Help Us Remember

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Cosmic Calendar

In response to the Cosmic Clock post, Larry Klaes wrote to remind of us of Carl's Cosmic Calendar:

Beyond Belief

Before my long holiday train ride, I took the time to download the recent Beyond Belief sessions to watch during the trip. (One of the few bonuses of riding Amtrak is outlets.) This is hardy stuff that would've made Carl Sagan proud - the meat and potatoes of existence. If you haven't already, you simply must check it out. I recommend session 2.

If you're unfamiliar with the project, here's their website's description:
Just 40 years after a famous TIME magazine cover asked "Is God Dead?" the answer appears to be a resounding "No!" According to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in a recent issue of Foreign Policy magazine, "God is Winning". Religions are increasingly a geopolitical force to be reckoned with. Fundamentalist movements - some violent in the extreme - are growing. Science and religion are at odds in the classrooms and courtrooms. And a return to religious values is widely touted as an antidote to the alleged decline in public morality. After two centuries, could this be twilight for the Enlightenment project and the beginning of a new age of unreason? Will faith and dogma trump rational inquiry, or will it be possible to reconcile religious and scientific worldviews? Can evolutionary biology, anthropology and neuroscience help us to better understand how we construct beliefs, and experience empathy, fear and awe? Can science help us create a new rational narrative as poetic and powerful as those that have traditionally sustained societies? Can we treat religion as a natural phenomenon? Can we be good without God? And if not God, then what?

This is a critical moment in the human situation, and The Science Network in association with the Crick-Jacobs Center brought together an extraordinary group of scientists and philosophers to explore answers to these questions. The conversation took place at the Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA from November 5-7, 2006.

Ann Druyan gave a particularly moving presentation. Here it is in three parts:

Three Bedrooms – A Tribute to Carl Sagan

Scott Thompson emailed us the link to his blog-a-thon post, which is a worthwhile read. Here's a excerpt:

When I was a young teen in 1980 there were three televisions in the house: One was in the small family room, and was typically shared by my parents. Another was in their bedroom - used primarily by my father to watch Kansas City Chiefs football games on crisp fall weekends. In my own inner sanctum - my bedroom, I had a little 13-inch GE black-and-white set, which I mostly used for watching PBS and Star Trek. It was on my little television that I learned about the coming premiere of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

Cosmos so intrigued me that I was motivated to leave the electronics and Lego and book-strewn confines of my own bedroom in search of a color television. I knew I needed to see stars and galaxies, nebulae and molecules in vivid color. I persuaded my parents to let me use their bedroom color television to watch the series, no small task given their dubious view of science-fiction, their abhorrence of evolution and general mystification regarding science. I eventually won the argument with assurances of the series’ educational value and reassurance of “non-sinful” content. Every week, I’d find myself plopped on my parents white king-sized comforter, propped-chin-in-hands, waiting for the next astonishing (my favorite Cosmos word) installment to propel my mind far from my pedestrian Ozarks home.


When I was at home with my family in the Christmas Eve I just looked at my library and saw at the billions and billions book and realized that have been passed ten years since Carl Sagan left this world. Then I tought in all the things he taught me in his books, not only to really understand how vast is the space and the importance of the contamination and population growth control but the importance of questioning our thoughts and believes.

Ten years and is obvious that there is a lacking of someone who light the path of humanity from the ignorance and ambitions of power in this planet. In all these years population grew up from5.8 billions to 6.5 billions. The global heating has increased and there are countries where the PIB is less than USD 1000 per year. I could spend more time detailing each of these circumstances and listing much more, but is not my goal right now.

Are we living in a new age of obscurantism? It seems that is necessary a new renaissance of the humanity. But what is the way? Carl has buried a seed in every one who knew his work, and it is time for the new generation to do something for this world which is the only habitable until now that we know.

Well, I just wanted to say thanks Carl.


A Link to 'More Carl' on the Web!

Just an addendum to my post on this superb tribute message board. Many, many thanks, you're all doing him the justice he so deserves. It shows he is still very much alive.

I have my own website, about 70s and 80s UK radio (160,000 hits last year), used at times by a resource and meeting place for UK listeners and presenters.

It's rapidly becoming a Carl Sagan tribute!

Because of his video clips our 3GB monthly bandwidth is exceeded until January 1!!!!!!!! (We've had to purchase more!)

Here is the link:

All the best - let's all keep in touch and the blog going. Let's look after all us like minds ad be ambassadors together for Carl and science on this Pale Blue Dot.

Andy Fleming
Co Durham

Sagan's Rationale for Human Spaceflight

Alex Michael Bonnici brings to our attention an article in The Space Review called Sagan's rationale for human spaceflight by Michael Huang. Here's a short excerpt:
In medieval times, some people kept a human skull in their home to remind themselves of mortality, and to view their priorities against the big picture of life and death. A modern equivalent is the dinosaur fossil. The fossilized remains of a once great and dominant species reminds the human species of our eventual choice: survival or extinction, or as Sagan put it, “spaceflight or extinction”.
It's a quick and interesting read and a great launch point for discussing our future in space. Thanks, Alex.

'Vision.' - A Tribute to Carl Sagan

Lang Kasranov writes:
Thank you for a wonderful site.
I would be honored if you would watch, and possibly include, my recent video about Dr. Sagan. It is hosted at YouTube and Google video.

Carl Sagan, gone for "ten trips around the Sun"

Tom Moore emailed us with the link to his blog-a-thon post. Here it is in full:

Carl Sagan was one of the strongest and most enduring influences on my choice to pursue teaching and then science. His view of humans as "a way for the universe to know itself" echoed and extended themes I'd read in Alan Watts. Carl's many books and shorter articles guided and inspired me up through his untimely death. They shaped my interests and led me to specialize in the science of the solar system. Many were critical of what they saw as Carl's excessive participation in the cult of personality through the media. But from my perspective, Carl was the ultimate modern renaissance man, with interests that spanned the universe in a way that few others came close to expressing. He excelled not only in communicating the excitement of science to the general public, but also led a generation of scientists in seeing the broader relevance and impact of their work, helping us to get beyond the mentality of the cold war. He is deeply missed.

There is a detectable web competition for the title of "Next Carl Sagan". It's a very tough act to follow on the world stage. But we do need others to tell us how wonderful is the world as revealed by science, how little we really need our illusions and superstitions, and how much more sound is a simple reverence for life and all the forces that have created it.

- Tom Moore

Missing (from China)

We received the following on December 24th, 2006:

Dear Mrs Sagan:

I am from China, the country which has the largest population. Please excuse me for writing to you first.

I know today is the 10th anniversary for Mr Sagan, so I’d rather like to express my regards and sadness to him - the great scientist by this E-mail. I’m so captivated and interested in his loving science and the strive perseveringly for it. Especially the "The Demon-Haunted World" is what I like most, it influenced on me strongly; it is exciting! Sagan is the idol in my heart all life. In the special day, except for giving my respect to you — dear Mrs Sagan, missing the idol, too. Thank you for the construction of science for long long time!

Sorry , my English is poor .If any thing wrong has in this letter or offend you , please don’t care and forgive me, thanks a lot! Because it is my first time to write E-mail in English.

Bai lee
December 20 2006


Nick's Memories

Nick Sagan wrote an outstanding post yesterday - if you haven't read it, you ought to. From Carl's dictaphone habits to his distate for Beavis & Butthead and the movie Aliens, Nick lets us in on a little secret; his father was, it's true, a human being.

Sagan was so clearly a hero to countless people across the globe, and for those of us who can't help but do a bit of worshiping, Nick's portrait helps ground that awe without diminishing our hero's stature. Here's a choice picture and excerpt:

He had a knack for pinball, knowing just how hard to bump a machine without tilting it. We'd go to arcades together and he'd win bonus games like mad. Videogames were never his thing, though he could appreciate the better ones. I remember the day I showed him Computer Baseball, a strategy game for the Apple IIe. You could pit some of the greatest teams in MLB history against each other. We played Babe Ruth's 1927 Yankees against Jackie Robinson's 1955 Dodgers for about an hour, and then he turned to me and said, "Never show this to me again. I like it too much, and I don't want to lose time. Link.

Govar from India.


This is Govar from India.

Just came to know about the Celebrating Sagan blogathon from Boing Boing and I couldn't wait to put a post on the subject.

