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Tito_Muerte
2003-Oct-28, 03:31 AM
So, we all know Carl Sagan was 'the man' professionally. He was brilliant and creative etc etc. But, does anyone know anything about him as a person? What was he like? does anybody have any biography sites they can send this way?

tuffel999
2003-Oct-28, 04:32 AM
Nice options!

Ilya
2003-Oct-28, 04:46 AM
You don't give many choices, do you? :)

I always admired Sagan as a scientist, but despised his politics.

ocasey3
2003-Oct-28, 04:56 AM
Don't know of any sites but have read a little bit about him in books. He was very influential to me and my love of science. I only regret I never got to meet him.

Normandy6644
2003-Oct-28, 01:41 PM
I like him a lot, especially since he did a lot for the popularization of good science.

mutant
2003-Oct-28, 08:30 PM
Carl Sagan was the man that instilled an interest in me for astronomy. I loved watching his programs on Nova and have read most of his books. I have heard he was an outcast to some of the other professionals in his field for his "commercialism" but he is more responsible than anyone I can think of for spreading an interest in astronomy and its related fields in the general public.

Ripper
2003-Oct-28, 08:37 PM
You don't give many choices, do you? :)

I always admired Sagan as a scientist, but despised his politics.

I agree. Like many brilliant men he thought he knew everything. Socrates warned us about falling into this trap. Einstein was not guilt free here either.

Tito_Muerte
2003-Oct-29, 09:53 PM
All very interesting comments (Ilya I'd like to hear more from you about your dislike of his politics)....

and for everyone else...WHERE ARE THE LINKS I ASKED FOR!!!!!!!


but seriously folks, does anyone have any links for bios and the such??

jkmccrann
2005-Nov-08, 01:39 PM
All very interesting comments (Ilya I'd like to hear more from you about your dislike of his politics)....

and for everyone else...WHERE ARE THE LINKS I ASKED FOR!!!!!!!


but seriously folks, does anyone have any links for bios and the such??

I don't know if you ever got those links Tito, but here are some related to Carl.



http://www.planetary.org/html/society/tributes/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Sagan

http://home.pacific.net.hk/~paulchui/sagan.html

http://www.fas.org/sagan.htm



I'm amazed to think he died nearly 10 years ago.

Argos
2005-Nov-08, 01:42 PM
I always admired Sagan as a politician, but despised his science.

gwiz
2005-Nov-08, 02:03 PM
There's a biography, Carl Sagan: A Life by Keay Davidson.

SolusLupus
2005-Nov-08, 02:08 PM
What science did you despise, in particular, Argos?

Eoanthropus Dawsoni
2005-Nov-08, 02:09 PM
Sagan was an entertainer.

Argos
2005-Nov-08, 02:16 PM
What science did you despise, in particular, Argos?

Well, I think it is common understanding that he was a mediocre scientist - for lack of time, perhaps. He was good at divulging science though.

SolusLupus
2005-Nov-08, 02:25 PM
I don't care if it's "common understanding" that he was a "mediocre scientist". Please explicitely state what, exactly, you disagreed with. Also, please explain how he was a "mediocre scientist".

I do not share any "common understanding" of Sagan. I have yet to really read into him personally.

Argos
2005-Nov-08, 02:41 PM
The expression 'mediocre scientist' says it all. Thereīs no seminal work by Sagan. By the way, Iīm not here to denigrate a person whom I admire, regardless of he being a good scientist or not. As I said, heīs helped to raise important questions in the realm of policy making. Iīm entitled to my opinion.

SolusLupus
2005-Nov-08, 02:42 PM
Everyone's entitled to their opinion, I just prefer to hear some reasons for it if it's going to be preached to me.

The expression "mediocre scientist" does NOT say it all. I don't really care if you admire him or not, you're making a claim and then not really backing it up.

William_Thompson
2005-Nov-08, 03:28 PM
Carl Sagan was NOT The Man.

