1246: Pale Blue Dot
The Pale Blue Dot is a picture of the Earth taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft at a distance about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles). It was part of the Family Portrait, a series of images of the entire Solar System from beyond it.
The picture was taken at the request of Carl Sagan, a well known space scientist at that time. In 1994 Sagan wrote the book "Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space" inspired by this picture. In the book, Sagan waxed eloquent about the picture in a widely-quoted passage. The complete passage can be found illustrated in this Zen Pencils comic.
Cueball quotes from a condensed version of this passage until he is interrupted by an argument over which speck in the picture is actually the Earth. When Cueball cries out in exasperation that it doesn't matter, then the entire authenticity of the image is called into question. This pokes fun at the fact that the Pale Blue Dot picture has very little visual attractiveness, apart from the intellectual interest relying on the viewer's knowledge that the central speck is actually our home planet seen from a great distance.
The first two sentences of the title text are also a quotation from Sagan's paean to the Pale Blue Dot picture, but then the text veers humorously into non-scientific mysticism that starkly contrasts with the attitude and intent of the original work.
The title text evokes Cosmicism, a philosophy developed and exemplified by the fictional Cthulhu Mythos. This Mythos is expounded in fantasy/horror works of H.P. Lovecraft and, later, August Derleth, and features a cosmology in which humanity is depicted as inconsequential within a greater existence that is unknowable and frightening. Cosmicism asserts that humanity is doomed to destruction through the workings of vastly more powerful supernatural forces beyond our understanding. There are many instances in the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft of factions that embrace the destruction of humanity and actively work towards bringing about that end through the invocation of the unknowable and powerful forces that supporters of Cosmicism believe surround everything.
The text also references Ba'al, originally a Semitic deity that has been since associated with demonic or otherwise evil forces. The name Ba'al, and other variants of the same, have been included in many other fictional works often as a villain or antagonist. For example, the fictional System Lord Ba'al from the television show Stargate. The title text supplants all of the supernatural forces associated with Cosmicism in the works of other authors and jokingly advocates for research funding for space exploration to invoke Ba'al, the Eater of Souls, and bring about the end of humanity.
But finally, after all this joking, Randall calls for more funding on space exploration.
- [Cueball stands on a podium, the Pale Blue Dot picture is behind him]
- Cueball: Consider this Pale Blue Dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. Everyone you love, every human being who ever was, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived out their lives on this mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. All our -
- [Heckling]: I think that's a stuck pixel. We're the speck on the left.
- Cueball: ...Ok, this Pale Blue Dot is everything you -
- [Heckling]: No, you were right before. That one is earth.
- Cueball: Look, it doesn't matter!
- [Heckling]: I knew it!
- [Heckling]: I think this is just a lens cap picture.
- At the time when this comic was published NASA did reveal two other pictures, showing our home planet from a long distance, Saturn and Mercury probes did picture the Earth at the same time. Earth appears as a tiny dot in these images as well as a result of the vast distance between Earth and the probes.