Carl Sagan has, and is, in more ways than one, has given a new meaning to my existence. He's made me more mature, and yet very small at the same time. Here's my post on the subject.

My previous post on Carl a month back.

Thanks a lot for your time.


Govar, Chennai, India.


The band SAGAN just sent us a Carl Sagan inspired song to add to the Sounds of Sagan. It is called StokedSkate.

SAGAN has worked on a film that has been informed by the good Doctor and Cosmos. You can read more about their film, Unseen Forces, here, and more about SAGAN there.

Looking Towards Winter.

What Sagan Taught (Me).

There is an invisible, intangible dragon in my garage.

Of course my garage is also invisible and intangible.

Ten years ago today I was near the end of my first semester as a high school student. A few days later, I would read a letter to the editor of a local newspaper about an obituary. Apparently, the author of the letter was annoyed that obituary praised the man for his contributions to science but mentioned nothing of his atheism. The man who had died was Carl Sagan.

At the time, I had only known him from reruns of Johnny Carson's impersonation. "Definitely. They'll need much more hair spray than we originally expected." Later on, I would learn he was the guy who wrote that "Jodie Foster movie about aliens". That's all I would know about him for next nine or so years. A Carson sketch and a sci-fi movie. I wasn't until this February I picked up Demon Haunted World and read his own words.

How different would my life be now if I had read it ten years ago? Would I have understood it? Would I have liked what he had to say? Where would I be if his message had reached me ten years ago?

With a lot of media, audience is often self-selecting. I didn't start reading DHW until I was already headed towards scientific skepticism. Ten years ago, I was still arguably a Catholic, though my family was no longer attending church. Five years ago, I was working at a supermarket while experimenting with new age stuff and Taoism. Two years ago, I was a disgruntled web programmer who felt helpless in trying to affect my life. A year ago, I had realized that Sagan was more than a Carson sketch, but I still hadn't read anything by him. I won't say that the nine years between his death and my first lesson from him were wasted. It may be that I needed to live all those experiences before I could understand what he was saying. I will say that I am glad that I read DHW.

Sagan's lesson for me was not so much how to be skeptical or why one should be skeptical. These things I knew something about. So what did I actually gain from reading his work? A deeper understand of what it means to be a skeptic. We are not here to contradict, to nay-say, to coerce or to censor. We are here to patiently and carefully seek out eternally elusive truths. We use what we learn to seek further and to help others. It is our demand for evidence before ascent acts as bulwark against false accusations, frauds and authoritarianism. Ubi dubium ibi libertas. Where there is doubt, there is freedom.

With that lesson learned, I will do what I can so that Sagan's "candle in the dark" will not be extinguished.

Thank you for your time, Jokermage

Little Atoms, Update.

Neil writes:
I stupidly forgot to mention where the show is broadcast, it on London's Resonance 104.4FM, which as you have probably guessed, is broadcast on FM to the London area. Luckily though, its also broadcast worldwide at

Celebrando a Carl Sagan

Como pasa el tiempo; ya son 10 años del fallecimiento de Carl Sagan. Uno de los "culpables", de los grandes "culpables". El otro creo que fue George Lucas. El 1º Cosmos lo vi, creo recordar, en el año 80 del siglo pasado. En ingles, ya que por aquel entonces pasaba una temporada en Eire. Luego los vi todos ya en casa. Los grabe en casete de audio !! En aquellos tiempos "pre-tecnologicos" no teniamos video, ni PC ... Que cosas y que tiempos ... Luego vino Broca, los Dragones, Contacto, Murmullos, ...

Pasear por el blog creado para homenajear la memoria
de este astrofisico divulgador que tantas vocaciones, ilusiones y
anhelos astronomicos desperto es magnifico.

"Mi memoria es magnífica para olvidar"
Celebrando a Carl Sagan

Celebration Link.

Russell says, "No better time than the solstice to celebrate the founding father of nuclear winter." Check out his dissertation at ADAMANT.


10 orbits on...

We've been 10 times around the sun without him.

Have you ever noticed that there are just some people who seemed to be especially "changed" by Carl Sagan? Those who go so “ga-ga” over him, that even ten years after his death, they still blog, gush, and talk nearly incessantly about him? And these are often the people least likely to otherwise worship, idolize, or even get excited about a professional athlete, celebrity, rock star, authority or politician.

I’m one of those people. My life-trajectory was tugged and defined by the gravity of Carl Sagan. He gave all of us reasons to cherish the pale blue dot and “all that ever was or is or ever will be.” He personified the Cosmos – literally.

He was a gifted scientist, communicator, dad, and human being. He moved millions and millions to see.

But what’s more incredible than how many he did move, is how many have somehow missed the message. Because make no mistake - and he would be the first to admit it – this is about the message not the man. As endearing as he was, this is not a cult of personality, but of the Cosmos.

Carl Sagan articulated poetic and accessible accounts of reality that were so beautiful and simple that once you understood what he was saying, you would never see the world the same way again. Everything was meaningful and awesome. So ask yourself if you understand what he was saying. Do you have any idea what you are missing? Please, take some time to get to know what Carl Sagan was telling us. So many smart, thoughtful, and loving people can't be wrong. I invite you to join the club.

I often wonder how much better our world be if he were still here to offer his insights and guidance. But he is gone. And the rest of us who did hear him can only forge ahead, doing what we can to open people’s eyes.

Rich Blundell

A Poem for the Celebration

Carl Sagan's works have profoundly influenced my life for the better and informed my whole way of thinking. I'm glad he lived.

I'm including a poem inspired in part by "Pale Blue Dot." This poem uses religious terms - 'God,' 'Hallelujah,' but they aren't intended in a literal, theistic sense. They have resonance because of my upbringing and my culture, but one could replace them with similar words from any culture for the same effect. I think, somehow, Mr. Sagan would have liked it. So here's my contribution.

- John Sisk

In Good Humor

Cold cables carry warm laughter;
Dark night gently cradles bright-eyed lovers on through morning;
The sun rises and the sun sets.

Brave-chested birds, blue like sky-flecks, like star-flecks,
Like chords from God's guitar, strut and fly like
The shining gossamer of memory through forests
As green as the eyes of meaning:
Islands in the deep Pacific, themselves born
From spurting streams of rock-as-liquid, are
Stone-as-annihilation from some subterranean sea of fire,
That sea itself the hidden, brilliant rind of the world-fruit,
Tossing brief on a lonely limb of the Universe.

What then is the music of our solitary sphere?

The seed sings the tree, the tree
Sings the leaf, and the leaf's song
Is the flower, that blood-bright jewel
That kisses my eye for an hour
And leaves as Beauty does:
A gloaming hope, a gleaming vision, and -
Gone, leaving only fragrance.
I sing Hallelujah.

- Copyright John Sisk 2004.

More than an Inspiration

In an offhand remark to my husband, I said, of course a googol is a 1 followed by 100 zeroes. He was impressed, because how in the world would I know such a thing? As I recall, I learned that as a ten year old, watching Carl unroll a long tape about an empty village...

I rediscovered Carl's work as an adult, as I examined and ultimately discarded my religious beliefs. He gave the world the permission it needed to understand that even if there aren't any gods and heavens, it doesn't matter, because what is here already is so incredible.

- the freethoughtmom

Celebrating Sagan

I'm a brazilian MD and I was a superstitious and religious teenager when I read "The Dragons of Eden". That reading changed my life, helped me to choose my career and now I grow my children in a humanistic, rationalistic and scientific education. Earlier today I went with my wife to drink a couple of beers in his honour. What a loss for this irrational world.

André Bezerra

En memoria de Carl Sagan

Hoy 20 de Diciembre, 2006 se suman 10 años de la partida tan inesperada de Carl Sagan, el Astrónomo, el Ciéntifico (PhD), el Visionario, el Maestro que además the tantas contribuciones nos dejó su serie Cosmos para la TV en la que exploró todo: Desde el átomo hasta la vastedad del Universo y la cual inspiró a tantas personas a interesarse en la Ciencia en general y en especial en la Astronomía. Una de sus tantas frases quedó grabada para siempre: "Afirmaciones extraordinarias requieren evidencias extraordinarias" la cual fué su respuesta al preguntársele su opinión sobre los reportes de la precencia de los OVNIs (UFOs). Siempre amable, siempre sonriente, su visión y su interpretación del espacio y del tiempo fueron una inspiración para millones de nosotros.

