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Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space Paperback – September 8, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a tour of our solar system, galaxy and beyond, Cornell astronomer Sagan meshes a history of astronomical discovery, a cogent brief for space exploration and an overview of life-from its origins in the oceans to humanity's first emergence to a projected future where humans "terraform" and settle other planets and asteroids, Earth having long been swallowed by the sun. Maintaining that such relocation is inevitable, the author further argues that planetary science is of practical utility, fostering an interdisciplinary approach to looming environmental catastrophes such as "nuclear winter" (lethal cooling of Earth after a nuclear war, a widely accepted prediction first calculated by Sagan in 1982). His exploration of our place in the universe is illustrated with photographs, relief maps and paintings, including high-resolution images made by Voyager 1 and 2, as well as photos taken by the Galileo spacecraft, the Hubble Space Telescope and satellites orbiting Earth, which show our planet as a pale blue dot. A worthy sequel to Sagan's Cosmos. Author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Sagan's great appeal as a popular-science writer, beyond his prodigious knowledge, is his optimism and sense of wonder. A visualizer and a visionary, he fires our imagination and turns science into high drama. After writing about our origins in Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992), Sagan turns his attention to outer space and takes up where Cosmos left off 14 years ago. An astonishing amount of information was amassed during that productive era, and Sagan, of course, is up on all of it. A passionate and eloquent advocate of space exploration, he believes that the urge to wander, and the need for a frontier, is intrinsic to our nature, and that this trait is linked to our survival as a species. Throughout this beautifully illustrated, revelatory, and compelling volume, Sagan returns again and again to our need for journeys and quests as well as our unending curiosity about our place in the universe. Such philosophical musings are interwoven with precise and enthusiastic accounts of the triumphs of interplanetary exploration, from the Apollo moon landings to the spectacular findings of robotic missions, especially the Voyager spacecraft. Sagan describes one exciting discovery after another regarding the four giants--Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune--and their many moons, mysterious and exquisite rings, and volatile atmospheres. He argues, convincingly, that planetary exploration is of immense value. It not only teaches us about our celestial neighbors, but helps us understand and protect Earth. Yes, we have seemingly insurmountable problems on this pale blue dot, but we have always reached for the stars, and we mustn't stop now. Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (September 8, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345376595
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345376596
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (224 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Carl Sagan was Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He played a leading role in the Mariner, Viking, and Voyager spacecraft expeditions to the planets, for which he received the NASA medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement. Dr. Sagan received the Pulitzer Prize and the highest awards of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation, and many other awards, for his contributions to science, literature, education, and the preservation of the environment. His book Cosmos (accompanying his Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning television series of the same name) was the bestselling science book ever published in the English language, and his bestselling novel, Contact, was turned into a major motion picture.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

