Wednesday, September 28, 2005


We used to sit on the porch, my Grandpa and me, talking about the stars. Guessing how far they are, whether there are people out there and wishing we could afford a telescope. We had some binoculars and used them, but they didn't do much.

Our favorite television show, Grandpa's and mine, was Carl Sagan's* COSMOS. Every week, we'd make popcorn and sit down on Sunday night and watch PBS. It was fascinating to learn how small we, our species and planet, really were... and how relatively little we understand about the universe. For the time, 1980, the show's special effects and production value were absolutely impressive. Even by today's standards, it ranks up there with some of the finest work.

COSMOS is back on and I am a little embarrassed at my excitement. It brings back great old feelings and fascination, and renews my interest in science and nature. I own most of Sagan's books, and his research and work puts him up there with people like Copernicus and Einstein.

Through history, man has become more, then less, tolerant of science. During more progressive periods, people were hungry for facts and information, and free to ask questions. Then, during the darker epochs of history, they became intolerant of science and scorned those who embrace research and study. Why this warble happens is anybody's guess, but cycles, waves, circles... seem to be how everything works.

With the court battles again raging over teaching of evolution vs. creationism ("intelligent design") it seems we may be entering another cycle of change, and a darker epoch of intolerance.

Shame, really. I rather enjoy the light.

*Billions and b-b-billions of people know this guy.


phoenix said...

Dave I have that series from the 80's on VHS for sale on Amazon LOL!

It was a great show to watch. My favorite memories were when I was in school and we would go on field trips to the Fernbank Planetarium. Those are the kind of memories that stick with you for life. ;-)

Ari said...

I recently met a high school biology teacher who's right in the middle of that debate.

I kind of think you should allow for possibilities within science, and I'm kind of of the mind that I wouldn't want any teacher shoving his/her version of truth down my kid.

The best teachers at any age teach critical thinking, which I think is healthy skepticism and careful examination of anything calling itself "truth."

Lee Ann said...

Oh, I think I hear some brain cells working! That is cool that it is back.
I had some good memories of watching the "old Shirley Temple" movies with my mom and sister every week. Fun times.

Spinning Girl said...

I might be skipping blog-levels here, but will you marry me?


You don't know how much.

My family were all avid watchers of Cosmos, and I own the series on DVD. My sisters and I can quote whole passages, and my younger sister named her cat “Sagan” after him. I even show one of the episodes to my students, although I think I need to stop because the pace is too slow for their x-box minds, and the fashion---well.

My favorite book is Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors.

I have also heard his widow, Ann Druyan, speak at an NSTA conference (Nat’l Science Teachers’ Assoc.) and had a private conversation with her after the lecture. She talked about the production of the gold phonograph records mounted on Voyagers I and II, which is described in detail in Sagan’s book, “Sounds of Earth”.

She had a really cute anecdote about how all the people working on this soundscape time capsule were trying to decide what sounds to put on it; they wanted to put all of Bach’s work, but decided “that would be boasting”. Then, they wanted the sound of a human kiss. They all went around kissing each other & recoding it but none of them sounded right. Finally one of them got the perfect sound by sucking on his own arm, but he was voted down. The consensus was that this object would outlive humanity, and there was no way the sounds of this guy sucking his arm was going into space as the emissary to the stars.

They finally got a good kiss sound from one of the other guys (not Sagan) kissing Druyan.

Thank you so much for posting this. I & my family have a special affinity for all things Sagan. And I am not ashamed, for he is my personal hero!

I hope that my unbridled enthusiasm has not frightened you. Come back.


Rob Seifert said...

Bill-e-ons and Bill-e-ons... COSMOS - Good show! P.S. Replied to your reply OMB chuckle...


Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) said... from Carol's (Weary Hag's) site because of your interesting comments. Astronomy fascinates me. I haven't had time for TV lately. Wow, thx for the heads-up about the return of this show. (Irnonically, my most recent Sept. post is about the moon.)