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Who Speaks for Earth?

When I watch Carl Sagan discuss the reality of nuclear proliferation in the final episode of Cosmos, it cements my unabashed admiration of him. When I watch him pace among the tress on the hilltop, I'm reminded not only that he was a great teacher, scientist, and writer; he was also a passionate activist. A leader even. In this six minute clip he quite handily shatters the illusion that nuclear weapons are protecting us. He is a fine orator, and while it can't be proven, this speech surely resonated through parts of American politics.
If we're willing to live with the growing likely hood of nuclear war, shouldn't we also be willing to explore vigorously every possible means to prevent nuclear war?
Carl Sagan asked the right questions, and many people heard him. He taught us about the depth of beauty in science, but he also put out a call to action that the world has not answered. More than 25 years after it first aired, this clip is as relevant and powerful as it was during the Cold War. And the great question - "Who speaks for earth?" - still stands.
In an often frustrating world, voices from people like Carl Sagan help me to know that there are people out there that see our world in a beautifully rational way.

I work in the medical field and everyday I see lives saved by the collective reasoning of scientists and doctors using the scientific method.

Every now and then someone gets better and gives the credit to 'God.' If that is comforting to the patient, so be it. However, if we collectively thought this way, who would eradicate Polio, discover antibiotics, and invent the MRI? Perhaps these advancements are inspired by a 'God' who 'works in mysterious ways.'

Show me the evidence, and I can accept that. I believe that without the application of skepticism, there is no room for advancement.

Carl Sagan put into words the feelings that I developed while learning about Science.

Sagan wrote "The world is so exquisite, with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better, it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look Death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides."

I have found no scripture that speaks to me as much as these words.

Jesse from Ohio

Golden Record

The image of the 'golden record' that was placed on both Voyager spacecrafts has come to represent many of the attributes, both cultural and scientific, that Carl Sagan spent his life promoting.

The 12 inch gold-plated disk contains a message, a telling of the human story. On it one can find the sounds from nature (from waves crashing on the shore, to birds chirping, and the roll of thunder), spoken greetings in 55 human languages, and musical compositions from around the globe. Additionally the disks contain images from Earth and instructions on how to use the disks. The contents of these records were chosen by a NASA committee lead by Carl Sagan.

Voyager 1 left our solar system in 2004. Although this spacecraft is currently further from Earth than any other man made object excepting Pioneers 10 and 11, it will still be 40,000 years before it is in the proximity of any planetary system.

By placing a message on craft that won't be intercepted till well after the demise of human kind, both Sagan and NASA exhibited a rare form of public pride in humanity -- the notion that even though humans are a tiny and rare occurrence, seemingly insignificant on the galactic scale, our story is worth telling.

To quote Sagan: The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet.

For more detail consult NASA's page on the golden record.
To experience the content of the golden records check out re-lab's site.

Ann Druyan

Celebrating Sagan is excited to be working with the public on a series of short articles about Carl Sagan. While we will surely discuss his life and work, most of our writings will be about how Dr. Sagan impacted our lives and perspectives. Simple stuff really -- evangelism in the name of Sagan. Testify!

Since well before his death Carl Sagan was adopted as the public face of science in the United States. Whether Americans know him as a scientific educator on Sesame Street, as a figure being lampooned on Saturday Night Live, or from hosting his monolithic series, Cosmos, the name Carl Sagan has become synonymous with science, space, extra terrestrial life, and an enduring optimism in the human spirit.

These Sagan-esque characteristics have been masterfully captured by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich in a segment they produced for their public radio show, Radio Lab. This touching summation of Carl Sagan's life is told through an interview with his wife, Ann Druyan.

To hear this interview, please listen to the Radio Lab audio clip in the 'Sounds of Sagan' player, located in the sidebar. This interview originally aired on May 12, 2006, as part of a Radio Lab episode on Space. If you enjoy this clip I highly recommend checking out the entire Space episode, or any of Radio Lab's other shows.