247 of 248 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
There are two paperback editions of this book at Amazon. The 1995 edition contains the pictures that were so helpful (and entertaining) in the hardcover edition. The 1997 paperback edition has had the photographs removed. If you like beautiful astronomical photographs, order the 1995 edition.
Otherwise, the book is very enjoyable, and provides a cogent discussion of where Carl Sagan thinks we should aim our space program.
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156 of 166 people found the following review helpful By K. G. Lee on August 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
I first read this book as a aimless 16-year old I'm an astrophysicist. It was Sagan's message of faith in science's role as mankind's candle in the dark, as well as his wonder for the universe that infected me, and spurred me to the path I'm on now. If you're not a religious fundamentalist and would like to open your mind to mankind's future in space as well as the wonders that await us in the cosmos, buy this book....or buy it for some teenager you know...
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102 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on January 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
As these pages attest, there are a number of fine writers out there providing us non-scientists with insights on nature's mysteries. None, however, quite reached the breadth of view or intensity of feeling imparted by Carl Sagan. His writings explained topics ranging from quantum particles to the extent of the cosmos. Along the way, he addressed evolution, space engineering and countless other facets of science and technology. Even fiction wasn't beyond his grasp.
Pale Blue Dot is a journey in time and space. Beginning with the assertion that we're natural wanderers, being the only species to settle across our world, it continues with a plea to extend further our exploration of space. The early chapters challenge restrictions on our desire to explore and learn. Sagan demonstrates how foolish minds have restrained our quest for knowledge of the cosmos. He then takes us on a tour of the solar system, exhibiting the wonders revealed by the fleet of robot probes. He reminds us of the forces the cosmos can unleash, sometimes right in our neighbourhood. Like many of the rest of us, Sagan was awed by the collision of a comet with the Jovian gas giant. It was a hint of what might lay in store for us if we fail to understand the universe better than we do now. The space probes also returned images of worlds invalidating existing theories of planetary formation. If our own neighbours can present such bizarre structures, what kinds of worlds ride beyond our ken, circling suns we can barely imagine? What Sagan can't portray, he can conjecture. With his firm working scientist's foundation, Sagan's speculations command respectful attention.
This book must be shelved alongside Richard Dawkins THE SELFISH GENE and THE BLIND WATCHMAKER.
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64 of 72 people found the following review helpful By J. Dallaire on July 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
First, I must say that I am enjoying the book very much. I love reading Professor Sagan's books very much. So this rating applies more to the decision of the publisher than the book itself.

I have never written a review on Amazon before, and I have been coming here for years. I had to say something about this. After I finish this, I plan on emailing the publisher with the same review.

Wow. A book named Pale Blue Dot, inspired by the famous photograph of the Earth of the same name. It is referenced in the first few chapters heavily and Prof. Sagan asks us to visit and revisit the photo several times as he builds his introduction. I think to myself "Great! Can't wait to see it. Now where is it?" This then led to the disappointing finding that there are no pictures at all in this printing. None, not one, not even just the one of the Pale Blue Dot image itself. How can you publish a book inspired by a photo and not include the picture itself, not even a low res poorly printed picture? All you get is a few instructions to look at it, but you won't be able to look at it in here. Apparently, the hardback and first soft-back printing had photos. I guess I can understand (not like, mind you) why the decision was made to eliminate photos, but to get rid of the Pale Blue Dot photo is mind boggling. Surely this decision couldn't have been made on purpose. Surely, this was just an oversight. If this was a conscious decision, then it speaks volumes about how Ballantine views this work and it makes you wonder if they have any idea why it was written in the first place.

Anyway thanks for listening.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
He never says it. But it's a sequel, par excellence, to the classic _Cosmos_.
Sequels are usually disappointing. This is one of those rare cases where the sequel is better than the original. I had read this book in hardcover and ended up buying my own paperback copy while in Ithaca (Sagan's hometown) because I had nothing to read and a long ride back home.
I'm a fan of Sagan - can't help it - because even though he's a brilliant scientist, he somehow manages to be a great writer as well. This book is no exception. Sagan's basic idea is that the destiny of humanity is to expand out to the stars. And even though this idea reeks with echoes of Manifest Destiny, I have to agree. In Manifest Destiny, there were Indians - here, no intelligent life that we know of. And if there is something out there, wouldn't we want to know about it?
Like so many great works of popular science, Sagan starts out by tracing the changes in our views of the world, from our conceit that we were the center of the Universe to the backwater position that we're in today. Sagan's idea of generalized chauvinisms comes up - first in place (the obvious), then in time (if there was other intelligent life, it's not around any more), and, if I recall correctly, in chemical basis (life must be made out of carbon). He refutes all these ideas - and why not? Who said that silicon can't conquer the universe?
My personal favorite part of the book is Chapter 5, "Is There Intelligent Life On Earth?" Sagan asks us to "[imagine yourself as] an alien explorer entering the Solar system after a long journey through the blackness of interstellar space". As we examine the Earth at finer and finer resolution, what do we see?
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