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Milgram Experiment | Pale Blue Dot


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People say knowledge is wealth. I sometimes feel it’s not, but rather my poor bank balance should be. And education means employment. Too ironical, but education is really the job you get when you leave college and university. That’s why I feel so happy now that I have a job. Sleep, get up, smoke, go to office, smoke, work mechanically, smoke, rest, smoke, come back, eat, shit, smoke and sleep again. If anybody around here knows how to make a robot, then he or she can easily create it in my image. Possibly that robot will be better, for it will follow the instructions while I keep looking for ways to disobey. But I do love rules because rules are meant to be broken.

In this first half of 2011, I have came across two interesting things: [a] the Stanley Milgram Experiment; and [b] Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot.

You have no other choice — you must go on, and I'll obey, proves the Milgram Experiment while Carl Sagan redefines the essence of our existence with the help of a dot.

Milgram Experiment
Via Wikimedia Commons

Are good hearted people capable of harming others if they're told so? The Stanley Milgram Experiment is a study about obedience to authority. [http://www.experiment-resources.com/stanley-milgram-experiment.html]

Here I copy-and-pasted some finding from the controversial experiment.

According to Milgram, there are a number of situational factors that can explain such high levels of obedience (The Milgram Obedience Experiment—The Perils of Obedience by Kendra Cherry):

  • The physical presence of an authority figure dramatically increased compliance.
  • The fact that the study was sponsored by Yale (a trusted and authoritative academic institution) led many participants to believe that the experiment must be safe.
  • The selection of teacher and learner status seemed random.
  • Participants assumed that the experimenter was a competent expert.
  • The shocks were said to be painful, not dangerous.


Later experiments conducted by Milgram indicated that the presence of rebellious peers dramatically reduced obedience levels. When other people refused to go along with the experimenters orders, 36 out of 40 participants refused to deliver the maximum shocks.

"Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority." (Milgram, 1974)

Pale Blue Dot
[Source: Wikipedia]


The Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of planet Earth taken in 1990 by Voyager 1 from a record distance, showing it against the vastness of space. By request of Carl Sagan, NASA commanded the Voyager 1 spacecraft, having completed its primary mission and now leaving the Solar System, to turn its camera around and to take a photograph of Earth across a great expanse of space.

Original image caption: This narrow-angle color image of the Earth, dubbed ‘Pale Blue Dot’, is a part of the first ever ‘portrait’ of the solar system taken by Voyager 1. The spacecraft acquired a total of 60 frames for a mosaic of the solar system from a distance of more than 4 billion miles from Earth and about 32 degrees above the ecliptic. From Voyager's great distance Earth is a mere point of light, less than the size of a picture element even in the narrow-angle camera. Earth was a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size. Coincidentally, Earth lies right in the center of one of the scattered light rays resulting from taking the image so close to the sun. This blown-up image of the Earth was taken through three color filters – violet, blue and green – and recombined to produce the color image. The background features in the image are artifacts resulting from the magnification.

In the book, Sagan related his thoughts on a deeper meaning of the photograph:

 
From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it's different. Look again at that dot. That's here, that's home, that's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. 
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. 
Our posturing, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. 
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. 
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, 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.

Check out for more details on these findings from online resources. Happy reading!



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