Larry Klaes wrote an article about the Sagan Gathering for the Ithaca Times this week. Check it out here or just read on below.
A Organizational Voyage
By Larry Klaes
Cornell University professor and world-renowned astronomer and scientist Carl Sagan unquestionably is one of Ithaca's most well-known former residents, having lived in this town from his arrival to teach at the university in 1968 until his death from myelodysplasia in late 1996.
As a scientist and educator, Sagan brought the wonders of the universe to millions of people through his writings and other works for decades. He also worked tirelessly with his wife, Ann Druyan, the CEO of Cosmos Studios, to support, promote, and debate the most pressing social issues of his time, many of which are still with us today.
When Patrick Fish was in the eighth grade, he watched Sagan's landmark Cosmos television series on PBS when it premiered in 1980. Fish found Sagan to be an "island of sanity" in his world.
Fish's sense of wonder and admiration for Sagan only grew during the years, even as his life took him in several different directions. Last January, Fish learned about the blog-a-thon that took place across the Internet, honoring Sagan on Dec. 20, the 10th anniversary of his death. The online celebration inspired the Utica resident to become familiar with his boyhood hero again.
"I read a lot about and by Carl that was online," said Fish. "I became reacquainted with Sagan and his ideas, such as his studies of the greenhouse effect that makes the planet Venus so hot and its relationship to our understanding of global warming on Earth. I also admired how Sagan used his research into the concept of nuclear winter to play a role in pressuring the United States and Soviet Union to give up on the idea that a thermonuclear attack could be winnable for either side during the Cold War. Sagan was a scientist who did not lose his humane ethic."
A recent visit to Sagan's resting place at Lakeview Cemetery, where Fish was struck by the "humbleness" of the late astronomer's grave marker and several articles about the man resting at the site, led him to begin solidifying the idea of a permanent tribute to Sagan in his longtime residence.
"At first I thought getting this idea rolling would be difficult," explained Fish. "However, I found only goodwill towards Sagan and his memory in Ithaca."
Fish's initial plan involves the upcoming Ithaca Festival Parade on May 31. He plans to have a car-float in the parade that reflects on some of the major themes and events of Sagan's life.
"My plan is to have a model of the twin Voyager space probes that explored the outer Solar System in the 1970s and 1980s. I would like to have the hubcaps on each of my car's tires covered with a replica of the golden Interstellar Record placed aboard each Voyager probe," said Fish. The golden records contain images, messages, and music from humanity to anyone who finds those robot craft drifting through space in the distant future.
Other items for the Sagan parade float include a rendition of the plaque placed aboard two other earlier space probes named Pioneer 10 and 11 and a model of the Cosmos 1 solar sail craft, which did not achieve Earth orbit when its launch rocket failed in 2005.
Fish also hopes to use his parade float for the promotion and growth of the Sagan Appreciation Society (SAS), which he describes as "an ad hoc group of science-minded folk, skeptics, humanists, environmentalists, peaceniks, Sagan fanboys and girls, etc."
"The participation in the parade will be the first public act of the SAS," stated Fish. "The warm reaction to the idea of a Sagan parade-float lead to expanding the concept beyond just a parade entry and into a Sagan Gathering that will overlap and hopefully cross-pollinate with the Ithaca Festival. Up until this point, we've had no media exposure and no outreach campaign yet, and already we have commitments from as far away as Indiana. But what we need are more Ithaca-area people to get involved in the planning process."
Fish is also looking for people who knew Carl Sagan who would like to talk and share their stories about Sagan, perhaps as part of a series of panel discussions. "Men like Sagan motivate people. Those who knew him can really energize the public to deal with issues Sagan brought up that still go on today." Fish, who would ultimately like to see a Carl Sagan statue standing in Ithaca Commons, mirrored one of his mentor's concerns that have only compounded with time.
"Our culture has become more reliant on science and technology than ever before, but we are understanding it less and less, such as genetically modified foods. Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan brought an artful way for a passionate expression of science. They were definitely in love with science, which not everyone appreciates or understands, but it is critical to the survival of our species and every other species on Earth."
To participate in the Sagan Appreciation Society and the Ithaca Festival parade float, contact Patrick Fish at this e-mail address: SaganGathering@yahoo.com.
- Larry Klaes
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