I got to thinking the other day about how much I was inspired in my youth by Carl Sagan's book and television series 'Cosmos.' It was ground-breaking stuff, in that an astronomer was actually able to cross over and achieve mass appeal, celebrity and bring incredibly complex astronomical and cosmological principles to the masses.
I hadn't revisited Carl in some time, so I decided to grab my old 'Cosmos' book and flip to some of my favorite parts. I also did a search on youtube which yielded some great results. It seems that I'm not the only Sagan disciple out there.
He wasn't just one of science's greatest geniuses of all-time... He wasn't just an astronomer... He was a teacher... He was a philosopher.
In that very monotone voice, he could deliver some of the most impactful, life-altering messages in just a few syllables. In my brief time at Ohio State, I took a moderately advanced astronomy class from a guy who is a big wig in the current field (he had published several books and was highly thought of). He said that, in his few contacts with Sagan before he died in the mid-90s, he was totally awestruck by the manner in which Sagan's genius was delivered.
I think his exact quote was, "I asked him a question and, totally off-the-cuff, Sagan didn't even think before answering in the most poignant fashion that he had ever seen. It took me a week to even fully understand what Sagan had told me. It would have taken me years to deliver the kind of answer that he gave me after thinking for just mere seconds."
That is how I always thought of Sagan, as well... Sort of a computer with vast amounts of stored information that he could access without even thinking.
Also, although some of his astronomy is very bleak (his thoughts on the afterlife could make us feel very alone), his scientific ideals were always delivered in a way that offered comfort, not emptiness.
Anyway, are there any other Sagan fans on this board?
I'm going to supply you with some clips and I hope that you take the time to watch them. You will be drawn in almost immediately, I'm sure...
I've always known who he was and that he was a popular astronomer, but my knowledge of him basically ended there. For whatever reason I wiki'd him a week or so and found the Cosmos link on Hulu. Astronomy, secular humanism, and just general proper skepticism lost a pillar when he died. He was so passionate and infinitely knowledgeable while being able to convey his thoughts so easily. He really did seem like a walking Wikipedia.
that video on the 4th dimension was fantastic. i've been trying to grasp the concept of einstein's curved spacetime since i encountered it in depth for the first time in hawking's book, and that was probably the best breakdown i've seen so far. i guess it still remains a little more abstract in my brain than i'd like it to be, although i suppose a full grasp can never be attained given its nature. still, i hadn't yet encountered an explanation involving the progression from 2d to 3d to help make the similar progression from 3d to 4d, so that was pretty cool. i might have to watch it again.
the other videos are obviously pretty phenomenal as well, given their vast vast scale. i'm going to check out the cosmos series and perhaps pick up a book - i'm still trying to work my way through 'brief history of time' (i'm only about 3-4 chapters in, although i've read those 3-4 chapters about a half dozen times by now lol). i've also got 'the universe in a nutshell' on the backburner, but after that i'd definitely like to check out some stuff by sagan. like inspiredlebowski, i had heard the name before revolving around astrophysics and cosmology, but never actually gone in depth.
thanks for the links rba.
Huge marijuana advocate as well (not sure if that's been mentioned)
this is awesome. it's mentioned in his wiki article, although only in passing. what of his work makes you say he went off the edge, marlo? something like that might be even more fascinating than his calculated science that was in the videos. it might be even more fun to read while high, assuming he was in the same state of mind when he wrote it. lol
Came across this interesting little bit of info about Tyson and Sagan crossing paths on Neil's wiki page...very cool.
Astronomer Carl Sagan, who was a faculty member at Cornell University, tried to recruit Tyson to Cornell for undergraduate studies. During an interview with the writer, Daniel Simone, (See the entire interview in the November 2, 2007 issue of Dan's Papers,) Dr. Tyson said, "Interestingly, when I applied to Cornell, my application dripped of my passion for the study and research of the Universe. Somehow the admissions office brought my application to the attention of the late Mr. Sagan, and he actually took the inititiative and care to contact me. He was very inspirational and a most powerful influence. Mr. Sagan was as great as the universe, an effective mentor."
Huge marijuana advocate as well (not sure if that's been mentioned). Always been a fan of Sagan but he started to go a little crazy...Demon Haunted World is a tremendous read.
Yes... He was a huge proponent of legalizing marijuana and he was very out in the open about it.
I'm also a little interested in your 'off the deep end' stance, though. What did he do that led you to conclude that he was losing touch with reality? Surely, it wasn't his involvement with studying UFO sightings and beginning the SETI program, because those were things that he was pushing long before before his most famous work.
And, for the record, although he entertained the idea that these people who say they spotted alien UFOs and were abducted may have interesting stories, it was just a part of his skeptical nature. While he needed definite proof of something in order to absolutely believe it as real science, like any real scientist, he also would study the facts before he deduced anything about validity.
"He wrote frequently on what he perceived as the logical and empirical fallacies regarding UFOs and the abduction experience. Sagan rejected an extraterrestrial explanation for the phenomenon but felt there were both empirical and pedagogical benefits for examining UFO reports and that the subject was, therefore, a legitimate topic of study."
But, he was always clearly interested in the phenomena, as any astronomer should be. Hell... The guy wrote 'Contact,' which is an absolutely amazing book, btw. Those of you that loved the movie would go nuts over the book. While they did a good job of turning such an expansive narrative into a 2-hour movie, they left out much of the meat of the book, which is the best science fiction book I have ever read. He wrote that, literally, in his spare time.
I don't know if you were specifically citing his studies of UFOs and SETI as being 'out there.' If there is something I'm missing, please fill me in.
Believe it or not, I have not completely read The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. I've shuffled through bits and pieces, but never the whole thing, from beginning to end. It may have been a little too much for me to understand when I first gave it a try in my early teens. I need to revisit that one, for sure.
The end of the book Contact is insane. The movie blew it totally.
Completely agree. But, they had to sacrifice something because:
A. They needed to make the movie comfortable two hours long so that moviegoers did not get too anxious and the ADD portion of the country (a rather large percentage, imo) didn't lose interest
B. While the book ending is much, much deeper, more detailed and just downright better, the average American (or citizen of the world, for that matter) may have left the theatre with an "I don't get it" attitude. Granted, I have a pretty cynical view of the average American... And for good reason.
But, for what it was (a corporate studio's take on an amazing book), it was not a bad watch. Compared to the book, though... Forget about it.
Originally Posted by embersyc
Carl Sagan rules. I know some of the theories are outdated now, but Cosmos is still the best science show ever produced.
The way Cosmos blends simple scientific explanation of complex scientific theory, scientific history and elegant explanation of scientific method is masterful.
That was part of Sagan's genius. He managed to get the world population excited about some very complex theories that were previously only discussed in labs and scientific think-tanks. Anyone that can make String Theory interesting to the masses deserves to be revered.