Carl Sagan, Science, and the Public

If you’ve read my book or followed my blog, you know how much I revere Dr. Carl Sagan. I think he did so much to help the general public appreciate and understand science, and he inspired a generation to help make a difference, myself included.

In this two-and-a half-minute segment from one of his last interviews before he died in 1996, Dr. Sagan explains why he thinks it’s so important for everyday people to understand science and technology rather than simply leaving it to the experts. More than ever in our civilization’s history, our progress is being propelled by science and technology. If we don’t understand it—and particularly if our elected officials don’t understand it—then we are at tremendous risk of making the wrong decisions.

Dr. Sagan was ahead of his time in so many ways. This was just one of them.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is Awesome!

‘Not enough people in this world, I think, carry a cosmic perspective with them. It could be life-changing.’
—Neil deGrasse Tyson

When I was in high school, I watched the television series Cosmos with Dr. Carl Sagan and fell in love with science. Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have followed a path that led to my career in medicine if it wasn’t for the inspiration I got from watching that program and reading Dr. Sagan’s books. In fact, the epilogue in my book quotes Dr. Sagan’s words referring to Earth as the Pale Blue Dot. I was very appreciative that Dr. Sagan’s wife Ann Druyan gave me permission to repeat his important words.

But it’s been 35 years since Cosmos was on, and almost years since Dr. Sagan passed away. But the torch has definitely been passed on to another great scientist: Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and science educator cut from the very same cloth as Dr. Sagan. (The two actually met in 1975, but that’s another story. Google it!) Two years ago NDT hosted the reboot of Sagan’s original inspiring series: Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. It provided a new generation with the opportunity to experience the awe and wonder that people like me did back in the ’80s.

Neil deGrasse Tyson has also had strong comments for the media regarding the way they provide false balance in their coverage of scientific subjects like climate change. In his words:

[Y]ou don’t talk about the spherical Earth with NASA, and then say “now let’s give equal time to the flat Earthers.” Plus, science is not there for you to cherry pick…You can decide whether or not to believe in it but that doesn’t change the reality of an emergent scientific truth.

Politics and the interests of big business have always played a big part in the misrepresentation of the facts, and of the consensus among the scientific community, and Tyson recognizes that point as well. Back in 2011, he stated that those who deny climate change need “to be mature enough to recognize something can be true even if you don’t like the consequences of it. That’s what it means to be a mature adult.”

We’ve been waiting a long time for another Carl Sagan. Thank goodness we’ve found one with Neil deGrasse Tyson. He was in Toronto last week and I got the opportunity to see meet him in a VIP ceremony afterward. He was warm, gracious, and very funny. His talk went on for two and a half hours and covered the latest in scientific news (gravity waves!) as well as what it will take for our species to thrive during the next millennium (some major changes in attitude, it turns out).

There will never be another Carl Sagan. But thank goodness we have Neil deGrasse Tyson.

David Suzuki's Blue Dot Campaign

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead

David Suzuki has done a lot of great things, but his Blue Dot campaign may be the greatest. The Blue Dot referenced is our beloved planet Earth. Seen from space a great distance away that’s all it is, a description coined by Carl Sagan after seeing a photo taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft when it was six billion kilometres from home.

All over the world, more than 110 nations from Costa Rica to Norway have formally recognized that their citizens have a fundamental right to live in a healthy environment, considered no less important that having a right to vote, or freedom of speech. But Canada isn’t one of them. Yet.

David Suzuki wants to change that with this campaign. Starting with cities and municipalities, then provinces, and finally a whole nation. Its ultimate goal is to amend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include the environment as a fundamental right, something that 85 percent of Canadians support. That would lead to stronger laws to protect the environment for our future. This seven-minute video explains this in greater detail:


If you want to find out more about the Blue Dot Campaign, here’s the link: http://www.bluedot.ca/join-us

Carl Sagan Offers the Best Perspective

It only makes sense to follow up a video of Neil deGrasse Tyson with a video of my other hero, his predecessor Dr. Carl Sagan. The words Dr. Sagan speaks in these few minutes are some of the most important I’ve ever experienced, and to hear them in his voice has an even greater impact. I was impressed enough with them that I obtained permission from his wife Ann Druyan—she handles his estate—to use them at the end of my book. (You can find them in the epilogue.)

If you’ve never read these words from Sagan’s book Pale Blue Dot or heard them before in this video, be prepared to look at our planet in an entirely new way.

http://youtu.be/923jxZY2NPI

Carl Sagan's Take On Science and Government

If you’ve read my book or followed my blog for a while, you likely know how much I revere Dr. Carl Sagan. I think he did so much to help the general public appreciate and understand science, and he inspired a generation to help make a difference, myself included.

In this two-and-a half-minute segment from one of his last interviews before he died in 1996, Dr. Sagan explains why he thinks it’s so important for everyday people to understand science and technology rather than simply leaving it to the experts. More than ever in our civilization’s history, our progress is being propelled by science and technology. If we don’t understand it—and particularly if our elected officials don’t understand it—then we are at tremendous risk of making the wrong decisions.

Dr. Sagan was ahead of his time in so many ways. This was just one of them.