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.

About Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin writes fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including Analog, Clarkesworld, The Daily Beast, 99U, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies. He was featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He has been blogging since 2005. By day, he manages software projects and occasionally writes code. He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and three children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.