He got things right when he ripped off other ideas but when he started thinking for himself he got things wrong.

Cosmos is really a re-hashing of other people's ideas. Demon Haunted World is a good book in the first half but when he starts putting his ideas about the nature of gravity and other things later in the book, he gets things wrong.

He single-handedly buried Fermi's Paradox and only after his death are people thinking about Fermi's Observation at Los Alamos labs.

Anyone who did not embrace his ET dreams were discredited and ruthlessly fired from any job they might have in academia.

His theories about life on Venus were proven wrong.

Many theories he had about the environment are probably wrong.

He was interested in selling books more than presenting real science. Although he might have gotten some people interested in science who would normally not be interested, he main goal was to give the people what they wanted. People wanted to hope and dream. He gave people those dreams. But if reality has bitter pills to swallow, we should swallow them. We are better in the long run to do so.

He was NOT The Man

ToSeek
2005-Nov-08, 03:53 PM
Anyone who did not embrace his ET dreams were discredited and ruthlessly fired from any job they might have in academia.

Can you support this claim?


His theories about life on Venus were proven wrong.

Sagan was the one who originally hypothesized that the surface of Venus was extremely hot, so I don't know what ideas about life on Venus you're talking about.

Captain Kidd
2005-Nov-08, 04:10 PM
Somebody once told me that he was a self-admitted occultist, yet I thought I read somewhere that he was an atheist. So what's correct?

Argos
2005-Nov-08, 04:13 PM
To me it is obvious, from his writings, that heīs an atheist, one of the reasons why I admire him.

gwiz
2005-Nov-08, 04:26 PM
He single-handedly buried Fermi's Paradox and only after his death are people thinking about Fermi's Observation at Los Alamos labs.
When was Fermi's Paradox buried? The British Interplanetary Society's Journal has been publishing papers on the subject with fair regularity for the last thirty years.

Argos
2005-Nov-08, 04:30 PM
I would say he attempted to explain the Fermi paradox arguing that civilizations destroy themselves upon reaching technological maturity. That´s only a conjecture, though I´m inclined to think the same way.

peteshimmon
2005-Nov-08, 04:31 PM
I have a ancient volume on photoelectrics with a chapter on the
development of Mariner 2. Gosh, Sagan was project scientist on the
radiometer!

SolusLupus
2005-Nov-08, 05:06 PM
I would say he attempted to explain the Fermi paradox arguing that civilizations destroy themselves upon reaching technological maturity. That´s only a conjecture, though I´m inclined to think the same way.

I think that that's a rather pessimistic idea, and I disagree with it. Though I don't disagree that Sagan came up with it. :) (What? That's all I have to say!)

Well, not really...

*Waits until after Thompson gives some evidence towards his claims before commenting further.

ngc3314
2005-Nov-08, 06:32 PM
I would say he attempted to explain the Fermi paradox arguing that civilizations destroy themselves upon reaching technological maturity. Thatīs only a conjecture, though Iīm inclined to think the same way.

As I recall, that was a very common belief, sort of conventional wisdom. Now, it looks like a massive projection of Cold War fears, to think that similar crises must be universal. These days, we tend to think the great leap of a civilization is whether it can become sustainable before ruining its surrounding ecology, which also entails a good bit of projection. That lifetime bit in the Green Bank equation really embraces vast ignorance.

I'll come clean here - I have deeply mixed feelings about Sagan's legacy. He stood out as a popular spokesman for science in a way we'll likely never see again, simply because of the proliferation of media and fragmentation of the audience (much as we'll probaby never see another reporter of Walter Cronkite's stature). To be sure, this earned him a certain amount of jealousy in the scientific community (vide the National Academy fiasco), but it was a role he took on early, deliberately, and with relish. Disgruntled team members would long recall the time when his other responsibilities kept him so busy that he'd fly into LA, show up at JPL for a press conferences, and basically say "OK, brief me on what we've found so I can go tell the press". When Cosmos was billed as "A Personal Voyage", that's what worried some astronomers - it was woven around what Sagan found interesting and compelling to present, so that the only such high-budget production for a decade (pre-cable, remember) left out things that weren't dear to his heart. I still maintain that the Universe has many fascinating and interesting secrets that don't lock immediately to astrobiology...

