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My Contribution to the Carl Sagan Blog-a-thon

As many of you may already know, today is the tenth anniversary of Carl Sagan's passing. Bloggers around the world are participating in a blog-a-thon to commemorate Carl Sagan, and here's my contribution.

I never met Sagan, although a few years ago Nomi and I had the pleasure of meeting his son Nick at the Boston World Science Fiction Convention. But it would not be exaggerating to say that Sagan had a major influence on my life. His PBS TV show Cosmos came out when I was a kid, and I was enthralled by it. I watched every episode of the show as many times as I could. We didn't have a VCR then, and DVDs didn't exist, so my only chance to watch it was when PBS chose to broadcast it.

I remember certain scenes vividly, such as the scenes with actors portraying Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, as Sagan discussed the history behind our understanding of planetary motion. I loved the spaceship of the mind that Sagan rode through the universe, allowing viewers to witness astronomical phenomena up close. And I will never forget the lesson imparted by the final episode, "Who Speaks for Earth?" in which Sagan told his viewers that all of us living on the planet have the right to speak for Earth.

For years afterwards, I read Sagan's books, always delighted by the plain-spoken way in which he presented difficult concepts. Although there were points with which I disagreed with Sagan, I always appreciated the way he made me think. If I had to credit any one person with inculcating a love of astronomy in me, it would have to be Carl Sagan.

Years later, when I found myself teaching astronomy, I made a point of showing as many episodes of Cosmos as I could to my classes. I can only hope they got the same sense of wonder out of the series that I did.

Comments

I was in junior high school when it first aired and I taped all of it on our new VCR. The school librarians asked me if it would be possible to dub a copy for them and I somehow managed it.

Thanks, by the way, for the suggestions re Pluto. They matched, but went into much greater detail.
Really? They matched?

Let us discuss this further by email....
Ditto on cosmos. I also loved the music they choose the Vangelis score is still a fave of mine.

I also never had met the man, but I remember the theatrical release of "Contact", and staying through the credits being moved by the "For Carl...." line only to then hear some yahoo call out "Who's Carl"...
Don't forget the usefulness of the word SAGAN as a crossword entry. :0
Absolutely! Although I seem to recall some other cluing for SAGAN shows up periodically...
I was a freshman at Cornell in 1977-78. It was Sagan's last year teaching the intro Astronomy course to undergrads; after that, he limited his courseload to some very high-numbered graduate level courses.

Still, he was famous enough at the time, and his class was in one of the larger lecture halls on campus. I had a Government or somesuch class in the same auditorium the next hour, so I'd often come early if I got the chance to hear the end of his lecture. Toward the end of the year, Dragons having just come out, and I bought a copy for my high school physics teacher, who I knew to be a fan. Dr. Sagan was always gracious and patient with the groupies who queued up after each lecture, even the occasional interloper who wasn't even in the class who was sucking for an autograph. When I presented that autographed copy at my high school that June, the teacher was thrilled beyond words.

Later on, a friend of mine babysat for the Sagans, and I got to come by the house once. It was on a street named Sunset Drive, and if you've ever been to Ithaca, you know sunsets over Cayuga are among the most gorgeous sights in the universe, even more so here from atop East Hill overlooking the lake. After his passing, every time I went through at twilight and saw that sunset from what must have been close to his old perspective, I thought kind thoughts of a much-missed man.

Thanks for the reminder.
"As many of you may already know, today is the tenth anniversary of Carl Sagan's passing...His PBS TV show Cosmos came out when I was a kid, and I was enthralled by it."

I came across it while channel surfing recently. I thought "who is that guy and why does he look like he's from the 70's?" I hit the tv guide button and just needed to see the title Cosmos to realize the man was Carl Sagan...and remember the show was from the 70's (I count 1980 as part of the 70's :)

Obviously I was seeing the remastered version, which is what must have confused me.
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