Gracias Carl Sagan… lo echamos tanto de menos.
Herbert Erdmenger
La Rioja, Villa Canales
Guatemala, Guatemala


I remember seeing Cosmos for the first time and then eagerly awaiting each rebroadcast. This series not only introduced me to cosmology but to Carl Sagan himself. From that time on, I read every one of his books. I believe he did for the universe what Cousteau did for the oceans.

C. R. Berman, Jr.
Collegiate Professor (Science)
University of Maryland University College

Por el recuerdo de un gran cientifico

Estimados Señores

Durante la adolescencia y cuando estudiaba ingeniería, el Dr. Carl Sagan representaba para mi, el arquetipo de un científico, Docente y divulgador de ciencias por excelencia. Todavia recuerdo sus explicaciones sobre nuestra presencia en el cosmos, la teoría de la relatividad, y muchos más momentos que impactaron en mi mente joven sobre los profundos avances de las ciencias y tecnologías. El Libro "El Cerebro de Broca", continua en mi biblioteca personal, y lo he leido en más de una oportunidad. Un texto tan eclectico, tan bien orientado a la aclaración de una personalidad tan compleja como la del Dr. Broca; abrio mi mente a un grado de mayor tolerancia hacia un saber distinto, una definición de vida diferente; y confirmo para mi cuan atrapados estamos en nuestra telaraña de espacio-tiempo. Al morir el Dr. mi primera imagen fue su sonrisa y esas ganas infatigables de aprender, que ha servido en más de una oportunidad para alentarme a continuar en mi vida de docente universitario. Tambien pense que injusta que es muchas veces la vida, que alguien tan poderosamente positivo ya no estuviese con nosotros, mientras tantos personajes dantescos pupulan a nuestro alrededor, provistos de la mayor salud. Se que el forma parte del universo, y es consciente de todo lo que hizo, y como influyo en un mar de gente desconocida, entre las cuales me cuento. Nosotros en Argentina hemos podido tener personalidades como el Dr. Favaloro, que tanto hizo por la humanidad y aumentar la luz entre tanta oscuridad de la ignorancia. Gente como el Dr. Sagan, y nuestro Dr. Favaloro hacen que este mundo sea un poco mejor, más sabio y con predominancia del amor al conocimiento.

Muchas Gracias

Ing. Aguilera Sergio Omar (MBA-MPE)
Prof. Sistemas Operativos
Fac. Tecnología Informática
Univ. de Belgrano

From Carolyn Porco

I remember ten years ago today very well. I was in Hawaii and received a phone call very early in the morning from a fellow colleague and friend of both mine and Sagan's, telling me that Carl had died. We talked for a long time. It was such a shock: We had all thought he was out of the woods.


I had the privilege of knowing Carl ever since I was a young graduate student in planetary sciences, and working with him on the Voyager imaging team. He was a very special individual. And very old world, too. I always half expected him to kiss my hand and bow whenever we greeted each other. Such a gentle man was he.

I remember being thrilled to be asked to work with him, his wife Ann Druyan, and others in crafting the on-screen character of the protagonist, Ellie Arroway, in the movie he never lived to see, Contact. I decimated the original script, had very little to say about it that was any good, and yet he graciously, even eagerly, accepted all my criticisms. It was just the way he was.

In my mind, he set the standard for how a scientist should conduct himself: Open to all ideas and opinions, and with grace and dignity, ready to do intellectual battle in defense of the truth.

There have been many people who have been touted as `the next Carl Sagan', but he was truly irreplaceable. I, for one, miss him a great deal, and often find myself wishing that he were around to calm the hysteria and steer us right.

To paraphrase his own words: In a hundred billion galaxies, we will not find another.


The day he died, I was asked by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to submit my thoughts on his death for their on-line memorial. This is what I wrote:

"Of all the people I have met in the course of my scientific career, no one was more gracious, understanding, respectful and encouraging towards me than Carl. From my very first professional presentation at the age of 21, to my current position as the Cassini imaging team leader, Carl was there, always, with a kind, gentle word of support. I believe that he cared for people, genuinely, in that special way that distinguishes great humanitarian leaders. And I believe that underlying his life's work was a bedrock faith in the fragility, dignity and goodness of all humankind.

"His passing is a heartbreaking loss - for his family, for the community of scientists that he walked among, and for the world. We who remain on Earth have lost our guardian angel. He is part of the cosmos now."

Perhaps a bit over the top at the end, but then again, it was a sad day and I was crying when I wrote it.

Carolyn Porco
Cassini Imaging Team leader
Boulder, CO

PS: For those who might want to read about Carl's life in brief, here is a review, published in the Guardian, that I wrote of one of the biographies about him that came out soon after his death. It is here, at the Guardian.

More Blog-a-thon Posts

Sorry it took so long to get these up, it's been a busy day and blogger has been giving us some trouble. Here's another list of blog-a-thon posts that were sent our way:

Chris McCoy aka El Destructo has a Sagan quote of the day at Memphilter.

John Newman at campuscodger.

Phil says Carl Sagan was one of the greatest people of the twentieth century. I agree.

Mark Madsen at Extended Phenotype has a nice post and a nice blog name, too.

Heber Rizzo gave us two links, here and here. Both en Espanol.

Kent Cline at Carbonfish.

Chris Patil at Ouroboros.

And Ms. Sid Simpson in Pinellas Park, Florida, participates on her livejournal page.

Thanks everyone!

Cosmos and Love

When I was at turbulent time, I wrote this poem dedicated to a girl I loved inspired by Cosmos and by Mr. Sagan.

Los átomos de tu cuerpo

Alguna vez leí
que en el inicio del universo,
todos los átomos
que componen la materia que lo forma
estaban tan comprimidos que ocupaban el mismo espacio.
Entonces imagino,
todos los átomos
que componen las moléculas
que componen tu cuerpo,
y el mío,
ocupando el mismo espacio...

Thank you for everything, Carl Sagan

Thank You, After 100.

David and I originally planned to collaborate on an article or two, perhaps a short audio documentary, to celebrate the life and impact of Carl Sagan. We hoped that we could shop our work around and at best get it published. Needless to say, like so many things, the project fell to the wayside.

As today's anniversary approached we began posting Sagan content to our personal blogs. That put us in the mood, and before we knew we launched Celebrating Sagan.

After 8 days and 100 posts we are in awe of the support and attention the community has given this project.

It is incredible to live in a time where it is possible to create a living memorial to honor someone. Fortunate for us Dr. Sagan was not just anyone. And because the good Doctor meant so much to so many people Celebrating Sagan took off, and here we are, creating a memorial as a community.

Thank you all for your work.


No sabría expresar debidamente hasta que punto ver Cosmos fue importante para mí. Entonces era muy pequeño y pienso que me dio elementos para desarrollar muchos de los mejores aspectos de mi identidad. No me dedico al ámbito científico pero ¿quién puede pasarse de una visión del universo como la que nos explicó Sagan? ¿Quién puede pasarse de una visión crítica, honesta e informada sobre el mundo que nos rodea?

Sin duda hay miles de personas en la misma situación: la labor divulgativa de Sagan ha mejorado el mundo.

G. Centenera

Earliest Memory.

My earliest and most personal memory of Carl Sagan is of a time I had coffee with him in the library of the Genetics Department at Stanford Medical School. The time was the 1961-62 school year; I was a senior Biology major doing an undergraduate research project connected with Multivator, a life-detection instrument system we hoped would be part of the Viking Missions to Mars, and Carl was a visitor in Joshua Lederberg's laboratory. I think this was the first and probably the only time an astronomer has been on the faculty of a medical school.

Anyway, I was in the departmental library, where the coffee machine was located, and Carl walked in. We immediately got into a conversation about exobiology, the search for life on Mars, and prebiotic chemistry in general. He encouraged me to go into exobiology and predicted that if there were enough researchers, we might have a self-replicating system in a decade or so.

As it turned out, I didn't follow his suggestion, largely because I felt that I was much better at biology than chemistry, but since 2001, I've been working with Stanley Miller on prebiotic chemistry and with Jeffrey Bada on detecting biomarkers on Mars. Thus, after forty years, I finally took Carl's advice and got into exobiology, as I should have originally. We still don't have a self-replicating system, but impressive progress has been made with ribozymes that can copy limited stretches of RNA, so it's probably just a matter of time before we do.

