Carl Sagan’s Words Still Inspire: Amazing Art Based on “Pale Blue Dot”

The entire universe in blog form
Jan. 27 2013 8:00 AM

The Art of Our Pale Blue Dot

Gavin Aung Than's Zen Pencils comic
Panel from Gavin Aung Than's Zen Pencil's comic featuring Carl Sagan's "Reflections on a Mote of Dust".

Image credit: Gavin Aung Than

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.

Advertisement

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.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Television

See Me

Transparent is the fall’s only great new show.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

  News & Politics
Damned Spot
Sept. 30 2014 9:00 AM Now Stare. Don’t Stop. The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 11:25 AM Naomi Klein Is Wrong Multinational corporations are doing more than governments to halt climate change.
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 30 2014 10:10 AM A Lovable Murderer and Heroic Villain: The Story of Australia's Most Iconic Outlaw
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 10:59 AM “For People, Food Is Heaven” Boer Deng on the story behind her piece “How to Order Chinese Food.”
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 10:48 AM One of Last Year’s Best Animated Shorts Is Finally Online for Free
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.