City Lights at Night

This video, narrated by astronaut Don Pettit, was made from digital pictures taken on the International Space Station.

A passage from Sagan is eerily prescient. In Pale Blue Dot (1994) he takes a tour of the Earth from orbit, describing first the day-side and then the planet at night.

Some of the lights, though, are not due to cities. In North Africa, the Middle East, and Siberia, for example, there are very bright lights in a comparatively barren landscape — due, it turns out, to burnoff in oil and natural gas wells. [check!] In the Sea of Japan on the day you first look, there is a strange, triangular-shaped area of light. In daytime it corresponds to open ocean. This is no city. What could it be? It is in fact the Japanese squid fishing fleet, using brilliant illumination to attract schools of squid up to their deaths. [check!] On other days, this pattern of light wanders all over the Pacific Ocean, seeking prey. In effect, what you have discovered here is sushi.

It seems sobering to me that from space you can so readily detect some of the odds and ends of life on Earth — the gastrointestinal habits of ruminants, Japanese cuisine, the means of communicating with nomadic submarines that carry death for 200 cities — while so much of our monumental architecture, our greatest engineering works, our efforts to care for one another, are almost wholly invisible. It’s a kind of parable.

Way to be harsh on the maki, man.

(Via Neil Gaiman and Skepchick.)

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