Remembering Carl Sagan

Today, November  9th, we commemorate one of the greatest scientists ever: Carl Sagan who died on December 20th 1996 after a full but too short life, dedicated to bringing science closer to the general public by turning complex issues into comprehensible explanations.

Today, 76 years ago, Carl Sagan was born in Brooklyn, New York where the seeds of his amazing career were planted and his interest in science and technology was awakened, after a visit to the “New York World’s Fair” in 1939.

He graduated in 1960 with majors in astronomy and astrophysics and went on to teach at the Harvard University.
Carl is probably best know with the larger audience for his interests in extraterrestrial life, resulting in the SETI research program (I remember running the software on my computer as well) and the delivery of the universal message of Earth, in the form of a gold disk, which was attached to the Voyager 1 and 2 probes, now racing far beyond the boundaries of our solar system, in the hopes of one day being picked up by an alien civilization.
He was also a great writer, with his book “Contact”, describing the events of the “what if” scenario if we would ever get in contact with an alien civilization being immortalized on the silver screen in the movie of the same name, starring Jodie Foster.
More importantly though, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for this work “The Dragon’s of Eden”.

For me, Carl Sagan is one of people that awakened my interest in science, very much like he became interested in science after his visit to the New York World Fair.  He’s to me a constant reminder of the importance and power of getting a complex message across by bringing it back to the core essentials and presenting these in a captivating, entertaining way, very much like he did with the 1980 series Cosmos, a series I still enjoy watching to this day.
A striking example of this power is the part in which he explains the timeline and evolution of the Cosmos, by condensing the billions of years of evolution into a single year, the “Cosmic year”.

In their posthumous award to Carl Sagan of their highest honor, the National Science Foundation declared that his “research transformed planetary science… his gifts to mankind were infinite.”

So, today, if you have the chance, browse the web and look-up information on this great scientist and check out some of the excerpts of the Cosmos series.  Believe me, if you pick up a copy of the DVD-box, you’ll be watching it over and over again – even if the content dates back from the 80’s, it is all still very relevant.

When Carl Sagan died in 1996, the world lost one of its greatest scientists… we’ll never forget him!

“Most organisms on Earth depend on their genetic information, which is ‘prewired’ into their nervous systems, to a much greater extent than they do on their extragenetic information, which is acquired during their lifetimes. For human beings, and indeed for all mammals, it is the other way around. While our behavior is still significantly controlled by our genetic inheritance, we have, trough our brains, a much richer opportunity to blaze new behavioral and cultural pathways on short time scales. We have made a kind of bargain with nature: our children will be difficult to rise, but their capacity for new learning will greatly enhance the capacity for survival of the human species. In addition, human beings have, in the most recent few tenths of a percent of our existence, invented not only extragenetic but also extrasomatic knowledge; information stored outside our bodies, of which writing is the most notable example.”

(From “The Dragons of Eden”)

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2 Responses to Remembering Carl Sagan

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