1964 in NYSCI’s Great Hall, nearly 50 years ago…Frank Capra’s last movie, Rendezvous in Space is a 20 minute long quasi-documentary with Danny Thomas trying to explain what will happen in the Space Station that will eventually orbit the Earth (a question that still lingers with the International Space Station).  At one point in the movie  —which I have put on youtube, its a lousy print, but you can get the idea, —the footage cuts to the images that John Glenn took from his first Friendship 7 orbits of the Earth.

 It is the first time most people every saw the Earth from outside the Earth.  I remember it vaguely, but the rush of images, culminating in the image of the Earth from the moon and beyond, have diminished the shock.  We are on one planet, not on separate continents.  Political lines do not show up on the actual globe (I actually remember being kind of surprised, since the only globe I had at home was a political map).  The ocean, the clouds, the atmosphere are vast and transnational.  

For the new exhibition we are planning in NYSCI’s Great Hall, we are inspired by this sense of connectedness to consider the global systems that shape the future of the planet. Not just the natural systems, but the social, economic, transportation, and electronic networks that are deeply influential in peoples’ lives.  The immediate impacts of these human global systems shape our lives more directly than the longer range impacts of changing natural systems.

Steve Uzzo, a network science PhD and polymath leading the Great Hall Project insists that climate change is a symptom of a world out of balance, and that making communities healthier and more sustainable (in a human sense…better education, health care, transportation, economic opportunity) is the best way to address climate change.

There is a wonderful set of TED talks by Hans Rosling that use clever visualization to show how data reveals transnational social change.  Check it out.  It is an image of a globally interconnected world that is more abstract than John Glenn’s orbital pictures of the earth, but equally compelling in showing how connected we are.

(Source: theworks-nysci)