Reading one of the recent biographies, I was interested to learn of his family background (Jewish emigres from revolutionary Russia). I suspect this gave him a particular empathy for people caught in oppressive governments, and a particularly short fuse for all the Cold War posturing and demonization that wasn't at all hard to find for much of his career. (As an amateur historian of at least the technological excesses of the Cold War, I can see that much of this posturing was perhaps necessary at the time, but the whole world did pay dearly, and continues to pay, for those years). His start at translating Shklovskii's Universe, Life, Mind turned into the deeply collaborative Intelligent Life in the Universe, which did a good deal to foster the scientific credibility and set the agenda for the "serious" emergence of (what was then called) exobiology.

Where I must part company, and where I wonder whether he did more harm than good, was his outright crusade against religious belief, which I don't see as part and parcel of the struggle against superstition in the way he did (although I know full well a number of people here agree with Sagan on this point). Even when he wrote in what he thought was a conciliatory style in a Parade article about a rapprochement, what he meant was "we need to co-opt clergy of all faiths into preaching an environmental gospel so everyone will listen to us". This is why I though it especially interesting to note what issues he made central to "Contact", musing in ways he never went close to in his essay collections.

(And if my account gets locked for that, I'll understand...)

SolusLupus
2005-Nov-08, 06:40 PM
(And if my account gets locked for that, I'll understand...)

1) If your account gets locked for that, then I would be surprised.
2) Meaning, it's VERY doubtful you'll get your "account locked" for something that's not that inflammatory.

Personally, I have rather odd views about religion (odd because it seems to go against majority belief in many ways :) ), and think that religion as it stands is rather outdated.

ngc3314
2005-Nov-08, 07:07 PM
1) If your account gets locked for that, then I would be surprised.
2) Meaning, it's VERY doubtful you'll get your "account locked" for something that's not that inflammatory.



I agree, but was sort of expressing the realization that my views in some of these issues are distinctly not shared by many regulars in the forum...

Argos
2005-Nov-08, 07:42 PM
...which is a good thing. I enjoyed your post, although Iīm among those who donīt share some of your opinions. Lets keep the diversity. ;)

SolusLupus
2005-Nov-08, 08:31 PM
Heck, I'm still in disagreeance with Argos myself. I still find his explanations for his claim that Sagan was a mediocre scientist to be questionable and lacking any nutritious evidence.

Van Rijn
2005-Nov-08, 09:07 PM
Heck, I'm still in disagreeance with Argos myself. I still find his explanations for his claim that Sagan was a mediocre scientist to be questionable and lacking any nutritious evidence.

Well, he certainly let politics get in the way of good science in TTAPS (the nuclear winter study).

I had mixed feelings about Sagan too: I liked his science popularizations and thought he did an excellent job of communicating a love of the subject, but he used his position as a well-known scientist to push a (in my opinion) dangerous political agenda. The nuclear winter issue was the worst example: Presenting an extremely limited computer model as an argument to effectively disarm was just wrong.

I can't speak to his other science work, but he certainly let scientific objectivity go completely out the window when it came to his political/philosophical/environmental beliefs.

Superluminal
2005-Nov-09, 01:27 AM
The first time I remember seeing Carl Sagan, was just after the Mariner 4 flyby of Mars. It was a time when scientists still speculated about seeing the remains of a Martian civilization, canals or at least vegitation.

But people were disappointed when all we got were 20 or so pictures of craters. It was Sagan who pointed out that the resolution was 2 miles, "so we could have easily have missed a couple of mile wide elephants."