This incident was an inspiration and I followed Carl's career with interest from then on, even though I spent most of my working life as a microbial geneticist and biochemist instead.

John H. Chalmers, Ph.D.


A decade

Ten years. I remember that morning ten years ago when the clock radio woke me up by telling me Carl Sagan had died. It was local news; he was here, at the Hutch; we knew he was here, and why, and we exchanged worried gossip. I knew people who knew people who said things looked grim. Then I woke up to the radio that morning - I remember the fury, the no no no no, the damn and hell.

He's a sort of parent of B&W, Carl Sagan is. As is Dawkins. The two formed a kind of pair in my mind in the mid-90s, and I was oddly pleased to see what Dawkins said of Sagan in his tribute in Skeptical Inquirer:

My candidate for planetary ambassador, my own nominee to present our credentials in galactic chancelleries, can be none other than Carl Sagan himself. He is wise, humane, polymathic, gentle, witty, well-read, and incapable of composing a dull sentence"...I met him only once, so my feeling of desolation and loss at his death is based entirely on his writings. Carl Sagan was one of the great literary stylists of our age, and he did it by giving proper weight to the poetry of science. It is hard to think of anyone whom our planet can so ill afford to lose.

Just what I thought. Especially right now, we could and can ill afford to lose him. (Look how bad things have gotten since then! So you see what I mean. Never mind about correlation and causation; you know what I mean.)

It was The Demon-Haunted World, especially, that was a kind of parent of B&W. It got a lot of attention, and Sagan did a lot of interviews. I taped a couple of them, on 'Fresh Air' and 'Science Friday'; they were small educations in skepticism by themselves. The book and the interviews coincided with various encounters with New Agey people I kept stumbling into around that time, and the result was a heightened interest in pseudoscience and woolly thinking that has stuck to me like glue ever since. (Thus it is a little dizzying to see that Little Atoms is doing a special tribute broadcast this Friday with Ann Druyan and A C Grayling and several associates of Sagan's. I've been on Little Atoms, thinks I to myself. Full circle, kind of thing.)

A lot of people date the beginnings of their interest in science to a tv programme or book or magazine column of Carl Sagan's. He got a lot done in 62 years.

Ophelia Benson, Editor
Butterflies and Wheels
Demon Haunted World

Remembering a Young Carl Sagan

In the fall of 1963 I was taking an astronomy course at Goddard College. One day the professor took me aside and said he'd arranged for an Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Harvard named Carl Sagan to drive up to the campus and give a lecture on the solar system. Knowing of my long time interest in astronomy he asked if I'd show him around the campus and escort him to the dining room for dinner. I did and of course the lecture (a slide show with some of the best planetary photos of the time) was great. Mind you, at that time Dr. Sagan was a total unknown outside of the Astronomy Dept. at Harvard, and the big concern from my professor was how the college administration would feel about his spending $300 of his budget to pay for Dr. Sagan.

As Carl Sagan became better know, appearing on TV, publishing books and doing the Cosmos series, I'd drive a lot of my friends up the wall by exclaiming, "I know that guy!". And then telling the above tale. But I know it caused many of them to read his books. He is missed now more than ever.

- Chip

The Cosmic Clock

Hello fellow Saganites,

On this Carl Sagan commemoration day let me direct you to another wonderful web page entitled "The Cosmic Clock" part of the equally fantastic CosmicVoyage : Tribute to Carl Sagan and Cosmos.

The Cosmic Clock will help you to explore the birth and development of our cosmos. Spanning some 15 billion years, the clock highlights significant events that occurred along the history of the universe as described by modern cosmological theory.

This tour through time, although brief, is one in which all members of our civilization should be familiar.

After all, humans have endeavored to understand our beginnings for eons. Now, we are finally beginning to know!"!

Alex Michael Bonnici


Hello. My name is Andrew Lyman, I am a scientist who bungled his way into Art School instead. I maintain a number of blogs, but I made a post for Dr. Sagan on my Young Team Manager Blog today in honor of the 10th Anniversary of his death.

The image was made as a joke by me about the fact that I won the affection of my current girlfriend through (A) A ReAnimator T-shirt, and (B) Carl Sagan's Cosmos. Yes, she almost went home that fateful night, but when she asked what I my evening had in store, I did not lie, I
said: Probably just read, watch some more of Carl Sagan's Cosmos and go to bed. She was intrigued and has thus, stuck around for 9 months now (a purely factual and in no way symbolic amount of time).

But all that aside, Carl Sagan and Lewis Thomas were my two absolute role models. Darby Crash and Jello Biafra got thrown into the mix later and I ended up with a BFA in Experimental Animation, but the one common aspiration in my life has been that of the philosopher scientist. I can think of no nobler goal. All I hope is that there will be increasingly more and more kids growing up with role models like this.

All the best to all of you. Have the fun.
Joel Achenbach has blog-a-thon post in his Washington Post blog today. Check it out, it also links to a post he did on Sagan earlier this year. Here's what he posted today - his Style Section excerpt from December '96.
Carl Sagan warmed the universe.

His cosmos was not cold and dark and impenetrable. He believed the universe was surely filled with life, intelligent life, innumerable civilizations unseen. In his younger, dreamier days, he thought advanced extraterrestrials might know how to cruise the galaxies in ramjets -- spaceships with massive openings that scoop up hydrogen atoms from interstellar dust clouds and use them for fuel. In Sagan's crowded cosmos, even empty space wasn't empty.

He told The Washington Post earlier this year: "Organic matter, the stuff of life, is absolutely everywhere. Comets are made one-quarter of organic matter. Many worlds in the outer solar system are coated with dark organic matter. On Titan, organic matter is falling from the skies like manna from Heaven. The cold diffuse interstellar gas is loaded with organic matter. There doesn't seem to be an impediment about the stuff of life."

The world needed Sagan, who died yesterday of pneumonia at the age of 62. We have needed Sagan ever since Copernicus removed us from the center of the universe. It is a perplexing fact of human life that we live on a rock that orbits an ordinary star on the outskirts of an ordinary galaxy in a universe that is indescribably large. Sagan knew how to describe it, to convey our humble position without demeaning us. With Sagan we felt in the right place.

Sagan said, "Everybody starts out as a scientist." Every child has the scientist's sense of wonder and awe. Too often we beat it out of the kid. "The job of a science popularizer," Sagan said, "is to penetrate through the teachings that tell people they're too stupid to understand science."

Little Atoms Radio Show

We produce a radio show in the UK called Little Atoms. We have a special edition commemorating Carl Sagan this Friday 22nd December.

This is the listing for the show:

"The 20th December 2006 marks the tenth anniversary of the death of the astronomer, astrobiologist and populariser of science Carl Sagan. This program will explore aspects of the life, work and influence of Sagan, and includes a number of short interviews with Sagan's family, friends and former colleagues.

Contributors include Ann Druyan, Founder of the Carl Sagan Foundation and wife of Carl's for nearly 20 years until his death. Louis Friedman, co-founder with Sagan and current Executive Director of The Planetary Society, Steven Soter, Research Associate, Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, and collaborator with Sagan on the Emmy award winning television series 'Cosmos: A Personal Journey', Carolyn Porco, Senior Research Scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, an Adjunct Professor in the Department of
Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona, and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder, member of the Imaging team on the Voyager missions, and leader of the Cassini-Huygens imaging team, and A.C. Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, Rationalist, skeptic and Little Atoms favorite".

The show is an hour long, and is broadcast between 4:30pm and 5:30pm UK time. It will also be available to download from our website Friday morning (UK time again).

Ann Druyan and I talk briefly about the blog-a-thon on the show.

best wishes,

Neil Denny


Carl Sagan ten years on - Contact film/book differences

Huge props to Carl Sagan, my parents, sisters, and my bro-in-law Dale for turning me on to science and critical thought back when I was a wee lad with an even worse haircut. A "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" cosmos is a wondrous and bewildering enough thing without going over the edge and looking for the invisible man in the sky.

I always found it interesting that they changed the ending of the movie Contact to diverge from the book. I wonder what Ann Druyan was thinking when she signed off on this or if Carl was aware of it too.

In the movie it seems that Ellie Arroway is made to accept that faith is the only thing that will vindicate her. She comes back from her journey to the aliens with absolutely no solid evidence. "Hope you believe me 'cuz I got nothing here. Bupkiss. Not even a t-shirt."

