I watched the entire Original Series of Star Trek during a hot summer in Tunisia in 1993. From those days onward my friends Mo and Will became Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk and I assumed the alter-ego identity of Doctor “Bones” McCoy. I don’t know why we identified with the characters, perhaps in part from a sense of optimistic people — friends — working together towards a common goal, in exploration of the cosmos and a vision of a universe where we have left the divisions of our planet behind.
However, the most interesting property of your spacetime tube isn’t its bulk shape, but its internal structure, which is remarkably complex. Whereas the particles that constitute the Moon are stuck together in a rather static arrangement, many of your particles are in constant motion relative to one another. Consider, for example, the particles that make up your red blood cells. As your blood circulates through your body to deliver the oxygen you need, each red blood cell traces out its own unique tube shape through spacetime, corresponding to a complex itinerary though your arteries, capillaries, and veins with regular returns to your heart and lungs.
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Tiny Earth image (the blue pixel in the letter ‘I’) is PIA00452: Solar System Portrait - Earth as ‘Pale Blue Dot’ by NASA/JPL. PT Mono typeface by Alexandra Korolkova with participation from Isabella Chaeva. Hubble eXtreme Deep Field (XDF)1 image (inside the heart) by NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch (University of California, Santa Cruz), R.
A view of some stars nearby through the PartiView software which can be downloaded from the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium Digital Universe website.
The Digital Universe, developed by the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium, incorporates data from dozens of organizations worldwide to create the most complete and accurate 3-D atlas of the Universe from the local solar neighborhood out to the edge of the observable Universe.
Carl Sagan quoting Holbach in the preface to Cosmos’s Chapter VII, The Backbone of Night, p.167:
If a faithful account was rendered of Man’s ideas upon Divinity, he would be obliged to acknowledge, that for the most part the word “gods” has been used to express the concealed, remote, unknown causes of the effects he witnessed; that he applies this term when the spring of the natural, the source of known causes, ceases to be visible: as soon as he loses the thread of these causes, or as soon as his mind can no longer follow the chain, he solves the difficulty, terminates his research, by ascribing it to his gods… When, therefore, he ascribes to his gods the production of some phenomenon… does he, in fact, do any thing more than substitute for the darkness of his own mind, a sound to which he has been accustomed to listen with reverential awe?
Carl Sagan in the Cosmos episode The Edge of Forever:
If the cosmos is closed, there’s a strange, haunting, evocative possibility. One of the most exquisite conjectures in science or religion. It’s entirely undemonstrated, it may never be proved, but it’s stirring. Our entire universe, to the farthest galaxy, we are told, is no more than a closed electron, in a far grander universe we can never see. And that universe is only an elementary particle in another still greater universe, and so on, forever.
She doesn’t need people. People need her. The Ocean is the most haunting.
Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature.
Human beings are part of nature. Nature is not dependent on human beings to exist.
Human beings, on the other hand, are totally dependent on nature to exist.
The growing number of people on the planet and how we live here is going to determine the future of nature.
NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered more than 950 confirmed planets orbiting distant stars. Planets with a known size and orbit are shown below, including Kepler 186f, an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone.
In 1984 David Braben and Ian Bell managed to fit a simulated galaxy into 22 Kilobytes — a computer programming feat that inspired the creation of the first internet newsgroup as well as a generation of programmers.
Now, after a successful crowdfunding campaign, Braben is bringing the classic Elite computer simulation1 to a new generation, and this time it simulates what we know about our existing galaxy, with procedural programming techniques based on real-world data filling in what we don’t.
“Earthrise” in original orientation taken by Bill Anders on 24 December 1968.
A young person working in a United Nations organization recently told me it is not certain that human activities are changing the climate on Earth.
This is worrying.
I decided to go through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report and came across the WGII AR5 Volume-wide Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
Here are two of the answers (the numbers are references to chapters in the report which contain the sources for the answer):
Carl Sagan holding the Pioneer plaque. If you know who the photographer is please let me know.
The successor to Carl Sagan’s classic work of education about the cosmos — the universe seen as a well-ordered whole — begins tonight1. Here’s a trailer2.
The original is as relevant today as it was thirty years ago and if you are at all interested in the greatest of questions and grandest of mysteries please watch the series and read the book as they complement each other perfectly.