To this day every time I see a new picture of Mars from one of the orbiters, I still think of mile wide elephants.

Van Rijn
2005-Nov-09, 01:34 AM
Ouch! Technical note - I can barely read that font, Superluminal. It was actually easier to quote your message so I could read it in the editor than try to read it directly.

Superluminal
2005-Nov-09, 01:40 AM
Just trying something differant, after all it's a thread about Carl Sagan.

Jim Colyer
2005-Nov-09, 03:07 AM
Carl Sagan was a genius and a great communicator. I think he had 5 kids.

ASTRONOMY http://jimcolyer.com/papers/entry?id=2

JIM COLYER http://www.jimcolyer.com

SolusLupus
2005-Nov-09, 03:55 AM
5 kids? Jeez, that's a little much. *Always had a problem with people with far too large of families.

crosscountry
2005-Nov-09, 04:13 AM
I own 12 of his books. he was great.


I didn't/don't agree with him on everything, but as a scientist and a celebrity he did so much for science and scientists.


RIP Carl Sagan.

crosscountry
2005-Nov-09, 04:15 AM
Well, he certainly let politics get in the way of good science in TTAPS (the nuclear winter study).

I had mixed feelings about Sagan too: I liked his science popularizations and thought he did an excellent job of communicating a love of the subject, but he used his position as a well-known scientist to push a (in my opinion) dangerous political agenda. The nuclear winter issue was the worst example: Presenting an extremely limited computer model as an argument to effectively disarm was just wrong.

I can't speak to his other science work, but he certainly let scientific objectivity go completely out the window when it came to his political/philosophical/environmental beliefs.



I think his whole point was that we don't know our own power. Shouldn't we be cautious rather than brash? He wanted us to err on the side of caution.

SolusLupus
2005-Nov-09, 04:18 AM
I think his whole point was that we don't know our own power. Shouldn't we be cautious rather than brash? He wanted us to err on the side of caution.

To play Devil's Avocado here, I think I understand what they're saying. Basically, he put forth something speculative as "evidence" of what we should not do as far as the Cold War went. In short, he used people's ignorance of science to push that ignorance into making a decision against... well, against nuclear disarmament.

That's my understanding, and I'd agree -- in no case, should a scientist use his reputation to flaunt a faulty idea for a political agenda. It's making the truth flexible; and the truth is not meant to be flexible.

crosscountry
2005-Nov-09, 04:24 AM
Lonewulf, I can't argue his actions only his motives. Whether you like what he did or not, you at least have to agree that he did what he thought was best.

Politicians are expected to do that. He represented science and scientists... in the name of caution.


I give him props. Like I said, I disagree with him on many issues, but he is still a hero of mine.

SolusLupus
2005-Nov-09, 04:29 AM
Lonewulf, I can't argue his actions only his motives. Whether you like what he did or not, you at least have to agree that he did what he thought was best.

Politicians are expected to do that.

Politicians are expected to bend the truth for their personal motives, yes.

It doesn't mean that all politicians do that, necessarily. It also does not make those actions tolerable or likable.

I can understand the reasons for disliking Sagan's decisions to bend truth in order to carry out something he thought was "for the better". I disagree with the concept. The truth should never be compromised in the name of personal belief.

For instance, if I found out that there was a study that African AMericans do cause more crime, and I didn't want to seem racist, should I ignore that study? Or, alternatively, should I look into why (which would most likely involve economic and societal results, NEVER genetic), and then go about trying to eliminate the problems arose by those studies? Truth should never be compromised. MUCH LESS by a man that is supposed to represent science and scientists - it only proves that scientists would be willing to "botch" the results in the name of politics -- which is the OPPOSITE of what scientists want to be known for!

Anyways, that's all I have to say for tonight. Goodnight.

Van Rijn
2005-Nov-09, 07:26 AM
I think his whole point was that we don't know our own power. Shouldn't we be cautious rather than brash? He wanted us to err on the side of caution.


