Sagan was an astronomer. Moreover a passionate astronomer and scientist that could take the most complicated ideas, theories, and abstractions and boil them down into concepts that anyone could understand. His enthusiasm was infectious. It’s hard not to watch any video with Carl in it and not like the guy nor resist gaining a whole new appreciation for the universe and how it works.
He worked with NASA, taught classes, and worked on what was possiblely the most beloved science show of all time, Cosmos. This show that kicked off in 1980 only ran for 13 episodes. It was the inspiration for countless kids to become scientists or astronomers. It educated millions on how the universe worked in a language they could grasp and understand.
Youtube is littered with videos form Carl. Interviews, excerpts from Cosmos, lectures, and even some crazy remixes.
One of Sagan’s more memorable pieces is his Pale Blue Dot speech. It started with convincing NASA that they should rotate the Voyager 1 probe to take a shot of Earth. It took a bit of cajoling as no one quite grasped what Carl was getting at. Earth was so far away it would merely be a blue dot in the picture. That was Sagan’s point. We never have had a picture like that before.
It was featured in a book that Sagan wrote as a follow-up to Cosmos, aptly named Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space.
An excerpt from the book was given as a commencement speech Sagan gave shortly before his death in 1996. It’s an amazingly eloquent and poignant speech and well worth your time reading. It’ll certainly put a few things into perspective, especially if you are having a bad day. Take 5 minutes listen to Sagan read this passage.
Carl Sagan wrote a few books in his time. One of the most influential being The Demon Haunted World, Science as a Candle in the Dark. If you’ve never read it before, you really owe it to yourself to pick this book up.
In a world full of pseudoscience, scam artists, and general crap, Sagan aptly illustrates the need to take a stand against it all. He outlines the damage believing in bullshit can do to both individuals and society at large. Sagan describes the tools you can equip yourself to spot fallacious logic – the spotty shield almost every piece of superstition and pseudoscience hides behind.
The Demon Haunted World is also a tale of how it all happens, how people and societies get duped into believing the craziest notions. It’s an exploration of thought process and humanity itself.
The world mourned his loss. One of the most eloquent and passionate scientists of our lifetimes. I know I’m sad that I never had the chance to seem him speak in person.
And this is why the Carl Sagan Day is so neat. To celebrate the man’s life and his accomplishments, the next wave of enthusiastic scientists, skeptics and great critical thinkers are gathering together on November 7th. If you can get to the Broward College campus, I heartily recommend you go. It’s going to be an awesome time.