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Carl Sagan: A true visionary


Drogheda445

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I didn't know which thread to put it in, but I figured this forum would probably be more relevant.

Today marks 16 years since the American astronomer Carl Sagan passed away. Now, there are many people in history that I admire, including many Irish ones. But my all-time hero would have to be this man. He is someone that every person on Earth can look up to. Heroes are often admired by those who they represent; Patrick Pearse, for example, being an Irish republican hero, Marx a hero for communists, and Péle a soccer hero. But this man was a visionary of humanity's future. He envisioned a humanity which would overcome its inbuilt tribal, or "reptilian" prejudices and would wade into the "cosmic ocean", travel to the stars. Or, as he put it:

The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will, one day, venture to the stars.
He was aware that this vision of humanity would only come to fruition if we were to avoid self-destruction. He spoke at a time when the world was threatened by the outbreak of nuclear war, which had the potential to destroy not only human civilisation, but also humanity as a species. He didn't always hold this view, however. He was human, and he did have his flaws. In the 1950s, he was involved in a reckless plan to detonate a nuclear weapon on the Moon's surface, in an attempt to reassert America's position the Cold War. Yet, undoubtedly after profound reflection, he turned away from this and campaigned for the reduction, if not the complete decommissioning, of nuclear weapons. During the 1980s, when the Reagan administration was involved once again in a second arms race with the Soviet Union, Sagan was arrested twice following protests against nuclear weapons testing.

I only recently managed to watch his Cosmos television series, and in it, he describes how important it is to keep enthusiasm for astronomy and for humanity alive in new generations. He also describes the importance of science to humanity. After the Apollo Missions of the 1960s and 70s, he managed to reignite interest in space through this series. He was always a keen skeptic, and he believed that humans should always inquisitive, and not simply accept whatever is the given. Above all, he always maintained a belief in extraterrestrial life, and in recognition of our place in the Universe, as a small, vulnerable, Pale Blue Dot:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
This is therefore, why I think this man can be acclaimed by everyone on Earth, as a true visionary for our future, a man never doubtful about our potential, and a man who encouraged curiosity and further discoveries.

I recommend Cosmos for any of you who have not seen it. It is an amazing series, you won't regret watching it:

Cosmos: A Personal Voyage - Episode 1 (Carl Sagan) - YouTube
 
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Hewson

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Sagan was the man who opened up the universe and all of its glorious mysteries to me through his Cosmos TV series.

It should be compulsory viewing for every school child over ten.
 

Mackers

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Loved his shows a must watch.
 

Lain2016

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I vividly remember going to school discussing the latest Cosmos with my mates.

Read The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence, amazing book...
 

Hewson

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I still have the book, dog-eared, and the cover's a bit torn. My son used to read it at night before going to sleep when he was only nine. I have a decent telescope and would show him the different constellations and the moon's craters, referring to the Cosmos book's images and trying to give him some idea of how mind-blowing distance in space was.

186,000 multiplied by the number of seconds in one year, multiplied by four.

And you'll get to the nearest star . . .
 

Catalpast

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Enjoyed his series very much

He did a lot through his sheer enthusiasm for his subject

- can't say I had much time for his Belief in the benign intentions of any Aliens that might be out there though....:shock:


 

sondagefaux

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Enjoyed his series very much

He did a lot through his sheer enthusiasm for his subject

- can't say I had much time for his Belief in the benign intentions of any Aliens that might be out there though....:shock:


Always with the immigrants...
 

Drogheda445

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@Drogheda445 : I seem to remember Sagan interviewing a guy called Gerard O'Neill.
IIRC O'Neill had this theory about spaceflight.
Was that part of the Cosmos series?
He does mention different designs for future spaceflight in Episode 8, which might have included O'Neill's designs and theories, although I'm not sure.
 

owedtojoy

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Sagan was the man who opened up the universe and all of its glorious mysteries to me through his Cosmos TV series.

It should be compulsory viewing for every school child over ten.
Funny, I missed the whole Sagan thing. I think I was away on the other side of the world when his series ran.

Jacob Bronowski was always the man for me.

But I admire Sagan, having encountered his work in different ways.
 

Drogheda445

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Enjoyed his series very much

He did a lot through his sheer enthusiasm for his subject

- can't say I had much time for his Belief in the benign intentions of any Aliens that might be out there though....:shock:


That's true, although he often made the point that an aggressive extraterrestrial civilisation would probably destroy itself out of its own competitiveness and aggressiveness. Just look at us, for example; we've come extremely close to destroying ourselves through our own technology.

Although we'll probably never know, some aliens might have a totally different conciousness and outlook to us.
 

Drogheda445

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I suppose none of his speculation really matters though considering the world is due to end in a few hours (can anyone Down Under confirm this?) petunia

What also really caught my attention watching his series was his accurate analysis of religion as being extremely geocentric, which it certainly is. Humans are the dominant species, according to the Bible, created in the image of God. If we ever do find an extraterrestrial civilisation, it would probably be thousands of years more advanced than our own, which would seriously fly in the face of human-centred religious theory.
 
J

john moriarty

Vangelis did some nice work
on the soundtrack. 6:35 mins
in (I think) was the title music.


[video=youtube;cSZ55X3X4pk]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSZ55X3X4pk&feature=player_detailpage#t=393s[/video]


Strange, this site software doesn't like me embedding a video with a specific start time index.
 
R

Ramps

Don't know if anyone else has experienced something similar... I've often tried to watch programmes by Sagan, and others, about the universe, but I find it makes me dizzy or something...can't get my head around it.
 

Catalpast

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That's true, although he often made the point that an aggressive extraterrestrial civilisation would probably destroy itself out of its own competitiveness and aggressiveness. Just look at us, for example; we've come extremely close to destroying ourselves through our own technology.

Although we'll probably never know, some aliens might have a totally different conciousness and outlook to us.
Well if they have the ability to make here then they will be - like Guinness Light :D - 'Light Years Ahead' in terms of Technology

We would probably be like Ants to them
 
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