I am very proud to present this first glimpse of "COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey." Watch this space for future sneak peeks. - Writer/Executive Producer Ann Druyan
Dear Friends of Carl,
It’s been four years; way too long. I wanted to reach out to you tonight to share some thoughts about Carl on this sixteenth anniversary of his death. His absence remains more real, more palpable than the presence of others. I am most proud of the fact that for the two decades we were together, we loved each other with a constant appreciation of our great good fortune to have found each other in the immensity of space and time.
A week or so ago I found myself visiting Wikipedia. As so many times before, a banner appeared across the top requesting a contribution. This time my conscience was sufficiently aroused to actually do something. I made a donation and immediately received an automatic response from a Sue Gardner of the Wikimedia Foundation. It was a gracious form letter thank you, but something in the fourth paragraph jumped out at me:
“You should know: your donation isn't just covering your own costs. The average donor is paying for his or her own use of Wikipedia, plus the costs of hundreds of other people. Your donation keeps Wikipedia available for an ambitious kid in Bangalore who's teaching herself computer programming. A middle-aged homemaker in Vienna who's just been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. A novelist researching 1850s Britain. A 10-year-old in San Salvador who's just discovered Carl Sagan.”
How deeply Carl would’ve cared about that kid… How much he would’ve wanted to be a means for him or her to discover the liberating power of the scientific perspective…How he would have appreciated our ever-increasing capacity to connect with one another planet-wide… Just think of it, he would’ve said: The information equivalent of a million ancient libraries of Alexandria is now instantly accessible to a significant fraction of humanity. We are in the process of becoming a completely intercommunicating organism, just as Carl thought we would.
If you are reading these words you are already keenly aware of the myriad ways we are failing as a species. I just wanted to convey the optimism I learned from my time with Carl. It taught me that wonder never has to come at the cost of rigorous skepticism, nor vice versa. We can live and love completely with our eyes wide open. We can embrace our true circumstances in the cosmos as science continues to reveal it, without flinching or turning away.
Please accept my apologies for neglecting the portal for all these years. I have been working with Brannon Braga, Mitchell Cannold, Jason Clark, Seth MacFarlane, Steve Soter and Neil deGrasse Tyson (among many other extraordinary people) on the new 13 part COSMOS series to debut in 2014.
We dream that it will continue the legacy that Carl began. We want to awaken new generations to science as a candle in the darkness, illuminating a pathway to a future that is hopeful and even thrilling.
In the coming year, as we move closer to the completion of this new COSMOS, I hope to be a better correspondent.
And I thank you for remembering Carl and keeping his brilliant flame alive in your hearts and minds.
That this knowledge will be pursued in his name, as he joins Einstein and Hubble to form a triumvirate of the leading lights of 20th century astronomy, is a source of infinite pride to our family. It signifies that Carl’s passion to engage us all in the scientific experience, his daring curiosity and urgent concern for life on this planet, no longer eclipse his scientific achievements.
The NASA/JPL site records 333 new worlds discovered as of this moment... and counting. We are poised on the brink of cosmic citizenship, on coming to know something of the other planets in our galactic community.
Dear Friends of Carl Sagan,
You have touched me with the depth and eloquence of your tributes to his life and work. I particularly want to thank my dear step-son, Nick Sagan, Joel Schlosberg, and Bryan and Dave of the Celebrating Sagan website for creating cyber-communities where those of us who remember Carl can gather.
As the years pass, more and more of what he taught is affirmed and his influence grows.
Carl began working with NASA on missions to the planets in 1959 and went on to play a central role in their scientific achievements until his death, eleven years ago tonight. As I write, two of those spacecraft, the Voyagers 1 and 2, sail the shallows of the great ocean of interstellar space. They are our species' first emissaries to depart the heliosphere, crossing the boundary where the solar wind meets the gas between the stars. Perhaps the most accomplished explorers in history, they have most recently discovered the shape of our solar system as it moves through space, and their service to humanity continues. As many of you know, each of the Voyagers carry a complex message of greetings, images, music and other sounds of Earth.
(One of those sounds is Carl's inimitable laugh. His laugh was actually the first thing I noticed about him the night we met in 1974. I remember thinking that I had never heard anything before so free and natural.)
It was also back in the late '50's that Carl first started thinking about planetary atmospheres. He was writing his Ph.D. thesis on "Physical Studies of the Planets." His thesis included his discovery of the surprisingly high temperature of Venus and his correct explanation that it was caused by a runaway greenhouse effect. Early on he began to wonder what would happen if our own moderate greenhouse effect here on Earth were to intensify as it had on Venus. He became one of the first scientists to sound the alarm on global warming and other forms of inadvertent climate modification, including the potential consequences of a major nuclear war which he named "nuclear winter."
