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Cosmos Paperback – December 10, 2013
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Cosmos was the first science TV blockbuster, and Carl Sagan was its (human) star. By the time of Sagan's death in 1996, the series had been seen by half a billion people; Sagan was perhaps the best-known scientist on the planet. Explaining how the series came about, Sagan recalled:
I was positive from my own experience that an enormous global interest exists in the exploration of the planets and in many kindred scientific topics--the origin of life, the Earth, and the Cosmos, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, our connection with the universe. And I was certain that this interest could be excited through that most powerful communications medium, television.
Sagan's own interest and enthusiasm for the universe were so vivid and infectious, his screen presence so engaging, that viewers and readers couldn't help but be caught up in his vision. From stars in their "billions and billions" to the amino acids in the primordial ocean, Sagan communicated a feeling for science as a process of discovery. Inevitably, some of the science in Cosmos has been outdated in the years since 1980--but Sagan's sense of wonder is ageless. --Mary Ellen Curtin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Magnificent . . . With a lyrical literary style, and a range that touches almost all aspects of human knowledge, Cosmos often seems too good to be true.”—The Plain Dealer
“Sagan is an astronomer with one eye on the stars, another on history, and a third—his mind’s—on the human condition.”—Newsday
“Brilliant in its scope and provocative in its suggestions . . . shimmers with a sense of wonder.”—The Miami Herald
“Sagan dazzles the mind with the miracle of our survival, framed by the stately galaxies of space.”—Cosmopolitan
“Enticing . . . iridescent . . . imaginatively illustrated.”—The New York Times Book Review
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This book is far beyond an ordinary astronomy general interest read. Its contents incorporate genetics, ancient history, chemical biology, sociology, religion, human psychology and philosophy... Dr Sagan weaves these realms together in the context of the Cosmos, and raises intriguing questions about hypothetical alternate turn of events as well as where we (humankind) go from here. He pays homage to the brilliant minds whose work and courage has contributed to our current technical capabilities. From Erastosthenes' astute calculation of the Earth's circumference, to Kepler’s observations, to Einstein's special theory of relativity (and those in between: Huygens, Brahe, Newton, Champollion etc.), Sagan not only highlights their contribution, but discusses the societal circumstances that these individuals found themselves in. In doing so, he invokes a scrutiny of our current societal climate and behaviors. Are we doing our best to build and maintain a society that values the pursuit of knowledge over one that may eventually crumble under self-destructive greed? Are we investing an adequate amount of resources (both monetary and intellect) on constructive, self-preserving causes? Sagan goes as far as to compare government spendings on military weapons with scientific research funding, and demonstrates how far will have still to go before our loyalties are united not just within nation-states, but as a species of Planet Earth.
Dr Sagan’s intrigues are not limited to Western ways of thinking. Instead, he pays deep respect to the cultures, achievements, and creation myths around the world - this was done through anecdotes from ancient Chinese, Egyptian, and Indian history as well as various tribal accounts. By doing so, he demonstrates that human intrigue has more in common than we may first assume. The early civilizations around the Earth, long before they knew of one another, independently devised theories about how we came to be based on their observations of the heavens. These were passed on to their descendants through subsequent generations ultimately resulting in what we may believe or know of today.
I wonder what Dr Sagan would have thought about the state of the world today… recent election results, SpaceX, virtual reality, artificial intelligence/machine learning, Kepler missions, CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, instability in the Middle East, the Higgs Boson… My guess is that he would simultaneously be alarmed that we are STILL arguing whether or not climate change is a problem, and amazed at our technological achievements with the internet and a legitimate goal to visit Mars. I would without a doubt recommend this book to everyone. A scientific degree is not necessary to fully appreciate the lesson and message that this book conveys. Dr Sagan’s literary style is not only comprehensible but so finely depicts his deep passion for the sciences that it is almost poetic. After having read the book, one could truly dwell on what we can do to unify ourselves as citizens of Planet Earth, with a mutual interest of survival, pursuit of interplanetary/interstellar travel and constant discovery of what our universe has to offer.
I had no technical problems with this Kindle edition but, as noted by other reviewers, the stunning color art work is missing. This may be an oversight or a copyright issue, it's hard to tell. But that's up to the publishing company and Kindle to sort out and correct. Maybe that's why the price is so low. I guess there's no substitute for having the original hard bound edition. The fact of missing pictures does not in any way diminish the overall impact of the text and, to me, that's the bottom line.
For more on the author and his works see Raymond Shubinski's interesting article "Remembering Carl Sagan and Cosmos" in the July 2013 issue of Astronomy.
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