20.12.06

Carl Sagan


Ten years after his death to the day (and almost 30 years after Sagan filmed this), much has changed. Some things are better, some worse, some just the same.

Sagan would certainly be glad to see that nuclear weapons are no longer a problem. At least, I assume so, otherwise we'd all be talking about them, wouldn't we?

December 20 is the 10th anniversary of the day we lost Carl Sagan. From its founding in 1980 until the day he died in 1996, Carl served as Chairman of the Board of The Planetary Society. The organization lost a brilliant and charismatic leader. I lost an inspirational boss and a good friend.

Louis D. Friedman writing at the Planetary Society Blog.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the day we lost Carl Sagan. He was a true skeptic; a man whose mind was open to possibilities, yet able to cut away the chaff of pseudoscience and blind alleys. Even when facing death — a slow, painful, wasting death — he was able to turn it into a series of lessons on science, medicine, and critical thinking. Many people, perhaps most people, would have clung to any idea, no matter how irrational, to make themselves feel better. Carl didn’t do that. He couldn’t. He not only relied on science, he reveled in it.

Phil Plait writing at Bad Astronomy.

The choice is stark and ironic. The same rocket boosters used to launch probes to the planets are poised to send nuclear warheads to the nations. The radioactive power sources on Viking and Voyager derive from the same technology that makes nuclear weapons. The radio and radar techniques employed to track and guide ballistic missiles and defend against attack are also used to monitor and command the spacecraft on the planets and to listen for signals from civilisations near other stars. If we use these technologies to destroy ourselves, we surely will venture no more to the planets and the stars. But the converse is also true. If we continue to the planets, and the stars, our chauvinisms will be shaken further. We will gain a cosmic perspective. We will recognise that our explorations can be carried out only on behalf of all the people of the planet Earth. We will invest our energies in an enterprise devoted not to death but to life: the expansion of our understanding of the Earth and its inhabitants and the search for life elsewhere.

[…]

For we are the local embodiment of a Cosmos grown to self-awareness. We have begun to contemplate our origins: starstuff pondering the stars,; organized assemblages of ten billion billion billion atoms considering the evolution of atoms; tracing the long journey by which, here at least, consciousness arose. Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.

Carl Sagan, writing in the final chapter of Cosmos, a chapter entitled: Who speaks for Earth?

1 comment:

zhoen said...

"I am an atheist, myself. A simple faith, but a great comfort to me, in these last days."


-Lois McMaster Bujold.