October 14, 2021

Astronauts who have seen earth from space describe a sense of awe, unity with the rest of humanity, and an appreciation for the fragility of our planet -- basically, a psychedelic experience. Experts call this the "overview effect," and clearly William Shatner got a taste yesterday on the Blue Origin flight. Via Yahoo News:

"I can't even begin to express - What I would love to do is to communicate as much as possible the jeopardy, the moment you see the vulnerability of everything. It's so small. This air which is keeping us alive is thinner than your skin. It's a sliver. It's immeasurably small when you think in terms of the universe. It's negligible, this air. Mars doesn't have it," he said. "It's so thin. To dirty it, I mean that's another whole - "

Bezos cut him off to note how quickly the spaceship rises above the atmosphere. "And then you're just in blackness," Bezos said.

"You're in death!" Shatner responded. "This is life, and that's death. And in an instant, you go, 'Oh, that's death!' That's what I saw."

Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who was part of the Apollo 14 mission, was the sixth person to walk on the moon. Here's how he described his reaction as he watched the earth from the lunar surface:

You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that, you son of a bitch."

The transcendental overview effect is well documented. If you want to know more, you can watch this:

If you have a VR headset, you can download this:

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