It is a wonderful thing that words written many years ago can inspire people today. When Carl Sagan wrote his essay “Reflections on a Mote of Dust” (commonly called “Pale Blue Dot”), he must have known how special it was. His words were inspired by a picture taken from a spacecraft 6 billion kilometers away, a probe commanded to turn around and look at our solar system from this great distance. It was so terribly remote at the time that our entire planet appears as a simple pale blue dot, a single pixel of color in a vast patch of darkness.
His essay is, in my opinion, one of the finest examples of writing in the English language. It’s no surprise that people find new ways to honor his words. My friend Gavin Aung Than draws Zen Pencils, where he takes words by scientists and other figures and draws an inspirational web comic based on them. He took my own essay “Welcome to Science” and made a phenomenal series of panels for it, and he recently did the same using Sagan’s words. It’s wonderful, and you may discover your room is very dusty as you read it.
Sagan has inspired artists in other ways too, of course. An animation was recently brought to my attention that uses Sagan’s own voice to breathe new life into this phenomenal tract:
How lovely! Hearing him read that essay chokes me up, still, every time. And this video is not the only one; here’s another favorite of mine, and this one, and this one as well. On the tenth anniversary of Sagan’s death, I was moved to write about his influence on me. It is no exaggeration to say that every word I am able to communicate to you had its way eased by Sagan’s pathbreaking.
If you love space, if you crave to understand the Universe around you, take heed of Sagan’s words. Go out and make it known, because it is one of the best things we humans can do.
TODAY IN SLATE
The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola
How Movies Like Contagion and Outbreak Distort Our Response to Real Epidemics
PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer
Everything You Should Know About Today’s Eclipse
An Unscientific Ranking of Really, Really Old German Beers
Welcome to 13th Grade!
Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.
The Actual World
“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.