I don't want to take this too far into politics, but there were two issues:

First, he was strongly advocating a position based on a computer climate model that was a joke compared to climate change/global warming models that still remain controversial. It was not just a thin argument, but painfully thin.

Second, his position was that we should, for all practical purposes, disarm. The cold war was a very high stakes game, and his argument could easily have done more harm than good if it had been more widely accepted. One of the better possibilities is that it might have stretched the cold war substantially.

He later used the same argument in Gulf War I - we shouldn't have kicked Iraq out of Kuwait because Saddam might start a "Gulf Winter." It didn't work out at all like he suggested, and again: Was the tail wagging the dog? Did he make the argument, not because of the painfully thin science, but because he was trying to stop the military action?

There were quite a few other things like that. While I continued to like his popularizations, I grew disenchanted as he preached politics in "science" discussions more and more, and I certainly didn't trust his statements where there was any possibility of politics influencing his argument.

Scientists aren't robots, and I don't expect them to be completely impartial, but in his case, it went way, way too far.

SolusLupus
2005-Nov-09, 01:07 PM
If all that is true, then yes, I would agree with the statement that Sagan was a mediocre scientist.

(See? Explaining your position can go a long way, not just saying, "He's a mediocre scientist because I said so")

Argos
2005-Nov-09, 01:18 PM
I explained my position by saying (see above): "there´s no seminal work by Sagan". My definition of mediocre: average; lacking exceptional quality or ability. This is compatible with Sagan´s record on science.

Mind you, I think he used to be superb in other fields, like mass communication. I can still say he was a genius. He could have been a great scientist if he´d wanted to. It´s a pity he´s prematurely gone.

Big Brother Dunk
2005-Nov-09, 06:28 PM
Carl Sagan was the man that instilled an interest in me for astronomy. I loved watching his programs on Nova and have read most of his books. I have heard he was an outcast to some of the other professionals in his field for his "commercialism" but he is more responsible than anyone I can think of for spreading an interest in astronomy and its related fields in the general public.
Yeah, that's exactly how I feel as well.

publiusr
2005-Nov-09, 10:14 PM
I loved last nights COSMOS program with him looking at Sternbachs blueprints.
He was a good space advocate.

I never thought he ever talked over anyones head. The way he spoke to the young child in the classroom an episode or two back. "You are part of the Milky Way." spoke to his humanity.

Those children who heard him talk did not know how lucky they were. If I had a time machine, I wouldn't go back to the time of the dinosaurs, nor to what I believe will be a dismal future.

I would make myself a child again, and be a student in that classroom.

crosscountry
2005-Nov-10, 02:54 AM
wow publiusr, that's a neat thought.


He was/is a hero of mine too. It would have been great to meet him.

mahesh
2005-Nov-10, 02:44 PM
My HERO

William_Thompson
2005-Nov-23, 12:54 AM
Can you support this claim?

I will google on it.


Sagan was the one who originally hypothesized that the surface of Venus was extremely hot, so I don't know what ideas about life on Venus you're talking about.
I can remember at least two counter ideas he made about Venus.

But I will have to go do my homework and look it up, I suppose.

William_Thompson
2005-Dec-01, 05:05 PM
Here we go. A good writing about Sagan:
American Scientist Online (http://www.americanscientist.org/template/BookReviewTypeDetail/assetid/26545;jsessionid=aaaglr_g3h8KVj#26271)

Wolverine
2005-Dec-01, 09:58 PM
Here we go. A good writing about Sagan:
American Scientist Online (http://www.americanscientist.org/template/BookReviewTypeDetail/assetid/26545;jsessionid=aaaglr_g3h8KVj#26271)

Please see my warning here (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php?p=614695#post614695).

Barabino
2009-Nov-16, 01:56 PM
Excuse me, I'm a foreigner ^_____^; , I can't catch the punch line here:

http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/sagan-man.png

author's comment line: "They laugh now, but within 10 years the city's entire criminal class will have quit to work on space research."

