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Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s revolving, and revolving at nine hundred miles an hour. It’s orbiting at ninety miles a second, so it’s reckoned, the sun that is the source of all our power. The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see are moving at a million miles a day. In an outer spiral arm at forty thousand miles an hour in a galaxy we call the Milky Way.
Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars. It’s a hundred thousand light years side to side. It bulges in the middle sixteen thousand light years thick. And out by us it’s just three thousand light years wide. We’re thirty thousand light years from galactic central point. We got round every two hundred million years. And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions in this amazing and expanding universe. The universe itself keeps expanding and expanding in all the directions it can whiz. As fast as it can go the speed of light you know twelve million miles a minutes and that’s the fastest speed there is. So remember when you’re feeling very small and insecure how amazing and unlikely is your birth. And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space. ’Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth. Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life 1983, song & dance routine
Additional: as the days go by we face the increasing inevitability that we are alone in a godless uninhabited hostile and meaningless universe. Still, you’ve got to laugh, haven’t you. Red Dwarf s2e1: Kryten, BBC 1988
I’ve been reading a very interesting book recently. It’s called The Universe & All That Surrounds It by T J Bleendreeble. It’s an extremely good book about it. It’s about seventy pages long, so it’s fairly comprehensive about the whole thing and it’s fairly interesting. Bleendreeble specialises in the universe. He doesn’t branch out much beyond that. But he’s quite interested in this limited field. Peter Cook as E L Wisty, Food for Thought, 1964
How is it that any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought’? The universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. ‘No, no, no!’ they say, ‘My God is a little god and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion old or new that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Carl Sagan
The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by God one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying ... It does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity. Carl Sagan
In this way, science has emasculated the old gods. It has stripped them of their powers and has instead allotted them to a source that is wholly neutral, one that is indifferent to the affairs of men, one scientists refer to as the forces of nature.
Now I can certainly understand why humans would desire to believe in a God, in a force that cares about us, that treats us as its favoured creatures. Believing in a God provides us with a sense of purpose, with a sense that we are immortal. Carl Sagan
For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
A way of sceptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If we are not able to ask sceptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be sceptical of those in authority, then we’re up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious, who comes ambling along. Carl Sagan, interview Charlie Rose 27th May 1996
Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever it has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved? ibid.
If you wish to make an apple-pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. Carl Sagan, Cosmos
The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky. ibid.
The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us – there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries. ibid.
Ten or twenty billion years ago, something happened – the Big Bang, the event that began our universe. Why it happened is the greatest mystery we know. That it happened is reasonably clear. All the matter and energy now in the universe was concentrated at extremely high density – a kind of cosmic egg, reminiscent of the creation myths of many cultures – perhaps into a mathematical point with no dimensions at all. It was not that all the matter and energy were squeezed into a minor corner of the present universe; rather, the universe, matter and energy and the space they fill, occupied a very small volume. There was not much room for events to happen in.
... The radiation of the cosmic fireball, which, then is now, filled the universe, moved through the spectrum – from gamma rays to X-rays to ultraviolet light; through the rainbow colors of the visible spectrum; into the infrared and radio regions. The remnants of that fireball, the cosmic background radiation, emanating from all parts of the sky can be detected by radio telescopes today. In the early universe, space was brilliantly illuminated. As time passed, the fabric of space continued to expand, the radiation cooled and, in ordinary visible light, for the first time space became dark, as it is today. ibid. pp200-201
The universe is a pretty big space. It’s bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So, if it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space, right? Carl Sagan
They found that the galaxies were flying away from one another. To the entire astonishment of everyone the universe was expanding. We had begun to plumb the true depths of Time and Space. Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan, Cosmos: The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean, PBS 1980
The cosmos is all there is, or ever was or ever will be. Our contemplations of the cosmos stir us. ibid.
We are made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself. ibid.
The same laws of physics apply everywhere throughout the cosmos. ibid.
Why should this modest planet be the only inhabited world? To me it seems far more likely the cosmos is brimming over with life and intelligence. ibid.
The total number of stars in the universe is larger than all the grains of sands of all the beaches on planet Earth. Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan, Cosmos: Journeys in Space and Time
The galaxies reveal a universal order, a beauty, but also violence on a scale never before imagined. The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent to the concerns of such creatures as we. Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan, Cosmos: The Edge of Forever
Every aspect of Nature reveals a deep mystery and touches our sense of wonder and awe. Those afraid of the universe as it really is, those who pretend to nonexistent knowledge and envision a Cosmos centered on human beings will prefer the fleeting comforts of superstition. They avoid rather than confront the world. But those with the courage to explore the weave and structure of the Cosmos, even where it differs profoundly from their wishes and prejudices, will penetrate its deepest mysteries. Carl Sagan
The way to find out about our place in the universe is by examining the universe and by examining ourselves – without preconceptions – with as unbiased a mind as we can muster. Carl Sagan
At the very moment that humans discovered the scale of the universe and found that their most unconstrained fancies were in fact dwarfed by the true dimensions of even the Milky Way Galaxy, they took steps that ensured that their descendants would be unable to see the stars at all. For a million years humans had grown up with a personal daily knowledge of the vault of heaven. In the last few thousand years they began building and emigrating to the cities. In the last few decades, a major fraction of the human population has abandoned a rustic way of life. As technology developed and the cities were polluted, the nights became starless. New generations grew to maturity wholly ignorant of the sky that had transfixed their ancestors and that had stimulated the modern age of science and technology. Without even noticing, just as astronomy entered a golden age most people cut themselves off from the sky, a cosmic isolationism that ended only with the dawn of space exploration. Carl Sagan, Contact