Monday, May 4, 2009

Carl Sagan on Why Aliens Would Think We're a Planet of Idiots

Thanks to the efforts of Carl Sagan, the following photo was taken by the Voyager spacecraft in 1990. It shows what our planet looks like from 3.7 billion miles away. This is the farthest distance the earth has ever been photographed.

From this vantage point, there's no way to tell the planet in the picture harbors intelligent life. It's just another point of light, a pale blue dot. The picture shows just how small and insignificant we are in the cosmos.

Carl Sagan's wife, Ann Druyan, suggested a very interesting experiment based on the photo. It reveals how ridiculous our religious beliefs look to an alien civilization:

"Look back again at the pale blue dot. Take a good long look at it. Stare at the dot for any length of time and then try to convince yourself that God created the whole Universe for one of the 10 million or so species of life that inhabit that speck of dust.

Now take it a step further: Imagine that everything was made just for a single shade of that species or gender, or ethnic or religious subdivision. If this doesn't strike you as unlikely, pick another dot. Imagine it to be inhabited by a different form of intelligent life. They, too, cherish the notion of a God who has created everything for their benefit. How seriously do you take their claim?
Carl Sagan, in his book "Pale Blue Dot", goes on to say:

"You might imagine an uncharitable extraterrestrial observer looking down on our species... - with us excitedly chattering, "The Universe is created for us! We're at the center! Everything pays homage to us!" -and concluding that our pretensions are amusing, our aspirations pathetic, that this must be the planet of the idiots."

It's hard to disagree with him. All the heartache that's been caused over religion on this tiny little speck of dust has been so wasteful. If people could only open their eyes and see where we truly stand in the cosmos, the world would be a much better place.

Here's a great video narrated by Carl Sagan regarding the Pale Blue Dot:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bailing Out Chrysler More Important to US than Science

In the world of physics, the most important and useful experiments are conducted using a particle accelerator. You may have heard of CERN (currently the world's most powerful accelerator). This machine accelerates particles to near light speed and smashes them against each other, producing exotic new particles and insights into how our world works.

These machines are extremely complex and expensive. And in 1993, the United States did something utterly foolish. After already spending $2 Billion on what would become the world's most powerful particle acceleartor, the government canceled it due to high cost. The US had to spend roughly $6 billion more to see it completed.

Called the "Superconducting Supercollider", it would have been even more powerful than CERN and it would have gone live by the late 1990's. Right now we would have already discovered incredible new insights into physics and reality.

But Noooooo!!! The government couldn't spend $6 Billion on one of the most important scientific instruments in human history. And the population didn't really give a rat's ass about it.

Today, we find out taxpayers will probably lose $4 Billion in loans given to Chrysler. This is really small potatoes compared to the Trillions of tax dollars used to bail out the banks that got us into this mess in the first place.

But yet, the US government thought $6 billion was too much to help answer the most fundamental questions of the universe.

Frustrating indeed....