London Olympics now a memory

Noel S. Williams

Recently, NASA landed its latest Mars rover, Curiosity, on the red planet.  Its primary objectives:  detect the chemical building blocks of life, measure radiation, and search for evidence water, the crucial catalyst for life. 

Meanwhile, the blue planet orbited into the center of the Olympics Universe.  Human traits that will prolong the hospitality of what iconic astronomer Carl Sagan called the "Pale Blue Dot," were flourishing during an epic sports extravaganza in London. 

Curiosity is one element of humanity's most profound search in our history:  to discover our place among the stars.  In a mind-bogglingly huge universe with multiple billions of stars and billions of planets, there are probably quite a few rocky orbs with an oxygen-rich atmosphere that could host life. 

Yet, famed physicist Enrico Fermi, pondered why, given the high probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilization, there's no direct evidence.  As a corollary to his eponymous Fermi Paradox, he famously asked: "Where is everybody?"  Carl Sagan, among others, proposed they may not be around because they were too smart for their own good:   Once a technologically advanced civilization develops the power to destroy itself, it does.  Maybe this even happened on Mars.

The self-destructive nature of intelligent life is manifest:  Consider that it was only 17 years after the advent of nuclear weapons that human civilization teetered on the brink of nuclear Armageddon.  Indeed, it seems it was more providence than human rationality that interceded to save our "Pale Blue Dot" during the taught days of the Cuban Missile crisis.

We emerged from the madness of "mutually assured destruction," and navigated, sometimes unwittingly, the perilous early stages of nuclear proliferation.  Nuclear threats remain, but rogue states with tyrannical purveyors of infernal doom are mostly isolated. 

The human race has so far escaped apocalyptic destruction, allowing time for the better angels of our nature to prevail.  And the angels are emerging in bountiful glory in London, where a promethean-like fire radiates life and hope from the cauldron of the Olympic Stadium.  

During the London Olympic Games of 2012, there have been more spontaneous outbreaks of sportsmanship than usual: Runners exchanging bibs; victors consoling losers; arch-rivals embracing, even dancing together; and spectators wildly cheering last-place finishers, otherwise known as losers.    Athletes who have devoted years of their lives to vanquishing their competitors, have shown remarkable camaraderie, empathy and sportsmanship during and after events.  It bodes well for humanity; maybe we can prove Sagan wrong.

 While life is likely commonplace in the Universe, intelligent beings that compete while upholding the Olympic Oath must be orders of magnitude rarer.   As Curiosity roves the red planet in search of primitive fossils, our tiny planet, orbiting around an average star in the suburbs of an average galaxy, resplendently occupies the center of the Olympics Universe.

In London, 204 countries participated; 44 World Records were set; 117 Olympic records were set.  More countries have won more medals than ever; women competed in more events, and from more countries; and a paralympian captured our admiration in the most inclusive games ever.  In the few cases where athletes abused the Olympic Oath, they were promptly disqualified.   Maybe we do have more in common than divides us. 

In his book, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, Sagan wrote: "Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark [...] 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." 

Most of the Olympic athletes deal kindly with one another:  victors relish their performances, but commiserate with rivals, even inviting them to the top podium after anthems.  To preserve our Pale Blue Dot, to conquer the destroyer of life, we better summon the spirit of heroes; we better summon the Olympians' inspiration.  We can do it; we can avoid the barren fate of Mars.   


Recently, NASA landed its latest Mars rover, Curiosity, on the red planet.  Its primary objectives:  detect the chemical building blocks of life, measure radiation, and search for evidence water, the crucial catalyst for life. 

Meanwhile, the blue planet orbited into the center of the Olympics Universe.  Human traits that will prolong the hospitality of what iconic astronomer Carl Sagan called the "Pale Blue Dot," were flourishing during an epic sports extravaganza in London. 

Curiosity is one element of humanity's most profound search in our history:  to discover our place among the stars.  In a mind-bogglingly huge universe with multiple billions of stars and billions of planets, there are probably quite a few rocky orbs with an oxygen-rich atmosphere that could host life. 

Yet, famed physicist Enrico Fermi, pondered why, given the high probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilization, there's no direct evidence.  As a corollary to his eponymous Fermi Paradox, he famously asked: "Where is everybody?"  Carl Sagan, among others, proposed they may not be around because they were too smart for their own good:   Once a technologically advanced civilization develops the power to destroy itself, it does.  Maybe this even happened on Mars.

The self-destructive nature of intelligent life is manifest:  Consider that it was only 17 years after the advent of nuclear weapons that human civilization teetered on the brink of nuclear Armageddon.  Indeed, it seems it was more providence than human rationality that interceded to save our "Pale Blue Dot" during the taught days of the Cuban Missile crisis.

We emerged from the madness of "mutually assured destruction," and navigated, sometimes unwittingly, the perilous early stages of nuclear proliferation.  Nuclear threats remain, but rogue states with tyrannical purveyors of infernal doom are mostly isolated. 

The human race has so far escaped apocalyptic destruction, allowing time for the better angels of our nature to prevail.  And the angels are emerging in bountiful glory in London, where a promethean-like fire radiates life and hope from the cauldron of the Olympic Stadium.  

During the London Olympic Games of 2012, there have been more spontaneous outbreaks of sportsmanship than usual: Runners exchanging bibs; victors consoling losers; arch-rivals embracing, even dancing together; and spectators wildly cheering last-place finishers, otherwise known as losers.    Athletes who have devoted years of their lives to vanquishing their competitors, have shown remarkable camaraderie, empathy and sportsmanship during and after events.  It bodes well for humanity; maybe we can prove Sagan wrong.

 While life is likely commonplace in the Universe, intelligent beings that compete while upholding the Olympic Oath must be orders of magnitude rarer.   As Curiosity roves the red planet in search of primitive fossils, our tiny planet, orbiting around an average star in the suburbs of an average galaxy, resplendently occupies the center of the Olympics Universe.

In London, 204 countries participated; 44 World Records were set; 117 Olympic records were set.  More countries have won more medals than ever; women competed in more events, and from more countries; and a paralympian captured our admiration in the most inclusive games ever.  In the few cases where athletes abused the Olympic Oath, they were promptly disqualified.   Maybe we do have more in common than divides us. 

In his book, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, Sagan wrote: "Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark [...] 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." 

Most of the Olympic athletes deal kindly with one another:  victors relish their performances, but commiserate with rivals, even inviting them to the top podium after anthems.  To preserve our Pale Blue Dot, to conquer the destroyer of life, we better summon the spirit of heroes; we better summon the Olympians' inspiration.  We can do it; we can avoid the barren fate of Mars.