Remembering Carl

It’s been a busy day today, but I am finally squeezing in time to write about Carl Sagan. When I woke up this morning, the date was vaguely familiar, and it was on the train into work that I realized that it was 10 years ago today that Carl Sagan passed away. I am not the only one who realized this, and in fact, there is a Carl Sagan blogathon going on today in honor of his memory. Here is what I have to say:

On December 17, 1996, I read a particularly good article in SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN on science versus pseudoscience. It turned out to be an exerpt from Carl Sagan’s new book, The Demon-Haunted World. I had read Cosmos many years before, but that was my whole exerience with Sagan. However, the essay in SCIAM was outstanding and I picked up the book at a bookstore a few days later and began reading at once. I was so impressed with the book when I was only halfway through, that I told my friend Paul about it. Now, I wasn’t paying much attention to the news at this time, but when I told Paul about the book, he said, “Yeah, you know, Sagan died a few days ago.” I couldn’t believe it.

Since then, I’ve become a Sagan fan. In the month that followed I read The Dragons of Eden, Broca’s Brain, and Pale Blue Dot and loved them all. I read Contact in May 1997 before the movie came out and it is one of the few books that I have rated 5 stars. (And for a while, the movie became my favorite movie.) I devoured Billions and Billions when that came out, and I even recently re-read The Demon-Haunted World.

In March of 2000, I read William Poundstone’s biography of Carl Sagan and I enjoyed that as well. Carl Sagan was brilliant; he was a rationalist and humanist; he could be funny. He was an excellent writer and popularizer of science, but he was also a preeminent scientist himself.

I remember feeling very sad when I heard that he had passed away. I worried that another “candle in the dark” had been extinguished.