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Living as I do with a computer always seeming at an arm's distance, it is no wonder that I find myself peering into the depths of the Internet, and it is also no wonder that I am constantly amazed by the diversity found within the pools of common interest that collect.

This project-in-Sagan has provided an incredible opportunity to dip my hand into this particular pool and by turning over the different stones found therein I continue to be gleefully pleased by the variety of peoples that Doctor Carl Sagan has touched.

Students, teachers, pilots, musicians, artists, fathers, mothers, and the list goes on and fractal-ly combines and grows.

Just now I came across a profile Dr. William Reach that is accessible through NASA's page for the Spitzer Space Telescope.

In it Dr. Reach writes:

I've always wanted to be an astronomer. Thinking about what "always" means, I do have a clear memory, which may be partially mixed up with Carl Sagan's memories described in his fabulous Cosmos book and TV show, of looking at the stars and wanting to know what they were when I was little. The only real "evidence" of this early desire is a signal event when my grandfather took me to the planetarium when I was 5 years old and living in New York. They showed stars and galaxies with different shapes and colors, but also some sensationalistic UFO stuff. The best part was when they did an experiment of hurling a shiny hubcap into the sky. The photograph of that hubcap looked just like some of the UFO pictures, and a sceptic was born. Ever since then, I preferred the natural over the supernatural.

Similar to all heroes, Dr. Sagan's influence isn't always direct. Sure Sagan's passion and clarity moved people to become scientists and think skeptically about the world around them, but the influence of people like Sagan can also be more graceful, re-enforcing the desire from within that strives to understand the world around us.

When Celebrating Sagan it is also important to remember the science teachers, grandfathers, and free thinkers that we all know, who helped us to grow as people, and set the stage for our desire to learn evermore.

Click on the image to learn more about Dr. Reach.

Looking a Little Glum

I was flipping through the channels on Dish Network, and found to my surprise that there were apparently some new channels. One, called The Science Channel, I decided to take a peep at. It was late at night, and I see this dude, pimped out in a turtleneck and coat, and featuring a classic late 70s haircut, to say nothing of those remarkable eye-brows.

I was fascinated. His voice, vocabulary, and delivery - they entranced me. Then, here he is, talking about "Comet Halley" and the like, when he starts leveling all of these unsolicited moral judgments. I was taken aback, and thought about crazy little science videos they used to make us watch in elementary school.

So here he is, talking innocuously about the history of man's knowledge of the planet Venus. Throughout the show, he seemed to revel, not in the facts, but in past and future errors - he took a kind of delight, gave a kind of wry smile each time he was able to indulge a little prickishness into the learning.

I love how he anachronistically mocks ancient science.

I found out only later that this is Carl Sagan. He's a gem.

Excerpted from kittenry's flickr page.

A Personal Voyage.

Cosmos: A Personal Voyage through Time and Space

Cosmos, the very word evokes the entirety of all existence and a sense of wonder. “The cosmos is all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be”. These opening lines of Carl Sagan’s book and landmark television series introduced us to the concept of science as a spiritual enterprise - the quest to understand who we are and where we stand in the vast scheme of the universe.

We live between two great gulfs within the very fabric of the cosmos- the immensity of space and an eternity of time. Yet, through the miracle of special effects and a starship of the imagination, Carl Sagan went boldly forth where few had gone before and took us with him on a personal voyage of discovery through those very gulfs. It was a voyage that traversed the galaxies and the vast ocean of time and space. This epic voyage began from the very shores of our planet out into the cosmic ocean. It was a journey that was also a homecoming to lay claim to our cosmic inheritance into the very realm from which we can trace our beginnings.

The science of our age has revealed to us a universe some fifteen billion years old, where the very matter of the cosmos came to life on our island Earth four billion years ago, and star stuff started contemplating the stars with the emergence of intelligence and civilization fifty thousand years ago. With civilization came science and through much trial and error we finally live in an epoch where the tools and methods of science allow us to make it a spiritual quest where we can, more than any previous generation, hope to answer the seven mystical questions of our age:

  1. How did the Cosmos come into being and how will it end?
  2. What is space?
  3. What is time?
  4. What is gravity?
  5. What are the fundamental nature of matter and energy?
  6. How did matter emerge into life and consciousness?
  7. Do we share the cosmos with other creatures that seek to answer these questions and others that our imagination and intelligence have not even begun to contemplate?
Carl Sagan’s Cosmos was for many of us the first epic voyage of exploration where we sort answers to these questions outside the realm of comic books, science fiction, or Star Trek.

Cosmos presented the whole of the scientific enterprise as a very human pursuit. For a very long time we have looked at science as something outside the realm of everyday human concern. We glorify art, literature, and music. But, look at science as a separate endeavor outside the human norm. In fact we should expand the definition of the humanities to encompass science. Science can trace its origins to its metaphysical beginnings in ancient Ionia. The wellsprings of some of our deepest questions were once the chief concerns of religion and philosophy. Yet, science, with a capital “S” is a human endeavor that resonates with our deepest yearnings to understand the reason and purpose of our existence. To quote Carl Sagan “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality”. Science has its own poetry and psalms that glorify the wonders of the cosmos. Science uses its own language to write sonatas of praise to the numinous, the language of discovery known as mathematics.

Cosmos was also a major source of inspiration for many teenagers to pursue a career in science, and for me personally, a career as a science teacher. Often as I prepare my lesson plans or a public presentation, I can hear Sagan whispering to me “can’t you make it more interesting”? or “where is the poetry to evoke awe and wonder”? We need to inject that sense of wonder and awe back into our teaching. The discoveries of science and the language of discovery mathematics should be presented with the same spirit as Cosmos presented the wonders of creation to the general public. Our classrooms must become the starships of the imagination that transcend space and time to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers to take us on new voyages of discovery.

by Alex Michael Bonnici, Physics Teacher, Saint Edward's College, Malta.

For a PDF of this essay, click here.

The Dot Quote.

Take a moment and search the Internet for the phrase 'Pale Blue Dot.' The vast majority of the returns will feature a grainy image of light beams that highlight a tiny dot.

Invariably these images of sunlight and earth will be accompanied by a Sagan quote -- perhaps the most quoted statement by Carl Sagan on the web.

Asterios sent along this presentation hosted on You're the Man Now Dog. Not only does it feature the aforementioned image and the Sagan quote, but also a tinny piano and satellite bleep.

Click on the image for music and the whole Sagan quote.

Sagan's Wisdom...

Sagan's Wisdom is Needed Now, More than Ever.


I met Dr. Sagan and Ann personally in Paris during the shooting of Cosmos. I live in France, where I am a Planetary Society volunteer coordinator, and I keep contact with Ann.

My favorite books are Demon-Haunted World and Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. I beleive that both hold answers to all of today's ills.

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