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Posts Tagged ‘astronomy’

In 1990, the Voyager 1 spacecraft completed its primary mission, having completed its Saturn fly-by. One of the last instructions sent to the spacecraft by NASA was for it to take photographs of all the planets in the Solar System from its present position.

One photo–that of the Earth from approximately 4 billion miles away, has become one of the most popular photographs in our times. On the grainy image, the Earth barely appears as an insigificant blue dot–a indicator of our place in the vast universe and the fragility of the totality of human experience.

Many videos have since been published to honor the photograph. I’ve selected the two videos below to give a better appreciation of the photo. The first is a finalist at the Portobello Film festival in London, and the Concorto Film festival in Italy 2007. It ends with a quote from Sagan about the importance of maintaining a skeptical mindset, which is very appropriate for this blog. The second video below features an actual speech from Carl Sagan on his thoughts about the Pale Blue Dot.

A transcript of Sagan’s speech from wikipedia: (read in the second video above): (more…)

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Sagan’s opening line captures the flavor of this wonderful episode very succinctly:

There are two ways to view the stars: as they really are, and as we might wish them to be.

In this 3rd instalment of Carl Sagan’s popular series, he probes into beliefs about stars and the science of astronomy that developed after. He also looks at prevailing scientific models about the earth and the solar system (e.g. earth-centric) and how this had changed going into modern times.

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Carl Sagan explains the common roots of the science of Astronomy and the art of Astrology–and why astrology remains within the realm of pseudo-science and superstition.

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In one of his last public addresses, astronomer Carl Sagan discusses how his wonder about the universe was awakened by the stars and the sun. He continues on issues regarding Science, superstition, religion, faith, education, skepticism, and Humanism.

Sagan describes how science rewards those who disprove ideas, which is the ideological opposite in politics, religion and other social constructs: which reward those who reassure or reinforce existing ideas–which is the fundamental reason why science has progressed so much, while other social constructs have stagnated.

He speaks of the internal corrective mechanism in science: that all scientists acknowledge fallibility of ideas. He says: “be willing to surrender your ideas” meaning criticism and critical thinking is at the core of science.

He also talks about the dangers of pseudo-science, which has a tendency to crowd out genuine science in the popular imagination.

Further parts follow: (more…)

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