October 2, 2015

Track workout today, I was thinking about the vastness of space.

I went to see an astrophysicist speak the other night. Neil deGrasse Tyson was speaking at the Colorado School of Mines. Even if you do not embrace your geekiness, this was a great talk. He ended the talk with a few references to the pale blue dot. Turns out that cameras on the Voyager 1 spacecraft were turned toward earth at Carl Sagan’s suggestion in 1990. At a distance of about six billion kilometers, the spacecraft snapped a photo. This photo is the ultimate selfie because it captures all of us on our little speck of dust. Our little speck of dust is floating in a vast cosmic arena. Carl Sagan wrote a powerful passage to put it all into context. This is highly recommended viewing (google “pale blue dot”).

All the marathons that were ever run have been run on the pale blue dot. If you think the diameter of the dot is small at this scale, the marathon distance is much, much smaller.  I am even smaller and my insignificant form represents, in many ways, our human inability to comprehend the vastness of space. Humans have chosen the marathon distance very arbitrarily. Phidippides determined this potentially devastating distance by dropping dead after running from Marathon to Athens. I wonder if Phidippides pondered about the distance, he was more interested in delivering the message. His message was regarding war. One war on the pale blue dot. This is a message that a handful of historians might speculate on the details. The battle became a footnote, the distance became a challenge. On October 11, 2015, 45,000 humans will face that challenge and attempt to run the Chicago Marathon. From what I hear, they will be nice to themselves and to their fellow runners. That is what Carl Sagan and Grumpy would want as we run a short, short distance on the pale blue dot.

The pale blue dot. Favorite song today, The Blue Danube performed by the Vienna Philharmonic.

Get your Astronomy on!

Get your Astronomy on!

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