Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bradley Manning, Saturn, and the Pale Blue Dot

by Salman Hameed

NASA has just released a spectacular image of the Earth - from Saturn (yes, yes, it is the dot below the rings). The photograph is taken by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft that is currently orbiting Saturn, about 900 million miles away (our Sun is only 93 million miles from the Earth!). More below - but first I want you to just enjoy this stunning image:

The Saturn in this picture is blocking the Sun, and therefore allowing the spacecraft to take the picture of our home world. In addition, Saturn's rings are beautifully lit here. This is part of a larger mosaic image that includes most of Saturn and it will be released at a later date. This image, of course, is a reminder of the photograph taken by Voyager 1 in 1990, made particularly famous by Sagan's reflection on The Pale Blue Dot.

But while we are on the subject of our humbling experiences, I want to point out that Bradley Manning, the source behind the Wikileaks documents, is now going through his court martial. That he leaked the documents is not in doubt, and he has already pleaded to offenses that can place him in jail for 20 years. However, the judge refused to drop the highly dubious charge of aiding and abetting the enemy, and that is a shame.

Why do I bring up Bradley Manning in a post about this image? I recently watched a fantastic documentary, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks directed by Alex Gibney. One half of the film focuses on Julian Assange. But the more interesting part of the film talks about Bradley Manning, his background and why he leaked the documents. And guess what? One of his inspirations was Sagan's reflections on the Pale Blue Dot. He did not like what the US government was doing in Iraq (and in other parts of the world) and he wanted to make public some of the horrendous actions of the government (for example, the first leaked video showed a US operation in Iraq in 2008 that killed a Reuters journalist)  in the hopes of  making this a better planet.

Once you have appreciated the above image, do check out We Steal Secrets and follow the ongoing trial of Bradley Manning. His is a heartbreaking story, and it is unconscionable that he was placed in a solitary confinement and forced to sleep naked in a small cell for almost a year - a treatment that the UN special rapporteur on torture found "cruel, inhuman and degrading".

I will leave you with Sagan's voice more directly:

The Pale Blue Dot - Carl Sagan from David Beaver on Vimeo.


Manik Hossain said...

Have you ever regarded what terminology we might have been discussing, in the English-speaking globe, had Bill the Conqueror missing the Fight of Hastings in 1066? Generally, instead of our terminology changing with France enunciation becoming merged into our old Anglo-Saxon, our Anglo-Saxon would have ongoing to develop along its Germanic origins and the terminology we talk nowadays would be greatly different. Getting that concept further, what would have occurred if the Historical Romans had not filled Palestine at time they did? Astronomer who wrote Pale Blue Dot

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