In the book she is given inside information about the creation of the universe and uses a supercomputer to prove the existence of a universal designer. Science and faith are united in a way that even an atheist like myself found very satisfying and imaginative.


Missing Carl Sagan

Bonnie-Ann Black writes:

I realized back in august, just before attending WorldCon, that Carl Sagan had been gone an incredible 10 years. I did several art pieces to sell at the convention, some of them prints, and they did sell fairly well. In tribute to the man and his work, I'm participating in the blog-a-thon on my website:

My Meager Contribution.

i'm the offspring of scientists - my mother, an astronomer; my father, an electrical engineer for NASA. it was only natural that we eagerly gathered around the TV to watch the latest installment of cosmos.

carl sagan was a fond influence on my geekery. while i'm a graphic designer currently, i will always be obsessed with this vast universe, thanks to my parents and carl sagan. and now, i make a point to pass this obsession along to my son:

thanks for the blog, and thanks for bringing back memories.



Arrogancia Sin Fundemento

(En memoria de Carl Sagan)

En uno de sus interesantes libros de divulgación científica --LOS DRAGONES DEL EDÉN— el astrónomo Carl Sagan nos ofrece una figura para concebir adecuadamente nuestro “puesto” en la vida del universo:

“Para expresar la cronología cósmica nada más sugerente que comprimir los quince mil millones de años de vida que se asignan al universo (o, por lo menos, a su conformación actual desde que acaeciera el Big Bang) al intervalo de un solo año. Si tal hacemos, cada mil millones de años de la historia terrestre equivaldrían a unos veinticuatro días de este hipotético año cósmico, y un segundo del mismo correspondería a 475 revoluciones efectivas de la Tierra alrededor del sol”.

En esta imagen, el Big Bang (la “gran explosión” inicial) ocurre el 1 de enero; el origen de la galaxia de la Vía Láctea, el 1 de mayo; el origen del sistema solar, el 9 de septiembre; la formación de la Tierra, el 14 de septiembre; el origen de la vida en la Tierra, aproximadamente el 25 de septiembre; la formación de las rocas más antiguas conocidas, el 2 de octubre; la época de los fósiles más antiguos, el 9 de octubre. Los dinosaurios hacen su aparición en Nochebuena.

En toda esta evolución el ser humano no hace acto de presencia hasta las 22:30 horas de la víspera de Año Nuevo. La historia escrita ocupa los últimos 10 segundos del 31 de diciembre, y el espacio transcurrido desde el ocaso de la Edad Media hasta la época en que vivimos es de poco más de un segundo.

¿No es para pensarlo profundamente? A la vista de lo casi nada que somos los seres humanos en un mundo antiquísimo, no queda más que reconocer que debemos inclinarnos por la humildad. ¡Qué ridícula resulta nuestra soberbia manifestada cuando nos dedicamos a acumular bienes materiales, descuidando la relación con nuestros seres queridos; cuando ávidos de dominar y conseguir poder despreciamos y pisoteamos a nuestros semejantes; cuando nos dejamos vencer por los prejuicios y rechazamos a quienes tienen otra manera de comportarse; cuando nos creemos poseedores de la verdad absoluta y no toleramos a quienes piensan de modo diferente; cuando por ganar dinero destruimos el mundo sin tomar en cuenta que nos fue dado en préstamo por nuestros descendientes; cuando predicando falsos Absolutos e idolatrando dioses por nosotros mismos inventados decretamos identidades impuras y nos dedicamos a la caza de brujas; cuando nos convertimos en señores de la guerra y abrimos las puertas al terror, la violencia y el fanatismo!

El calendario cósmico de Sagan nos enseña que no hay fundamento para nuestra arrogancia. Es hora de preocuparnos de veras por cómo estamos haciendo las cosas.

Rogelio Rodríguez Muñoz

Memories of Carl Sagan

More than twenty years ago, I took my son to hear a public address by Carl Sagan in Portland Oregon. I was, as ever, amazed by the man' ability to make science so interesting, so exciting, so full of adventure. Even more, I was so entertained by his artful and witty use of words--a talent more common among actors and poets than scientists.

During questions and answers, a man stood to ask what Dr. Sagan thought of some quite flaky theory of alien influences among us. Dr. Sagan very gently and with dignity began with something like, "Well, you have, quite innocently I'm sure, fallen under the influence of some very ignorant people." If only more of us could confront ignorance so firmly while respecting the dignity of those who have lost their way. Oh, how I'd love to hear his response to today's events.

Steve Thompson,
Springboro, Ohio

More Blog-a-thon Posts

We've been getting lots of emails linking to people's blog-a-thon posts, and it's hard to choose excerpts, so here's a small collection of links we've received:

On MySpace, from Lisa.
Random Precision, In Portugal from Luis.
The Bretorium in Massassachusetts.
Larry Klaes' Ithaca Times article.
Anonymous Dave's blog-a-thon post.
Kevin Jung's humble attempt at memorial.
Bret at

Blog-a-thon Post

river2sea72 writes:
I have huge respect and admiration for popularizers of science, and Carl Sagan was one of the premier examples of such a person. Although they risk their reputations immenseley by reaching out to the public and taking on controversial issues, they inspire unknown multitudes of children to pursue careers in science or at least to appreciate its role in society.

Who will do for my child what this man did for me? There remains a huge void.

NY Times Obit

From the New York Times obituary, by William Dicke, first published on December 21st, 1996:
A persistent theme in his work was one practically guaranteed to capture public interest: the possibility that life exists elsewhere in the universe. He became an expert on the subject at a time when it was considered highly speculative, and prodded other scientists to consider it seriously. Civilized life must be common in the universe, he said, because stars are so abundant and the Sun is a fairly typical star.

Dr. Sagan (pronounced SAY-gun) was probably best known as the host of ''Cosmos,'' a 13-part series on public television in 1980 that explored everything from the world of the atom to the vastness of the universe, and showed him looking awestruck as he contemplated the heavens. With an audience of 400 million people in 60 countries, it was considered the most widely viewed short-term public television series in history until it was eclipsed in 1990 by a series on the Civil War.

He received critical acclaim as well as substantial financial awards for the series, which made him an international celebrity. The book he wrote to accompany it, also called ''Cosmos,'' was on the best-seller list for more than a year, and a company he formed, Carl Sagan Productions, promoted such things as ''The Music of the Cosmos'' with RCA Records.

Dr. Sagan was also familiar to television viewers from 26 appearances in the 1970's and 80's on ''The Tonight Show'' with Johnny Carson, who was known to don a black wig and perform a Sagan impersonation. He and other comics delighted in parodying Dr. Sagan's references to ''billions and billions'' of stars in the universe.

In an interview in 1977, Dr. Sagan said he turned down several hundred requests to give lectures every year but always tried to accept invitations to appear on ''The Tonight Show.''

''The show has an audience of 10 million people,'' he said. ''That's an awful lot of people, and those aren't people who subscribe to Scientific American.''

Defending his activities in popularizing science, Dr. Sagan said in another interview: ''There are at least two reasons why scientists have an obligation to explain what science is all about. One is naked self-interest. Much of the funding for science comes from the public, and the public has a right to know how their money is being spent. If we scientists increase the public excitement about science, there is a good chance of having more public supporters. The other is that it's tremendously exciting to communicate your own excitement to others.''

While his leap from the scientific ivory tower into the television studio may have irritated some of his colleagues, there can be no doubt that Dr. Sagan was a serious and productive scientist.


Gracias, eso es lo que me gustaria poder decirle al Sr. Sagan si pudiera hablar con el, GRACIAS por su manera de explicar, por hacer que la ciencia parezca un juego y hacerla tan interesante y atractiva.

A partir de Cosmos para mi fue una nueva etapa, con mi padre, madre y hermana menor nos sentabamos a ver cada episodio de Cosmos y realmente quedabamos atrapados por su magnetismo. Luego lei todos sus libros y tenia la sensacion de que lo conocia, de hecho cuando el Sr. Sagan murio senti un gran dolor, fue la primera y unica vez que senti la perdida de una persona que nunca habia conocido como si fuera un familiar cercano.
Realmente se fue un GRANDE con todas las letras.

ESpero que desde donde este, seguramente en ese infinito que el tambien sabia describir, nos este mirando y se ponga contento por este tributo que todos los que lo admiramos en el mundo le estamos dedicando.


