The Pale Blue Dot – paradigms and the big picture

An earlier version of this was first posted on November 1st 2013

We all know that the world is a big place, with lots of complexity and over 7 billion people living in it.
Let’s just stop for a moment and take a look at this photograph…

Taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft, this image is notable for the diagonal coloured stripes; but don’t be distracted – these colours are just artefacts of sunlight glancing off the camera housing. They are not the subject of the photograph.

The most important piece of the image is however, the nearly unnoticeable speck of blue just over halfway down the brown stripe on the right. This is Earth.

Carl Sagan, astrophysicist, astronomer and author, pointed out that: “all of human history has happened on that tiny pixel, which is our only home” (speech, Cornell University, 1994).

So what shall we think about when we return to work on Monday?

Rather than worry about the wider world and the vastness beyond it, we should perhaps take note of Stephen Covey’s suggestion and focus on our Circle of Influence, namely the things close enough to us that we can do something about. If we proactively work on what we can change in ourselves it will cause a ripple outwards and increase our influence to inspire and change others.

Further Reading:

Covey, S. (1989) 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Simon & Shuster, New York, NY.

Postscript: A more recent photograph of earth has since been taken from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft (peeking from behind Saturn) which shows Earth a little more defined far beyond the rings of Saturn.


BBC News (2013) Cassini probe takes image of Earth from Saturn orbit,

California  Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory News Release (2013) NASA Releases Images of Earth Taken by Distant Spacecraft

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *