Articles tagged with: Overview Effect

The View from Mars and the Copernican Perspective (Part II)

Written by Frank White on Thursday, 21 January 2016. Posted in Other Issues

We cannot predict, with any certainty, the impact on human thought, of seeing the Earth from Mars, but we can make some educated guesses.

            To begin with, we have, in a way, already seen the Earth from the Martian surface, through the eyes of the Curiosity Rover. On January 31, 2014, our robot explorer took a photo of the Earth and the moon just after sunset. Without enhancement, you really can’t see the moon, but the Earth from Mars looks a lot like Mars from the Earth. It resembles a bright star that doesn’t blink the way that stars do.

            In the context of the Overview Effect, it is worth noting that all the distinguishing features of our home planet, such as oceans, continents, and ice caps, disappear when seen from that great a distance. This is relevant because seeing the Earth from orbit or the moon still provides the viewer with those features. However, what is more striking is coming to understand that these features are parts of a whole system, the Earth itself.

            That is the essence of the Overview Effect.

            At some point, however, the Mars mission astronauts will move out beyond the moon and begin to see the Earth shrink in size until, closer to Mars, it looks like that unblinking star. At this singular moment, if not sooner, they will experience an enhancement of the Overview Effect that I have called “the Copernican Perspective.”

            The Copernican Perspective is a realization that the Earth is not only a whole, but is also a part, in this case of the solar system. While the Earth is relatively large as seen from orbit, and still quite an impressive sight when viewed from the moon, it will be rather easy to miss, or even ignore, when seen from Mars.

            Early Earthlings on the red planet may respond to this situation with homesickness. When we travel on the surface of the Earth, we often long for the familiar sights and sounds of our home country, which we can no longer see or hear.

            They may also react with a form of denial. After all, anyone who has volunteered to leave their home planet and establish a new civilization on an alien world must have settled accounts with themselves and their families, making the case that the adventure would be worth the sacrifices it entails.

            As they settle in and begin to create a new civilization, another sentiment may begin to develop: frustration.

(To Be Continued)







The View from Mars and the Copernican Perspective (Part I)

Written by Frank White on Monday, 11 January 2016. Posted in Other Issues

Humanity is going to Mars.


            After decades of thinking about it, talking about it, planning for it, and imagining what it will be like, a critical mass of key people have now made the decision that this is our next major step in human evolution into the universe.

            Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, has made it clear over and over again that his vision is to establish a human settlement on Mars. His company is accepting contracts to supply the International Space Station (ISS) from NASA, and will send paying passengers into Low Earth Orbit to pave the way, but Mars is the ultimate goal.

            NASA, thanks to a major shift in policy, has abandoned Low Earth Orbit to private enterprise, and canceled plans for a return to the moon. Instead, the agency is turning its attention to Mars as well.

            Then, there is MarsOne, the private nonprofit enterprise offering settlers a one-way trip to the Red Planet.

            Many other nations are participating in what might be called “The Mars Project,” and there is much to say about it. However, let’s focus for a moment on what it means from an Overview Effect perspective.

            Bear in mind that when we talk about the Overview Effect as a shift in worldview that astronauts experience in Low Earth Orbit or on lunar missions, the moon represents the greatest distance anyone has traveled away from the Earth. At some point, the astronauts traveling to Mars (or the Martian settlers) will see the home planet from the greatest distance ever.

            We can only speculate on what impact that moment will have on their psyches, but we suspect it will engender an experience of the “Copernican Perspective,” a realization not only that the Earth is a whole, interconnected system, but that it is a part of a larger system, the solar system.

Frank White
(To be continued)


SETI Goes Mainstream

Written by Frank White on Saturday, 05 September 2015. Posted in Other Issues

SETI Goes Mainstream

            Within a couple of days of one another, two announcements helped to bring the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) into the mainstream media in a big way.

            The first told us that a Russian billionaire, with the support of well known cosmologist Stephen Hawking, would be putting $100 million into the search, with a focus on scanning a million stars for radio signals from extraterrestrial civilizations. “Breakthrough Listen” represents a major step forward in funding for SETI.

            The second told us that the search for exoplanets had found a “cousin” to the Earth, though not quite a twin.

            I say that SETI went mainstream, because I heard these announcements discussed not only on National Public Radio but also on a sports radio talk show!

            This is part of a trend of greater interest in news about space exploration, and although SETI is not always considered part of that endeavor, it really should be.

            SETI is also related to the Overview Effect, because I use Overview theory in my book to predict creation of three different civilizations on the Earth and beyond, one of which is Galaxia. This civilization involves contact with ET, and the development of a galactic civilization. According to the theory, it also involves having an “overview” of our galaxy, comparable to the overview we have achieved with our home planet.




Memorial Day

Written by Frank White on Monday, 25 May 2015. Posted in Overview Effect

On Memorial Day, I think about my father and his life, which included stints in the Army during World War II and Korea. I have shared in another blog post how he introduced me to the interpretation of aerial photography, a skill that he put to good use in the Pacific Theatre during WWII, and later on in civilian life.

I don't know how much those early views of the Earth from above influenced me, and pointed me to the Overview Effect, but I am sure they had an impact. It reminds me that, no matter what we accomplish in life, we do not achieve it alone. Each one of us is part of a greater whole system, extended in time and space. Perhaps our purpose is to contribute to the evolution and well-being of that system, but always to realize that we are not simply individual actors delivering a monologue. Rather, we are part of an ensemble, participating in an extraordinary cosmic play.

---Frank White

Publishing the Third Edition of The Overview Effect

Written by Frank White on Sunday, 12 October 2014. Posted in Overview Effect

I still find it hard to believe that the first edition of The Overview Effect was published 27 years ago. That means I had been working on the idea for more than 30 years. I am especially gratified at the staying power of this concept, which suggests to me that there is something substantive behind it, something far larger than me as a writer. I re-read every word of the second edition while preparing the third edition, and I was struck, again, by the profundity of what the astronauts had to say about their experiences. I believe the interviews with the astronauts (29 of them in this edition) are the key to the success of the book. Everything I have written may turn out to be wrong or shortsighted, but the astronaut interviews will be valuable to historians for years to come. So I want to thank all of them for all they have done for us, our planet, and the universe.