Nicole Oshan 3/10/2011 ENG 493 Infinite Cosmos and the Wonderful Amazement The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all physical matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. To ponder over the vastness that we on Earth are suspended in is, quite frankly, amazing. To be able to inspire this awe and amazement in people through writing is an even greater feat.
Carl Sagan, the author of “Pale Blue Dot,” uses scale to draw relevance to the perspective that we are insignificant and tiny in comparison to the Universe that surrounds us. His writing style is reflective, presenting the information in a way that inspires a sense of wonderment in his readers. This sense of wonderment can also be seen in many of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s works, who accredits Carl Sagan as a main influential factor in his scientific endeavors.
Tyson also employs scale in his writings, but focuses more on the insignificance of people and their actions in the Universe. Both of these men apply the use of scale to change the perspective of our place in the Universe while also instilling a sense of awe and wonderment. Sagan’s ability to convey his ideas has allowed many people to better understand the cosmos —simultaneously emphasizing the value and worthiness of the human race, and the relative insignificance of the Earth in comparison to the universe.
His insight into the photograph entitled “Pale Blue Dot,” where earth is seen as a speck in the vast emptiness of the Universe, gives rise to a sense of amazement, especially when considering the scale in which this picture puts into perspective. “From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Look again at that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out his or her lives.
The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, 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” (Sagan 8).
To see a photograph of Earth from such a remote distance, one that isn’t even comparable on the human scale we are familiar with, has an immense effect on the viewer. When considering his position and taking into account how small our planet is in relativity to the rest of the galaxy and the cosmos, the view that we are insignificant in the big picture comes in to play. Sagan’s literary technique of comparing us to a mote of dust in a sunray draws relevance to the same perspective of insignificance when we are compared to the cosmos. How can we let arguments, fights, and even wars trump over anything?
The things that we hold as ruthless do not mean anything outside of our planet; there is something much greater out there that means so much more than our material and trivial trials here on Earth. “Our posturing’s, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves” (Sagan 9).
Simply taking the time to sit outside and stare into the night sky, while keeping Sagan’s viewpoint in mind, is a first-hand way to experience this sense of awe and wonderment and puts into perspective our tiny, irrelevant place within the cosmos. While Sagan compares humans on Earth to a mote of dust in a sunray, Neil deGrasse Tyson employs the same type of technique to bring relevance to our place in the Universe, but he uses items we are familiar with and compares them, scale wise, with the items in the cosmos.
According to Tyson “the cosmic perspective enables us to grasp, in the same thought, the large and the small” (deGrasse Tyson). Many people do not comprehend the size of the Universe in which we play a relatively small part. “There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on any beach, more stars than seconds have passed since Earth formed, more stars than words and sounds ever uttered by all the humans who ever lived” (Tyson). To imagine the cosmos in this type of magnitude instantly inspires wonderment and allows one to truly engage in the cosmic perspective.
Tyson also draws relevance to our place in the cosmos, applying reasonable knowledge to justify this; “Every time I see [a] space show… I feel alive and spirited and connected. I also feel large, knowing that the goings-on within the three-pound human brain are what enabled us to figure out our place in the universe” (deGrasse Tyson). It seems as though he instills more amazement and awe than Sagan does, but both men have comparable methods of encouraging wonder in their audience.
From the beginning, Tyson has revered Sagan as a main influential factor in his journey of discovery into the Universe, which is a reason why the two have similar traits of writing. Voyaging into the Universe and delving into the secrets it holds only justifies our perspective in the vastness and secures our place in the cosmos. While using the technique of scale in their writings, both Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson introduce the wonderment and awe of understanding our insignificance in comparison to the immense size of the Universe.
A grasp on the idea that there is much more to the Universe than the miniscule planet on which we live, enhances the amazement that these two men discuss. “The cosmic perspective shows Earth to be a mote, but a precious mote and, for the moment, the only home we have” (deGrasse Tyson). * Works Cited: deGrasse Tyson, Neil. “The Cosmic Perspective. ” Natural History Magazine April 2007: n. pag. Web. 9 Mar 2011. ;http://www. haydenplanetarium. org/tyson/read/2007/04/02/the-cosmic-perspective;. Sagan, Carl. Pale Blue Dot. 1st ed. New York: Random House, 1994. 3-9. Print.