

Pale Blue Dot

-by Carl Sagan – January 25th 2010

“The spacecraft was a long way from home.

I thought it would be a good idea, just after Saturn, to have them take one last glance homeward. From Saturn, the Earth would appear too small for Voyager to make out any detail. Our planet would be just a point of light, a lonely pixel hardly distinguishable from the other points of light Voyager would see: nearby planets, far off suns. But precisely because of the obscurity of our world thus revealed, such a picture might be worth having.

So, here they are: a mosaic of squares laid down on top of the planets in a background smattering of more distant stars. Because of the reflection of sunlight off the spacecraft, the Earth seems to be sitting in a beam of light, as if there were some special significance to this small world; but it’s just an accident of geometry and optics. There is no sign of humans in this picture: not our reworking of the Earth’s surface; not our machines; not ourselves. From this vantage point, our obsession with nationalisms is nowhere in evidence. We are too small. On the scale of worlds, humans are inconsequential: a thin film of life on an obscure and solitary lump of rock and metal.

Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you’ve ever heard of, every human being who ever was 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 mother and father; hopeful child; inventor and explorer; every teacher of morals; every corrupt politician; every supreme leader; every superstar; 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. 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. It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the only home we’ve ever known.

The pale blue dot.”

 

 

I came across an old collection of mine from Carl Sagan and this film excerpt below in the hyperlink is from his Cosmos series. It pretty much encapsulates the very drift of the conceptual journey consuming my thoughts of late. The Cosmos series is a timeless, historical expression of the scientific outlook on the origin of life, the human species and the universal laws that eternally surround us. Carl Sagan’s humble and nonchalant demeanor is a very pleasant experience to ponder the perplexities of a life feeling the weight of its egocentric fixation on privilege, grandeur and selfhood…….In fact everything written for the public by Carl Sagan is worthy  of any person’s interest…

Carl Sagan on God

 

 

A poster-size image of the beautiful barred spiral galaxy NGC 13

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Ridley Scott’s Universe – fact or fiction?

 

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Ridley Scott is an accomplished producer and director. Having watched the sequel to his cult classic of 1982 – Blade Runner – just recently, I felt compelled to articulate some of my reactions to some of his work over the years. Who can forget the dysfunctional fear of extraterrestrial life generated through the film Alien in 1979 and the thought-provoking dystopia of the film Blade Runner in 1982 ? The driving forces underpinning both of these films originate in Ridley Scott’s existential dilemma with life itself. The growing friction that Ridley experiences with life and purpose that grind the realities of form and function, is a personal attempt to grapple with the essential question of what the hell this thing we call life is all about. In fact for Ridley Scott, life itself is a crime thriller without closure – an untenable realisation in anybody’s discernment.

In the film Prometheus the stage is set to distinguish the concept of a benevolent hope  in nature’s designs with the contrast of brute survival coping in a universe of many life forms devoid of moral imperatives. In fact most of the motivational momentum in Ridley Scott’s films attempt to clarify the idea that survival is the be all and end all of life itself and that death is the necessary process towards evolutionary mastery of knowledge – a knowledge enabled to temporarily withstand the onslaught of a meaningless existence whose only purpose is survival of the species. Nature’s lack of propriety is the  recurring motif in nearly all of Ridley Scott’s films.

The film Blade Runner ignited the extended metaphor to deal with life and death by constructing a futuristic analogy through the dystopia of an industrialised and commercialised landscape mirroring the lives of city dwellers on this planet of ours.  Replicants became aware of their short life span and demanded to seek out their creator to force a change in their molecular structure to enable a longer life span to experience the joys they discovered in their new found freedoms escaping from their slave labour, mining for the Tyrell Corporation. The leader of the Replicants,  Roy Batty cleverly sets the stage to meet his maker, Dr Eldon Tyrrell and makes some strong demands seeking longevity in life, only to be sadly informed by the doctor that his internal structure is impossible to reverse or alter and that the sacrifice for Roy’s outstanding engineering marvel is unfortunately a short four year life span. The anger in Roy upon discovering this no-win scenario is played out in the violent metaphor where Roy exacts his revenge on his maker by squeezing Tyrell’s  eye balls until they bleed denying him the perceptions of the life he has created.

This situation I think illuminates Ridley Scott’s existential dilemma as well as his anger with the essential nature of life itself. In many of his films there exists a lingering trail of injustices and grievances borne out of the conundrum of a vast and lonely universe whose only reason to exist is to confound the rational mind.

Maybe this conundrum is a mirror to our sense of privilege and that life was never meant to echo human belief but to celebrate the occasion while it lasts…….

A refuge from the eternal cynic …….

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An Equation to Persuasion

Numbers are the universal language in the mind of humanity

They are the mathematical principle of our inherent tapestry

In nature designs and  heavenly equations

Rotate endlessly beyond our considerations

Why then do we conjecture about the logic of its proposition

That life is eternal with such antipodal opposition ?