Marcelo Suarez

A Love Affair & A Thank You

Well, today is the day. Not only does today mark the tenth anniversary of Carl Sagan's passing and the beginning of a new moon, it is the day that a certain someone returns from overseas and into my arms. Dr. Sagan is partly responsible for this lasting love affair of mine, and after thinking all week about what to write today for the blog-a-thon, this seems appropriate.

Cosmos first aired a year before I was born, and so I didn't come to know Carl's face until college, when my dear friend and roommate began borrowing the series from the public library on VHS. At this point, I had a couple of the doctor's books under my belt and an amateur passion about science. My introduction to the Cosmos television series coincided with the beginning of a relationship with a certain young lady, and those late nights on the living room couch - the VCR humming, Vangelis swirling about us, and Carl's entrancing enunciation - helped to seal a bond which continues to grow after four years. Dr. Sagan helped us share the wonder of existence with each other, and for this (among countless other things) I am immensely grateful to him.

Nine days ago, while daydreaming in my cubicle and chatting with Bryan H., we decided to start in order to commemorate this important man's passing. I can't express what a fulfilling project it's been. I want to thank everyone who has contributed; I share your sentiments whole-heartedly. I also want to give a special thanks to Joel for conceiving of today's blog-a-thon, to Nick Sagan for helping to spread the word, to boingboing for their post yesterday (surely the biggest reason we've been getting so many hits), and to Ann Druyan for her encouragement.

Carl articulated something that no other scientist has managed to do. All chemistry and physics aside, WE ARE STAR STUFF. The fact of that sentence still gives me a profound sense of security. It is a timeless four word poem for all of humanity. For an atheist like myself (albeit a reluctant one some days), reading and rereading Carl's words are akin to prayer. Feeling small, it seems to me, is the beginning of understanding the truth about who and what we are. We are star stuff. We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.

Thank you, Carl.

Falling Hard for Sagan.

Lauren at Liquid Logic sent us a link to her blog-a-thon entry, and we just couldn't help but excerpting this passage:
I remember liking him and finding his stuff cool. But it was later in life, in my late twenties, in fact, that I fell hard for the guy. I’m not sure if it was The Demon Haunted World or The Dragons of Eden that hooked me. But I do know that it had something to do with his rigorous devotion to truth and his improbable optimism about human nature.
Please read the whole entry here.

Celebrating Sagan

I was approximately 4 years old. I sat in front of my family's first hard-earned TV and I looked at that man alone in that incredible and huge spaceship travelling through a black hole and listening at the same time to "Heaven and Hell part I". My eyes stopped blinking and I was changed forever.

He opened my mind, taught me about questioning every aspect of life and specially myself, always from a higher perspective and showed me that my very existence was just a humble "pale blue dot" in a huge place, so huge that "if it's just only us, what an awful waste of space it is!"

Pure thanks. No words.


Sagan through Father.

Mary came to know Carl Sagan through her father. Her blog-a-thon post includes this paragraph:
There is no way for me to think about Carl Sagan without thinking of my father. My dad, he of the constant impersonations, loved to impersonate Carl Sagan. Particularly the way he used to say "billions and billions" and "star stuff". As kids, we found this very amusing and so we bought my dad the book, Cosmos. I remember spending a summer vacation entranced with the book. Both of these men sparked in me a love and respect for science and impressed on me of the importance of independent and critical thinking.
Please check out the rest of her post at Mostly Dogs.

In Memoriam.

It's sad to see that in this "Demon-Haunted World" where creationism is touted as a serious alternative "theory" for Kansas schoolchildren, that our great voice of rationalism and inquiry, Dr. Sagan, is no longer with us to fight the good fight.

His pleas for international peace and the futility of missile defense systems fall on deaf ears in Washington, at least until January 20th, 2009.

Hopefully, we will discover some extraterrestrial life in the next few decades and name it in honor of Carl.

John W.

Honoring Carl.

Since his death Carl Sagan has been honored in a number of ways, by a number of different organizations. Referencing an earlier post, the following video includes speeches by Dan Goldin and Ann Druyan at Planetfest 1997, the gathering at which the Pathfinder Lander was commemorated as Carl Sagan Memorial Station.

From Ann.

Celebrating Sagan thanks Ann Druyan who wrote to share her appreciation for our memories-made-public.

She also included a link to the China Youth Daily, a Chinese national paper. The article is called, 'Carl Sagan's Legacy.'

On behalf of the readers, Ann, we thank you for cultivating the flame.


Los espectadores de habla hispana también disfrutamos de su serie Cosmos y de sus libros traducidos a nuestro idioma, por ello me permito enviar mi recuerdo al hombre que nos abrió la puerta a la astronomía en nuestro idioma nativo.

De su mano aprendimos sobre los misterios del universo y que las ciencia no necesariamente debe ser para unas pocas mentes elegidas, él nos enseño que las ciencias son para toda la humanidad, para cada ser viviente, se tomó el trabajo de explicarnos de manera sencilla muchos de los postulados científicos de la época, siempre creyó que podíamos entender si se nos explicaba de manera suficientemente sencilla y el hecho de que a 10 años de que nos dejara sin su presencia física miles de personas en casi todas partes del mundo lo recuerden y lo veneren.

Ojala hubiera muchos como él, aunque siempre creí que era un ser único y lamentablemente irrepetible.

Vaya este recuerdo de parte de alguien que creció de la mano de Carl en el interés por las ciencias.

Carl aún vive en nuestras mentes y en nuestros corazones y su legado alcanzara a nuestros hijos y nuestros nietos.

"Moriré el día que muera el último de mis amigos" J. L. Borges.


From Malaysia

Embiggened! in Malaysia writes:
There is much to ponder from what he has left us - and perhaps most important is how precious our lives and our planet is. Though no longer with us on this Pale Blue Dot, Carl Sagan’s legacy will forever live on in the hearts and minds of those who love and cherish knowledge.

Sexy Science

OM's post for today include's this insight, and yes he has a caveat on the origins of 'Billions and Billions':
If anything, it was Cosmos which permanently ensconced Carl as a major part of 20th Century Pop culture, as it gave Astronomy - and Science in general, for that matter - it's first high-tech embellishing. For thirteen episodes, Carl produced what has been argued as the first "ratings hit" PBS had aired that wasn't something like Sesame Street. He aimed not so much for adults as the target audience, but simply for those with intelligence and the will to expand the bounds of their knowledge and imagination. His catchphrase of "Billions and Billions"(*), combined with his uniquely nasal Brooklyn accent, became so ingrained in American culture to have the same instant recognition status as E=MC2,

Or, to put it a bit more directly, Carl made science "sexy".
Chech out the whole OM thing, here.

Carl Sagan, Ten Years After

Kurt at the Celestial Monochord sent us these thoughts. Please read his whole Sagan statement here.
By an astounding coincidence — divine intervention? — Carl Sagan's Cosmos debuted on public television exactly one week after my 16th birthday. The series turned out to be a 13-hour, carefully reasoned, gorgeously dramatized argument. The claim this long argument sought to establish precisely addressed the very question with which I'd been grappling.

Cosmos argues that the universe is profoundly beautiful, meaningful, and demands an ethical response, even when it's explained without The Divine. Sagan argued that, faced with the revelations of 20th century science and the dangers of 20th century technology, the only ethical response is to see the world as it is and not how we wish it were.

Everything I Needed to Know About Life...

Everything I needed to know about life, I learned from Carl Sagan.

When I was only ten years old, "Cosmos" began on PBS. I met my hero once a week and he told me that there was so very much more to life than I knew. He told me that life was precious and that if we were not careful, it could all slip away. He told me things that the people who run the world have yet to learn or implement. I became a student of his works and have tried to make a difference in this world. Carl Sagan is my hero.


Carl Sagan

The following excertp is from Dean W. Armstrong's look at Dr. Sagan's roll as an astronomer at the University of Chicago. 
He was a student here at Chicago; he was, as the picture indicates, president of the University of Chicago Astronomical Society (now known as the Ryerson Astronomical Society). After his short stay in the college he went to the Astronomy department and left a Ph.D.

I often wonder what the dismal atmosphere of a coal-smoked Chicago was like for astronomy in the early fifties--and whether the old cranky telescope (fifty-two years old then, in 1952) did anything to inspire future thoughts. His logs are short, and there never seemed to be much observing or possibility of observing. See here for a scan of a sample logbook page. Or here for the entire text of the 1952-1964 logbook.

