Pale Blue Dot

January 8, 2017 — by Casey Allen0

I was reminded today of this image and accompanying narration by Carl Sagan. The image is a photograph of Earth taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 space probe from a distance of 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles). Without doubt a great distance for us to comprehend, but in the realm of astronomical distances, this is just outside of our solar system – practically still in the same cosmic neighborhood. However, in the photo the Earth occupies less than one pixel. Especially together with the poetic narration of Sagan, it’s difficult to not feel humbled by this image of our tiny home.

“We succeeded in taking that picture, and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, 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 hopeful child, every mother and father, every 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.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. 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.

[…] To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
— Carl Sagan, speech at Cornell University, October 13, 1994


Epic Motor Thermal Florida

January 6, 2017 — by Ian Ritter

Some days,

we get up, drink our coffee

Open our hearts to the goodness of the universe, and the universe graciously delivers.  I didn’t know it, but I was going to have one of those days. 

I didn’t go paragliding with the intent of thermaling, if I had, there would have been a cozy jacket on my body so that I didn’t turn into a popsicle at higher altitudes.  Instead, my mission was to just fly, to cruise around the trees, swoop through canals, and enjoy the perfection of life under a canopy.  But the world had other plans.

As my wing caught the breeze, and my feet left the ground, I noticed the vultures gracefully circling to the south.  In the middle of them, was a bald eagle and he looked like he wanted some company.  As I neared the group, they were obviously out-climbing me (a sure sign of huge lift.)  The moment I was near them, I hit the column of rising air, well, it felt like it hit me.  My wing shot far behind me, the feeling of air across my legs changed and suddenly, I knew my day was about to be amazing.

From that point, it was non-stop lift.  At one point, I even got directly on top of a towering cumulus that was climbing like a home sick angle.

This rising air is here almost all the time, but so few people ever get to experience just how powerful it is.  Thermaling towering cumulus is like surfing big, beefy swells; sketchy to get into, but once you’re on it, the ride is unforgettable.  So on this day, as I rode the rising, invisible waves in the sky, shivering like crazy, but smiling the whole time through, I felt so lucky to experience a little slice of the world that so few know.