In a universe of distinct and geometric symmetry

Where the laws of movement are governed by natural tyranny

The musical mastery in the octave of a tonal interval

Where two frequencies having a ratio of 2 to 1 are integral

Why then does the meandering minstrel of philosophical bent

Guide us through this hypothesis with an aim to circumvent?

Has a miscast chord aimed from above the celestial sphere

Forced us to reevaluate the reason  we are here

Is it some kind of mistune played on our minds

Focusing on the ancient  written designs

Whose words we ponder with urgent solicitude

Speculating the proof which nurtures disquietude?

All of life resonates the death of its image and likeness of its being

Is a ritual to the perfect harmony of its continual foreseeing

Like a harp from the heavens of an unknown destiny

Playing the tune of mystery mirrors the pain of history

With the force needed to make that leap in time

To take us into the higher octave into another paradigm.

Expanding thoughts for an expanding universe…..

I am a thinker.

I can’t help it but most of my life has been consumed in thinking about this or that. I love squeezing the paste out of reality and seeing what I can make of it. Over the years my thoughts have criss-crossed the landscapes of philosophies, religions, fiction, historical ideologies, scientific discoveries, mathematics, fashions, fads, theater, occult, art, music, contemporary news – you name it – I have probably dabbled in it in some small yet personally satisfying way. I have never been an expert but tasted of various disciplines until my interests were either distracted into some other area of indulgence or I became satiated enough to leave and divert my attention towards something else. But in all of these emotional and mental meanderings my undivided focus is completely and utterly absorbed by the fascination of the ultimate purpose of this thing we call life;this space we occupy and the stuff of the universe. I have come up with a theory, a theory that is still not fully formed but an idea that helps me construct some kind of personable rationale……..here goes…….indulge with me for a few minutes…

We eat to survive.


Food replenishes our bodily mechanism.


In fact all living things consume other living things to renew .


It seems to be the governing law of life.


Without eating we perish sooner than expected


And yet once we reach our life span we die anyway.


And so it goes, we perish and the cycle continues with the next generation of 
living organisms.


But this food consumption that replenishes our bodies also requires the oxygen that we breathe,


Without the interchange of gasses there is no life.


This process combines to create other substances 


So breathing and eating and the exchange of gasses can be an apt definition of life.

  
It seems Nature is in the game of creating living things as food for other living things as an all-embracing concept this helps define the mechanism governing life.


We eat and breathe to perpetuate the renewal of life. This interactive process of renewal is a universal phenomenon permeating the fabric of substance in every sphere.


This law of nature is not guided by morality but a simple structure of renewal. 


Renewal guides and defines the sequence of time.


The basic structure and renewal of life measures up to the renewal and structure of the expanding universe. Growth and expansion are synonymous in the same way as expansion and contraction are limitless. There is a two-way process going on. Size is a relative concept in much the same way as time is a relative concept. 


As a participant in this renewal process, by the miracle of my existence, I also have a role to play in the all embracing governing mechanism of the renewal processes governing life.


Life is not confined to this earthly ecosystem. Life as we know it is not confined to the physics and biology of our planet but is a part of the great scheme of the universal mechanism that constantly renews and creates the act of self perpetuation.


Einstein once suggested that the Universe does not play dice. 


And I agree that the idea of chance or accidental 
design cannot satiate the deeply human need nor logic for an answer to the patterns that propose a purpose in life through renewal.

To seek an answer to the ultimate question I am drawn into the world of quantum physics.


Quantum physics is an area of science that operates in the 
realm of probability


 A basic understanding is that it is an area of science that 
does not fully comprehend how the fabric of the physical 
universe meshes together but still manages to harness a 
theory of probability enabling it to manipulate areas that 
help create the marvels of modern technology.


It is only with the power of imagination that scientists have 
been able to appreciate the flaws in our perceptions of 
reality and have opened up a new world of possibilities in 
defining the fabric of matter.





My life, tiny and infinitesimal as it is against the backdrop of the ever expanding universe is a  breathing, regenerative life that partakes of the process that 
is connected in the renewal of the regeneration of the expanding universe.


My individuality is transformed and metamorphoses into another individual reality made up of a different set of physical realities after I transit through the processes of death and renewal.


This transient process undergoes transformation as part of a life play that participates in the renewal of the transformative reality of the universe.


The substances I generate through my breathing and daily renewal  assist in the all governing principle of Nature’s renewal  into another sequence of reality.


My  role and my place in the expanding universe is a minor yet significantly precious  player in the ever expanding renewal of the universe.

What is the outcome of all of this reflection ?


 To intellectualise and systematically 
rationalise  my obvious, momentary and transient 
existence ……………and to satisfy a need for logical problem solving.

To end with two more of Einstein’s quotes
  • The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.
  • We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

Food for thought?

What is this thing we call Time?

Time is a strange thing……

The Oxford Dictionary defines it as ” the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole”

The Online Free Dictionary describes it as , “a non-spatial continuum in which events occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future”

or 

 “an interval separating two points on this continuum; a duration…

I can remember clearly the long hot summer holidays of my youth where the endless blue skies were captured and time seemed to stand still in my memories as if the moment was like an extended pause along this “non-spatial continuum”..

yet further on down the road…………….