If I understand well, Sagan advocated space exploration but preferred unmanned missions (supposedly less motivating than Apollo missions), so the punch line is that Sagan actually was a poor advocate for his own cause... For you, this was the meaning?

Thanks!

HenrikOlsen
2009-Nov-16, 03:02 PM
The author of xkcd.com (http://xkcd.com/) is OK with people using his strips, but you must include a link to the website license (http://xkcd.com/license.html) when you do, so now it's there.

bebe7
2009-Nov-16, 03:17 PM
Pale Blue Dot has a wonderful quote in it...

I hear he liked to smoke a bit.

HenrikOlsen
2009-Nov-16, 03:37 PM
And Hitler was a vegetarian, so what?

coreybv
2009-Nov-16, 04:30 PM
I know this is an old thread, but since it seems to be going again....

While I admire everything Sagan did in terms of raisin public awareness of science, I've been watching some old episodes of Cosmos recently. His politics definitely shine through loud and clear, and at times he comes across as very preachy and "holier than thou"... I find these segments of the show very distracting from the science content.

He also seems a bit self-contradictory at times. While his discussions of alien life and skepticism toward UFO reports seem very well grounded in the realities of physics and evidence, his political message of extreme pacifism seems to be very detached from the reality of how things work on planet Earth.

Putting that aside, I admire anyone with the qualities it takes to stand up for what they believe, even if I happen to disagree with the beliefs themselves.

In the end, he brought an awareness of science to the general public in a way that, perhaps, nobody else in his time could have. He was also pretty ineffective in getting his political views turned into policy. As a whole, I'd say that the world is better off for having had Carl Sagan in it.

Lianachan
2009-Nov-16, 05:05 PM
I will quite cheerfully admit to have no feelings one way or the other for Carl Sagan, neither the man nor his work. He is a complete irrelevance to me.

bebe7
2009-Nov-16, 05:19 PM
well, Anywho, it looks like the vote above indicates that yes, Sagan was inded really the man.

Argos
2009-Nov-16, 05:46 PM
Itīs funny, the poll identifies the voters. I had never seen that.

Argos
2009-Nov-16, 05:56 PM
I hear he liked to smoke a bit.

I canīt a find source about his cigarette [tobacco] smoking, although we know he used to smoke that Bob Marley type of cigarettes.

bebe7
2009-Nov-16, 06:56 PM
I canīt a find source about his cigarette [tobacco] smoking, although we know he used to smoke that Bob Marley type of cigarettes.

I love that thought on your signature.

Argos
2009-Nov-16, 06:58 PM
Thanks. I mean it will all my heart [although itīs been said by Mr. Obama.] :)

bebe7
2009-Nov-16, 07:00 PM
Thanks. I mean it will all my heart. :)

I know...

crosscountry
2009-Nov-17, 02:57 PM
well, Anywho, it looks like the vote above indicates that yes, Sagan was inded really the man.

I bet if you put the poll on another site the results would be quite different.

SolusLupus
2009-Nov-17, 03:05 PM
I bet if you put the poll on another site the results would be quite different.

Such as CarlSaganSucked.com?

The Backroad Astronomer
2009-Nov-17, 04:16 PM
Sagan was just man, nothing more nothing less. He was right about several things and wrong about others. I do not agree with him on all issues but I do not have to respect and what he has done.

SolusLupus
2009-Nov-17, 08:00 PM
I do not agree with him on all issues but I do not have to respect and what he has done.

This sentence doesn't quite parse. If you don't respect him and what he's done (or rather, you do not have to do so), then why the "but"? If you made an error, I'll delete this post after correction. :)

The Backroad Astronomer
2009-Nov-17, 11:33 PM
Sorry it should have read.
I do not agree with him on all issues but, I respect him and what he has done.