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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Carl Sagan Day 2010

Today is the second day of the 2010 Sideshow Gathering, but also the second annual Carl Sagan Day.

I found my entry from last year and, with minor edits, I think it's still appropriate

Carl Sagan was a Professor of Astronomy and Space Science and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He served as an advisor and consultant to NASA, and played a major role in the establishment of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). He was a Pulitzer Prize winning author and most familiar to the public through his COSMOS series on PBS. In addition to numerous awards, recognitions and honorary degrees for his outstanding contributions, he is acknowledged as one of the most effective public faces of astronomy and space science throughout the world. Sagan died in December 1996.
It hasn't been that long since this made the rounds the first time, but it's worth watching again and again. A Glorious Dawn: Carl Sagan featuring Stephen Hawking, by melodysheep.

The sky calls to us
if we do not destroy ourselves
we will, one day, venture to the stars

Keep the dream and the good works alive.
Sadly, something I've written more recently is also appropriate.  This was written after the death of Jack Horkheimer:

When Carl Sagan's Cosmos premiered in 1980, TIME magazine ran a cover story featuring Sagan in his "On the Shores of the Cosmic Ocean" pose.  Inside many pages were dedicated to the making of the show, the goals of the series, and the audacity of creating and marketing an expensive TV program that amounted to a lengthy science lesson.  Sagan was a celebrity, and was duly celebrated.

When Sagan died in 1996, TIME barely took note.   His obituary was only a few sentences long, and accompanied by a thumbnail version of the cover image from sixteen years earlier.

It seemed back then when Cosmos first aired that we were standing not just on the shores of the cosmic ocean, but at the beginning of a new era where technology was advancing at a remarkable rate and could be used to advance our intellects at a similarly remarkable rate.  By merging technology with the human quest for knowledge, it seemed like there was no limit to where we could go and what we would learn.

That didn't happen.

Instead one of the greatest achievements in technology, a seemingly limitless tool for communication and information sharing, has been perverted into a way for communicating disinformation, for launching vicious attacks, and for keeping the masses slack-jawed with an infinite array of pornography and time-killing diversions.  Intelligence is seen as something to be ridiculed, and science as a waste of money or, better yet, a fraudulent scheme designed to enrich the few while spreading lies and fear.  And after the recent elections things are only going to get worse, while the anti-intellectual, anti-science forces gain strength and numbers.

I wish Carl Sagan were still around to help us to figure out what to do to get out of this mess.  But sometimes I'm glad he didn't live to see where we've gotten to.

See also: Another Monkey: Carl Sagan

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