It was nearly fifty years ago that Carl began his life-long research on the origin of life and the search for life and intelligence elsewhere in the cosmos. Back then, research on the latter subject was effectively a form of professional suicide. The scientific community viewed it as a subject beneath its dignity. Only a handful of courageous scientists, Carl among them, dared to jeopardize their careers by doing such research. Today as the numbers of newly discovered extra-solar planets steadily mount, the field of astrobiology flourishes.
Even earlier, the notebooks he filled in his teens were suffused with a passion for the values of science and democracy. He viewed the error-correcting mechanisms built into both the methodology of science and into our constitution as being on a par with the domestication of fire, the invention of agriculture and writing; among the most precious innovations ever devised by our species.
In this society dependent on science and technology, he thought that it was critically important for science to learn to communicate its insights, values and methods to everyone. At a time when "reputable" scientists rarely if ever ventured before the public, he was willing to risk his career for that also. One such effort, his 1980 "Cosmos" television series, has now been seen by a billion people worldwide. Parts of it will be broadcast in North America at 8pm EST on Christmas Day on the Discovery Science Channel. On Tuesday evenings at 9pm EST, starting January 8, 2008 the whole series will begin to run again. "Cosmos'" enduring world-wide appeal is another testament to his prophetic vision.
He believed that science must always remain scrupulously faithful to the most rigorous possible methodological standards but that we shouldn't shrink from the spiritual implications of its insights. He dreamed of a civilization rooted in our dawning understanding of nature, where skepticism and wonder went hand in hand. He didn't want to humiliate or demean the believer. He was always ready to communicate.
That voice, that laugh, the smile, the work, the love; the memory of Carl is always with me. It feels like an embrace.
Dear Friends of Carl, if you were impelled to protect the environment, attracted to read, study, teach or do science, engineering or mathematics because of something he wrote or said, please send me your stories.
May we find a way to join together to brighten up this age and to rekindle the hope that Carl Sagan's life and work can not help but inspire.
Ithaca, New York
20 December 2006
Dear Friends of Carl Sagan,
Chances are, if you have come here to join me in an act of remembrance on this tenth anniversary of Carl’s death, you are already well aware of the numerous scientific and cultural achievements of the man. It is likely that you know he played a leading role in the exploration of our solar system, that he added to our knowledge of the atmospheres of Venus, Mars and the Earth, that he opened the way to new branches of scientific investigation, that he attracted more people to the scientific enterprise than perhaps any other human being and that he was a conscientious citizen of both the Earth and the cosmos. Maybe you are one of the many who were nudged into a different life trajectory by the gravitational pull of something he said or wrote or dreamt. In my biased estimation, he was a world historical figure who beckoned us to leave the geocentric, narcissistic, “supernatural” spirituality of our childhood behind and to embrace the vastness – to come of age by taking the revelations of the modern scientific revolution to heart.
Today, I want to share with you some things about Carl that are not as well known, moments that have more to do with his goodness than with his greatness. These are recollections that have come to me throughout the past ten years. I offer them to you because these memories make me feel so impossibly fortunate and because I want this personal Carl to live on, as well.
I see him striding off the gangplank of a Circle Line tour boat on an exquisite June day, about a week after we had declared our love to each other. Somehow, we decided that circumnavigating the inspiring towers of Manhattan would be the ideal setting in which to plan our lives together. As we disembark, after mapping out the journey that the next two decades would fulfill and exceed, I glance back towards him and I see that dazzling smile. He takes the sweater that had been casually tied around his neck and he throws it high up in the air in a gesture of exultation. For a moment the blue sweater hangs there against the blue sky and our eyes meet.
I see him putting his napkin aside and getting up from the table countless times in restaurants all over the planet to properly greet yet another person who wants to thank him for “giving me the cosmos.”
I see us riding around the Ithaca countryside at dusk with seven-year-old Nick Sagan. The top is down on Carl’s little orange sports car. He has adopted the mythic persona that would later become a favorite of Sasha and Sam’s, too, the “Freenie,” a visitor from Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter. The Freenie has all sorts of arcane information about the outer solar system but he is absolutely clueless about how things work here on Earth. I recall our children savoring the heady, novel pleasure of being able to set an adult straight and possibly grasping for the first time a radical notion -- that the way things are done here and now, is not an immutable, universal constant.
I see Carl lying on the living room floor, holding one-year-old Sasha high above him and moving her this way and that as he cries “Unidentified Flying Baby!” and she giggles with delight, always wanting more.
I see him walking with two-year-old Sam in the small forest near our house. Sam spies something on the ground and toddles over to retrieve it. He then solemnly presents this special twig in the shape of a “y” to Carl and Carl carries it with him for the rest of his life.
I hold the magical little “y” twig in my hand. Ten long trips around the sun since I last saw that smile, but only joy and thankfulness that on a tiny world in the vastness, for a couple of moments in the immensity of time, we were one.