Billions and Billions of Inspirations

As a young child I wasn’t encouraged to watch too much television, but “Cosmos” was one exception to the weeknight homework rule. One night a week my brother and I sat together on a couch in Rhode Island to marvel at the possibilities of outer space as presented by a certain turtlenecked professor. If the universe was as big as he imagined, then surely life existed in other places and it was merely a matter of time before we connected with that life. In years when my daydreams ran wildly with the childhood pictures of nuclear winter and nightmares of being the Only One Left, Sagan’s fears were the same… but his questions, worded as only he could pronounce them, sparked in me thoughts of friendly Others, shared technology that would lead to a cure for cancer, and cosmic peace summits and universal treaties.

He made science fun and accessible, his enthusiasm was contagious, he was cool. Around that time (1979?) I wrote a journal entry proclaiming that I would go to Cornell and study with Sagan and plan a Mars mission. Well, I’d realize only a teency bit of that dream… but wouldn’t you know Sagan’s own student Steve Squyres WOULD lead the mission to Mars.

Jennifer at jenimi sent along this excellent picture and testimonial. For more please read here.

the 20th.

I wake up reluctantly today, exhausted. It has been a busy few weeks and today will be no exception. Wednesday December 20th will be a day of deadlines, and developments, and manically checking the email, and posting comments, and dinners and more deadlines.

This last week my life has been consumed by Carl Sagan. Falling asleep posts are on my mind, and waking up it is images from the internet. Turtleneck and stars.

Over the past week we have received many excellent submissions that praise Sagan's contributions--on the (inter)national and personal scale--as a hero, roll model, inspiration, great mind, and communicator.

It is no surprise then, that with Sagan on my mind, I find myself wondering as I grind the morning's coffee, "Did Carl drink coffee? Does he like bananas?."

Perhaps Carl was more of a tea man, and oatmeal was his favorite breakfast. Peanut butter and jelly? Did he like pizza? Surely no soda. Beer? Bourbon or Scotch? Mint chocolate chip?

The funny thing about Carl Sagan, and I say this after reading and moderating many testimonials about the man, is that even though he was a public figure, the nation's face of science, many of the people reacting to the 10th anniversary of his death are reacting in a very personal way. We all feel like we knew the good doctor. So it is strange for me to be chest deep in memories about this man while knowing so little about who he was, and how he lived his day to day.

Perhaps this speaks to his greatest accomplishment. More than being a great scientist and mind, Carl Sagan was a man who had an uncanny ability to connect individuals to great ideas, and as we are seeing now, individuals to individuals. Through this relative understanding of the universe, Carl helped us find a place in which we belong.

Thank you Dr. Sagan, we want to be your friend.

Carl Sagan Died Today.


My Hero

Carl is my hero. He just is. Especially the bits of him that must have made it into my bloodstream by now; c’mon man, we’re all star dust, don’t you remember that?

Carl gave me the permission to believe that there was something else out there bigger than this earth and its humans. At a time when I was desperate for anything other than those two things,

Carl offered the universe and its infinite potential. I didn’t need to understand it all, or even pursue it in any way. Just knowing it was there, beautiful, powerful and limitless was perspective enough.

I was ten years old.

Cynthia, Ipswich, MA

A Young Scientist.

This video from 1963 shows a rehearsed Sagan discussing the atmosphere of Venus.

Two more from flickr

Hello from Japan

I was watching Cosmos after a hard day's work at J-List last night as I saw the post on Mr. Sagan's "meinichi," the Japanese word for the anniversary of a person's dying -- and I'd just done a post on what "meinichi" means a few days ago. I credit Mr. Sagan for installing a sense of wonder in me that I'll have all my life.

Peter Payne

Carl Sagan

I remember so clearly watching all of the Cosmo programs hosted by Carl Sagan. I looked forward to them with such enthusiasm that my family began teasing me about it, calling him my "boyfriend". I didn't care - he was magnetic, charming, persuasive, literate, imaginative, charismatic, even poetic. And he was a scientist? As an artist type myself I never cared much for the sciences but his approach was so appealing - not dry and boring, that I found myself transfixed by his lectures, because that's really what they were.

It was a great loss when Dr. Sagan passed away. His voice of reason and clarity, and his thoughtfulness are very much needed today.

Frances Barrineau
Ashburn, Virginia

Memories From a Former Student

I was a rising college senior in the summer of 1965, and was considering Harvard as a possible Graduate school in Astronomy. I had contacted the Astronomy Dept to set up an interview, as I was planning to come East, from California, late that summer. I was assigned a then very young (and still very unknown) Assistant Professor, Carl Sagan, as my interviewer. I was very impressed by our meeting, and was ultimately accepted as a Grad Student, entering in the Fall of 1966. I knew I was very much interested in Astronomy, as a whole, but did not have any idea as to what specific field I would concentrate on.

I took a course in Planetary Astronomy from Carl, as a 2nd Year student, and that lead to publishing 2 papers with Carl as co-author, on the microwave spectrum of Venus. In order to get that research approved, Carl had to personally ‘go to bat’ for me, with a major governing committee within the Astronomy dept. That really impressed me.

Little did I know at the time, but Carl was in the process of being forced out of the Astronomy Department at Harvard – a story that many at Harvard are still not willing to acknowledge. That fall, Carl was denied Tenure at Harvard, and left for Cornell where he was immediately appointed a Full Professor, and named Director of the Center for Planetary Studies.

I almost followed him to Cornell, but ultimately chose to stay at Harvard, and received my PhD in 1972.

Carl was a superb teacher and mentor, and I will always remember the year and half that I studied and learned under his tutelage.

Arthur Wood
Former Sagan Student
Harvard University 1966-1972
PhD, Astronomy, 1972

Thank You, Dr. Sagan

I remember reading in a 1980 issue of Science magazine about a new science series to premiere that fall. From the first opening minutes of the show, my life had changed. I especially remember the segment on the Library of Alexandria and how its destruction held back science for centuries. This spurred my commitment to fighting ignorance and superstition. We certainly could use Dr. Sagan now.

Bill Brantley, Winchester, Kentucky

My Homage...

While I don't want to plug my own music, my wife and I have a band called SAGAN and we released a cd/dvd movie called "Unseen Forces" - which is VERY informed by COSMOS. Here's the trailer:

I still miss him.

Thats all.


Carl Sagan

How much do I admire him. Why did he have to go? He gave us so much and could have kept giving… his teachings… his personality… his science… his super clear ways of expressing his knowledge. I salute him on this 10th Anniversary of his departure and wish all of you that have put together all this for him the best. Thank you all.
Carl Sagan… that you may be eternally resting in peace… in the Cosmos...
Herbert Erdmenger, Guatemala

Carl Sagan on "The Tonight Show"

I was the talent coordinator who first put Carl Sagan on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" back in the 1970's. A then relatively unknown scientist to the popular media, he had just written a book and I was approached by his publicist who half-heartedly suggested we consider him as a guest.

Little did the PR person know that Johnny's favorite hobby, besides tennis at the time, was astronomy. And my instincts told me that Carson would enjoy a visit on the air with Sagan. Well the rest is history. Dr. Sagan made numerous visits back to the show and would often go out to dinner with our star afterwards.

Once, while going over the notes with Carl on the phone the day before an appearance on the show, he asked me who else had been booked. "Oh we've got a terrific show," I replied. "Tony Bennett will be on, along with..." He interrupted me before I could say another word. "I should know who Tony Bennett is, shouldn't I?" he queried. That's when I realized that brilliant scientists don't necessarily know what's going on in show business!

We laughed about this often on succeeding visits to the show and he never failed to ask who the other guests were going to be. Interestingly he seemed to recognize all their names. Obviously he had begun to do his "entertainment other-world" research.

"The Tonight Show" was an entertainment vehicle but, from time to time, we invited guests on who had something very important to share with the viewer. I'm proud that I was responsible for adding Dr. Carl Sagan to that list.

- Howard Papush

Sagan on Rose.

Carl Sagan was a repeat guest on the Charlie Rose show. Together these two great communicators casually discussed Sagan's life, work, and the status of science in America.

Fortunately, two interviews from the last two years of Sagan's life are available to watch on Video.Google.

Or, if you prefer, you can check out the audio from these interviews on the Sounds of Sagan, on the sidebar.