I can also clearly remember the pressures of time and the lack of hours in the day to fulfill my work commitments……..my days are divided into working hours and the years progress and the cultural context of my concept of time becomes my reality.

But is this the only reality of time ?

If we imagine the microscopic world  of quantum physics then the idea of time takes on a different complexion…………

Quantum World of Time

I have the imagination to reflect and consider other perspectives of time experienced by other cultures….

Take for example the Eskimo culture where the sun stays above the horizon or below the horizon for periods of up to six months at a time. For the Eskimo culture time is not a continuum of day/night cycles. Their time is measured by the number of sleeps they have. This is not easy to appreciate but important to internalise.

For many cultures in the past and the present the idea of time was and is the repetition of the cycles of the weather, the moon and the sun.  Things came and went and happened in much the same ways as we experience our bodily functions.

So what exactly is this thing we call time ?

Well, time is subjective and it is personal…the experience of time translates with a person’s social , cultural  and historical context.

Image result for time and cultureSo if time is subjective and experienced differently by different individuals in different cultures and in different periods in the history of humankind how do these experiences relate to objective time ?

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By objective time I mean the concept of time surrounding us in the universe ..

or another way to phrase it is endless time…….. 

 

How does endless time capture or contemplate our concept of personal time ?

A mathematical equation can summon an understanding of the dimensions of time.

If space is endless ; then time is endless

endless space = endless time

 To appreciate the reality of time we must dissect it with the reality of space because space and time are mutually interdependent- one cannot exist without the other.

The equation merges into an x-y axis where x is time and y is space….

So on any given point in the continuum of endless time our imprint is transcribed momentarily in the continuum of endless space.

Logic dictates that the point of dissection between these two axes is immersed in a configuration of endlessness so  hypothetically any deviation from this point renders the event of the intersection with two possible outcomes…..

Outcome 1 : The point of intersection has left an imprint in the fabric of space-time and has left a permanent legacy which is lingering and fixed in objective time so this would add material to the universe fulfilling its ever expanding process.

Outcome 2 : The point of intersection has dematerialised into an obsolete event and space-time rebounds filling in the imprint with a renewed presence.

Below are interesting lectures: One delivered by the physicist Lawrence Krauss where he attempts to explain the ever expanding universe in ways that are easy to understand and appreciate and the other by Carlo Rovelli examining the dimensions of time:

To Infinity and Beyond: The Accelerating Universe

 What is Time ? Carlo Rovelli

Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.

Albert Einstein

Any comments, suggestions, directions, ideas, criticisms, overhauls, rejections are more than welcome……..

We are all visitors to this place and travellers through space so bouncing off one another can only improve or disprove my ideas of time…and I really want to know what it is that I am trying to visualise and communicate with help my comrades in life…

The Religion We Call War !

Syria and the Civil War

Al Jazeera has posted a history of the Syrian War on its web page.

Syria’s civil war explained from the beginning

Looking at this documentary makes your blood boil with anger , looking at it makes you resent the rotten core of humanity and what we are capable of doing to each other in the name of some specious cause. In any conflict the equation is simple – you hurt me and I’ll hurt you back and so the cycle spins out of control and we sink into the dark abyss of barbaric behaviourism.

The disbelief I have in the notion that people are still clinging to some religious authority to justify or codify these events beggars belief.  Sitting back in the safety of armchair politics and surveying these cruelties I can only imagine at the desperation and lingering threats that have become daily rituals for people living in war zones. I know that the will to survival is a strong potion; however, the phenomenon of martyrdom and a secure place in an imagined afterworld is also a frightening prospect the modern world is having to contend with.

Why is it that war has been and remains such a glorified subject in our history?  in our lives? in the institutionalised pages of our collective memory? The likes of Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, Napolean Bonaparte are indelibly imprinted in our shared narrative yet has anyone really questioned the logic of this adulation? Has anyone stopped to think of the senseless slaughter, the whimsical insanity that these power mongers have perpetrated on their fellow species?  Have we seriously considered the vanity and the lunacy of these individuals? in their quest for power through the killing and the maiming of their fellow comrades in life?

Why is it we devote so much social paraphernalia to the institutions of war? We have Academies and Museums devoted to war, we honor the heroes and the dead of war and we commemorate the sacrifices that war has come to symbolise in the social traditions of sovereign states. We are obsessed with war. War is the illusion of greatness in a species destined to destroy not only itself but everything and anything that stands in its way. And yet when the conflict settles and the dead are buried and gone, we rinse and repeat our worship at the gates of wars’ institutions.

War is the religion that feeds our insatiable desires to outdo one another and if we resist then, the old adage” Might is Right” creeps back and shuts down the political will to oppose.

Carl Sagan sums it up in his eloquent speech reflecting from a vantage point in space looking back at the Pale Blue Dot we call Earth when he reminds us :

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. 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.

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