Pale Blue Dot at 50

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 their 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.
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 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 this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, 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. 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.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. 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 with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
— Carl Sagan

Real problems

Climate change – picked up on this dataset recently – global temperatures inferred from various proxy data sources for the past two millennia. 

More info here at this excellent site from Ed Hawkins at the University of Reading. Beautiful graphics, scary datasets.

Lia mwp 1

First world problems

The Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, at the time of writing, is poised to become a global epidemic – or be contained. I’m no expert virologist, but it does look to be accumulating mutations which could increase virulence. However, corporate America and the UK seem to have their eyes on the bottom line. Of course, if this does kick off as seems possible (my impression, for what it is worth is that the virus looks to be very highly transmissible and that the Ro may be at the very highest end of estimates), there may well be a significant and regrettable decrease in the customer base. Hem. 

Screenshot 2020 02 06 at 20 05


Screenshot 2020 02 07 at 09 56

Brexit vacation

Short time here in Europe visiting colleagues and attending meetings. But a real relief to be away from the lunacy. Except when folks ask me about Brexit…..

Did attend the IndyRef2 thing in Edinburgh last week – I’ve always thought the police downplayed numbers, but see if you think this looks like 100 000 as claimed by the organisers (hint: it does not). Picture here is of the rally in the Meadows.

Pint of Science

This May I am combining two of my favourite things – Science and beer. As part of the massive international Pint of science event, Mark will be talking about ‘what lives within’, a lively discourse on how many beasties manage to make our bodies their home. Somewhere in Dundee, and with beer – May 22nd.

More details to follow.