Carl Sagan, 1934 - 1996

You knew he felt it too: the hairs-stand-up-on-your-neck wonder of the night sky, of thinking of the (yes,) billions of stars, of the worlds to be discovered. Of knowing that we were part of something bigger. Of being made of starstuff.

When I was at university, we had a Space party: everyone dressed up as aliens, Princess Leia, wookies, you name it. My brother beat us all, wearing a blazer and a smart fawn turtleneck. He came as Carl Sagan.

Michael Honey, Australia

My Thoughts.

Quite honestly Carl Sagan was the finest teacher of the 20th century. His beautifully made (still remarkable today) Cosmos series gave my math challenged mind the opportunity to soar with the good Dr. Sagan. The world is a much, much better place for his having been among us (for all too briefly) and far less rich place for his passing. I can think of no one whom I never actually met that I miss as much as Carl. He was truly a beautiful person.

James W. Shaw, Falmouth,MA

Celebrating Carl Sagan

Though I was only introduced to Carl Sagan by my high school friends about eight years ago (unfortunately after his passing), I quickly became, and to this day still am, an avid fan.

My favorite DVD set that I own is his PBS documentary Cosmos. While I already loved astronomy, after I discovered Sagan, my interest increased even more.

In a nutshell, I think it is Sagan's eloquent, yet simple explanations of astronomy that make him so unique. He is excellent at helping to comprehend a science that is, often times, incomprehensible.

RIP Carl Sagan. You taught us so much.

- Mike Postiglione, Kansas

Another Sagan Patent.

In addition to the post by Bryan H. on a patent issued to Carl Sagan, A. Bar-nun and S. Bauer on March 18, 1972, I found this one:

Production of Amino Acids from Gaseous Mixtures Using Ultraviolet Light.

Christopher Niebylski, The World Bank.

The Bean Mines.

Subspace McFillicutty over at The Bean Mines posted an excellent Sagan tribute.

Here is an excerpt:
Generally speaking, I'm pretty opposed to marking a death anniversary. This is something that came about as I worked at a tattoo shop and people ritualistically attempted to immortalize a loved one by having either their death date or an image of death (i.e., an angel) marked into their skin for all their conscious eternity. I spent years around this well-meaning but misguided tradition, so I feel qualified to criticize it...

Right now I am looking down at my arm, which is completely sleeved in a random science-fiction/space theme, and which I started about ten years ago. I'd be lying if I didn't say that I felt Carl Sagan was somewhat responsible for my having these tattoos. Are they a memorial tattoo? No, and yes a little.

When my dad told me that Carl Sagan had finally passed away after two years of fighting a painful disease, I quietly lost it. Like people worldwide I felt he'd spoken to me -- he had been a voice, both literal and metaphorical, of the cosmos, a champion for the utterly ignored and completely spectacular universe around us. I have clear memories of being hunkered up to the television absorbing the concepts of the Doppler effect without even trying to. I opened up my tiny, spongy and nearly blank brain to him to fill, and with grace and wit he complied.
Please read the rest at The Bean Mines.

10 Years and Missed.

I miss Carl Sagan. The nation and the world misses Carl Sagan.

I never met him, but I viewed "Contact" again last night. Even though I knew the movie's outcome, it was still a big WOW.

My only connection with Carl was that he and my father died of the same disease: MDS (Myelodysplastic syndrome), for which there is still no cure. My father didn't do the bone marrow transplant, as Carl did.

I certainly hope that the first permanent human settlement on the moon or Mars is named after Carl. He deserves no less.

David Batterson
Whittier, CA

T'is the Season!

The Planetary Society was not only started by Dr. Sagan, but it is also a great resource of information on him and the World's largest Space-interest group.

Also, as it is the holiday season, why not make a donation to SETI in commemoration of Dr. Sagan in a loved one's name? They are always desperate for funding, and it could make a nice gift to the science enthusiast in your circle.

Are you a Space enthusiast with lots of idle disk space you don't use, and are hard up for cash to make a donation? Well here's an alternative to a donation that's just as good if not better: download the BOINC client program and give a portion of your disk to research sciences. There's a few to choose from and SETI is one of them.

Happy Holidays!

More from flickr

If you search flickr for just sagan and begin scrolling through the matching tags, the first thing you'll learn is that there are a lot of cats named Sagan, or else one particularly ubiquitous tabby. Lost within a thousand photos of pets and children are a few that I'm partial to, like the graffiti posted here already, and the Dr. Arroway costume in the previous post. There's also this one, a still from the video for White & Nerdy, I think. I want that t-shirt, Weird Al. I also enjoy the one below because DC is my hometown, and it's always nice to see a Sagan quote on the street:

More flickr later.

Arroway Interpreted.

Mr. Atrocity at flickr asked us to post this interpretation of Ellie Arroway, the protagonist from Dr. Sagan's only novel, Contact.

Getting Biographical, Part 2.

Sagan on Science Friday.

Carl Sagan was also an occasional guest on Talk of the Nation's Science Friday. It was on this NPR program that I first came across the good Doctor, and it certainly had an obvious and lasting impact on me as an eighth grader.

I have added an excerpt from the May 5 (3), 1996 interview with Sagan to the Sounds of Sagan. For the whole hour of programing check out NPR's site.

Remembering Dr. Sagan

As a ten-year-old boy flat on my stomach, head propped up in my hands, watching “Cosmos” on television, Carl Sagan showed me “the joy of figuring things out.” I learned that there is just as much adventure in the real-life dramas of sending robotic probes to new worlds (well, new to us, anyway) and that “Eureka!” moment when a mystery becomes solved, and, paradoxically, the simultaneous revealing of myriad additional mysteries, as there were in the science fiction and fantasy works that I loved so much.

I’ve never lost my love for that moment of gaining a little more understanding and becoming a little more at home in the Cosmos, and more than anything else I wanted to share it with as many people as possible. I became a high school teacher of physics upon graduating from college, and I haven’t looked back.

More than anything else, I am grateful that I was able to share with Drs. Sagan and Druyan what they were able to give to me. A book signing for Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors at Oxford Books in Atlanta, GA gave me the opportunity to personally thank Carl Sagan for giving me such inspiration and for flagging this path for me to follow.

My dream is that maybe one of my students who may never even have heard of Carl Sagan might catch the fever and pass it along themselves.

Michael Poley, Physics and AP Physics Teacher,Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School

My Carl Sagan Story

Hey all,

Just wanted to give y'all my own Sagan Story:

One of my earlier memories involves my Dad dressing me in a kiddie blazer and taking me to a lecture by some scientist whose name I had never heard before. You can imagine the reaction this provoked in an child whose regular leisure consisted of lego toys and backyard wargames. I protested, my father insisted. I resigned myself to an afternoon staring at the ceiling of some auditorium.

But the crowd's reaction as Dr. Sagan walked on stage - a reception more on par with a rock star than a crusty old NASA scientist - suggested I might be in for something more interesting after all. The scientist launched straight away into a discourse on extraterrestrial life. The talk ranged from UFOs and their portrayal in Hollywood to the size of the universe and Drake equations with the lifetime of civilizations... I sat statue-still for two hours as he showed us the span of the universe on a projection screen.

During the question session a woman from the audience challenged him: "How can you look at a rainbow and not believe there's a God?" to which he replied, "Rainbows occur because of a refraction of light." He then continued with a more nuanced response, but the message was clear: our reverence should be foremost for intellectual integrity and rational experiment. Powerful ideas to hit the impressionable mind of an elementary school student.

These days I'm a PhD student studying autonomous robotic astrobiology - a.k.a. the search for life on other planets. I suspect that I owe my career choice to a conspiracy between my father and Carl Sagan.

-David Thompson

"Impossible for God"

Richard took the initiative to bring to life an idea that Sagan wrote about in Contact. He quotes an excerpt in which the protagonist, Arroway, has found a message of sorts in binary.

To quote Richard:
The implication is that somehow the universe was designed with the transcendental value of pi so arranged that its digits were graphical as well as numerical. I was reading several comments about this in other blogs and one stated that actually constructing a universe and controlling the value of pi is "impossible for God." Without debating that question, I submit that if one searches long and hard enough, one will, indeed, find the "message" in the digits of pi. Consider: As far as anyone knows, pi is random and infinite. Should that not mean that any pattern, including the one above, will eventually appear?

To read the entire entry, visit RikLBlog.