09 November 2009

Happy Birthday Carl Sagan!

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="175" caption="Dr. Carl Sagan (1934-1996)"][/caption]

If Carl Sagan were still alive, today would be his 75th birthday. He was born on November 9th, 1934 in Brooklyn, New York. He was a very popular astronomer, astrochemist, and popular spokesman for cosmological science. He co-wrote and co-produced the critically acclaimed "Cosmos" and wrote many books and articles during his lifetime. One of his books, "Contact" was eventually made into a motion picture. This movie is a fantastic glimpse into the mind of Sagan and the way he thought about science.

I show this movie in my classes and then we have a grand conversation to analyze the movie as literature. It usually turns into a discussion about religion and science. Students invariably ask questions, such as "Are we alone in the Universe?" I try to keep my mouth shut and let students talk (this is very difficult) during this conversation. Students have some really good thoughts this. What I'm trying to say is that this is one of the highlights of my semester. I enjoy it when students get engaged in a philosophical/scienctific discussion. I try hard to just get out of the way and let it happen.

I think Mr. Sagan was the equivalent of the likes of Dr. Michio Kaku and Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The difference is that cable television and the use of social media have popularized these two guys far beyond where Carl Sagan was on the event of his death. These guys (like Sagan) bring science to the masses in terms laymen can understand.

A great quote by Mr. Sagan - "For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

If you get a chance, check out "Cosmos". Its definitely worth the watch.

As always, thanks for reading.

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