Dec 20 2007

Remembering Sagan

Published by under General
Comments: 4

Carl Sagan, noted astronomer and science popularizer, died 11 years ago today, on December 20th 1996. Beginning last year, on the 10th anniversary of his death, and continuing this year (and hopefully into the future) there is an informal Sagan blog carnival, honoring the memory of the man who meant so much to so many of us.

As I wrote last year, Sagan was a critical early mentor in my personal journey to understanding the nature of science and its role in society. In part, this blog is a manifestation of both the personal effect that Sagan had on my life and also the tradition of promoting the public understanding of science that Sagan so successfully nurtured.

One of the things I admired about Sagan’s style was his ability to step back and look at an issue from a broader, dare I say cosmic, perspective. I remember in an interview he was asked about his religious beliefs. He responded by pointing to a map of the known universe. He said (I am paraphrasing) “See this map, this is the universe. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the known universe. See this one galaxy – there are hundreds of billions of stars in this galaxy. On the edge of one of the arms of this galaxy there is an ordinary star. Around that star there are nine planets and on one of those planets there live people who think they are the center of the universe.”

Sagan made it cool to popularize science, to be enthusiastic about science, and his enthusiasm was contagious. I hope the tradition of science for society and for the people that Sagan promoted continues to thrive, and I will continue to do my small part in keeping it alive.

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