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Cosmos Paperback – December 10, 2013
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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“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
About the Author
Carl Sagan served as the David Duncan 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, Voyager, and Galileo spacecraft expeditions, for which he received the NASA Medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and (twice) for Distinguished Public Service.
His Emmy- and Peabody–winning television series, Cosmos, became the most widely watched series in the history of American public television. The accompanying book, also called Cosmos, is one of the bestselling science books ever published in the English language. Dr. Sagan received the Pulitzer Prize, the Oersted Medal, and many other awards—including twenty honorary degrees from American colleges and universities—for his contributions to science, literature, education, and the preservation of the environment. In their posthumous award to Dr. Sagan of their highest honor, the National Science Foundation declared that his “research transformed planetary science . . . his gifts to mankind were infinite.” Dr. Sagan died on December 20, 1996.
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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.
In a lot of ways, Carl Sagan shaped my life. I had always been interested in astronomy and cosmology. My first memory as a young child is seeing the Moon in the sky. As a junior in high school biology I read his book "The Cosmic Connection", my first introduction to Sagan. I was hooked.
I recently ordered this edition as a gift. I quickly read through it and was both relieved and dismayed that it hadn't been updated. It appears to be the same book. I was glad that Sagan's words hadn't been (apparently) changed. I do think that Tyson and Druyan might have added chapters that would highlight discoveries made since Sagan's death.
I can't look at a picture of Mars or Jupiter without thinking of Carl Sagan. What would he have thought about the Cassini probe around Saturn, the Titan lander or New Horizons at Pluto? Uranus or Neptune? Or that his children have left the interplanetary domain and are now in interstellar space?
I reordered this book again for moi. Welcome home, Carl.