Remembering Carl Sagan

by Nancy Atkinson on November 9, 2009

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Today would have been Carl Sagan’s 75th birthday. His life and work were monumental in astronomy and public outreach, and he had a profound influence on many people. I count myself among those who say they might not be where they are today were it not for Carl Sagan. Reading his books such as “Cosmos” and “Demon Haunted World” broadened my horizons when I needed it most. One of my favorite books of all time is “Pale Blue Dot” which really puts everything in perspective. Above is a video excerpt from the book.

If you choose, there are a few different ways you can remember Sagan and celebrate his life:

Today’s episode on 365 Days of Astronomy includes an interview with Sagan’s wife, Ann Druyan, who shares some reminiscences of “20 trips around the sun with Carl,” and talks about the most recent sensation, an “auto-tune” song “A Glorious Dawn” made from the series “Cosmos,” (which also includes Stephen Hawking “singing.”) The song is being released as a single, and you can find more info on that by listening to the 365 Days podcast. The video is not to be missed, so here it is:

You can watch all 13 episodes of the documentary series Cosmos for free on Cosmo Learning, or at Hulu. It’s also available for purchase on iTunes.

Over the weekend, Broward College in Florida hosted the first annual Carl Sagan Day, and you can watch videos of the talks given by Phil Plait, James Randi and more at this link.

There are also loads of videos on You Tube about Sagan. Just search and you’ll be busy all day.

And feel free to leave a comment on your thoughts on Carl Sagan.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Lawrence B. Crowell November 9, 2009 at 10:40 AM

If there is something unique about us humans it is that we appear to be a way that the universe has to reflect back on itself. Any sufficiently powerful axiomatic system, say as outlined by Russell and Whitehead, result in propositions that act on themselves as propositions with themselves as the article. Godel proved that this results in some funny aspects to mathematics. In a physical extension it might be that observership or mind in the universe is a cosmological example of this.

LC

BeckyWS November 10, 2009 at 11:21 AM

Although I was too young to watch Cosmos and appreciate it, my Dad made a cassette tape from the LP “The Music of Cosmos”, and I listened to that very often as I fell asleep. It spoke to me of endless space filled with beauty and majesty, before I knew anything about the universe, and I still love listening to it.
The tracks were:
-Space/Time continuum: Heaven and Hell Pt – Vangelis; Symphony no 11- Shostakovich; Alpha- Vangelis
and
-Affirmation: Entends tu les chiens aboyer?- Vangelis

They really manage to convey something of the wonder of astronomy.

Paul Eaton-Jones November 11, 2009 at 2:19 AM

A truly great man. I remember watching ‘Cosmos’ in wonder here in Britain in the early 1980′s. I still dip into the book version. I also recall his final appearance on an ‘Horizon’ programme about black holes when he was obviously very seriously ill but was still fired with enthusiasm for uncovering the mysteries of the universe. Very moving.

rudeyd November 11, 2009 at 5:54 AM

Carl Sagan helped me understand many things about the Universe that other teachers/speakers couldn’t. It was the way he simplified the huge numbers and concepts that made it easy to wrap my brain around the facts. Once you understood his method, everything seemed much easier to grasp. He had a very enthusiastic yet simple way of explaining things.
He also had a great respect and admiration for the Cosmos and that kept me more interested than I would have been otherwise.
Like any great teacher, he made learning fun, and I watch the Cosmos series every chance I get.

I can honestly and proudly say I have seen most of those 13 Cosmos episodes dozens of times….

I especially respected him for hounding NASA for ten years to spin Voyager around and take the “Pale Blue Dot” picture. Can you imagine wasting THAT opportunity??

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