14 Carolyn Porco - Why Seeing Earth From Space Matters

On Valentine's Day 1990, from more than four billion miles away, the Voyager 1 spacecraft snapped our photo. From that distance, there wasn't much to see; the resulting shot simply showed several light beams with a tiny speck in one of them. Earth. But that didn't stop the late celebrity astronomer Carl Sagan from writing rapturously about the meaning of this image, which he famously dubbed the "Pale Blue Dot." "To me," Sagan wrote of the picture, "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." Sagan infused the "Pale Blue Dot" with significance, but the truth is that, thanks in part to the difficulty of the shot, it was never a very good image. Enter planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, one of Sagan's scientific disciples and head of imaging science for the Cassini spacecraft, which is currently in orbit around Saturn and sending us back stunning images on a regular basis. "From day one," explains Porco, in this week’s episode, "I had it in my mind that I wanted to do that picture, only better. I wanted to make it beautiful." In our interview with Porco, she talks about the new Pale Blue Dot image she unveiled last month—appropriately enough, at a celebration for Sagan, dedicating his papers to the Library of Congress; and more broadly, why seeing Earth from space matters. This episode also features a discussion of the psychology of New Years' Eve: When do New Years' resolutions to lose weight actually work, and when do they fail? And what does marking time through significant dates (birthdays, anniversaries, and years' ends) do to the identities that we create for ourselves? Chris and Indre discuss the latest research on both topics. Subscribe: itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/inquiring-minds/id711675943 feeds.feedburner.com/inquiring-minds

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