Carl Sagan


Carl Sagan : biography

1934-11-9 – 20 December 1996

Sagan warned against humans’ tendency towards anthropocentrism. He was the faculty adviser for the Cornell Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. In the Cosmos chapter "Blues For a Red Planet", Sagan wrote, "If there is life on Mars, I believe we should do nothing with Mars. Mars then belongs to the Martians, even if the Martians are only microbes."

Sagan was a user and advocate of marijuana. Under the pseudonym "Mr. X", he contributed an essay about smoking cannabis to the 1971 book Marihuana Reconsidered. The essay explained that marijuana use had helped to inspire some of Sagan’s works and enhance sensual and intellectual experiences. After Sagan’s death, his friend Lester Grinspoon disclosed this information to Sagan’s biographer, Keay Davidson. The publishing of the biography, Carl Sagan: A Life, in 1999 brought media attention to this aspect of Sagan’s life. Not long after his death, widow Ann Druyan had gone on to preside over the board of directors of NORML, a foundation dedicated to reforming cannabis laws.

In 1994, engineers at Apple Computer code-named the Power Macintosh 7100 "Carl Sagan" in the hope that Apple would make “billions and billions” with the sale of the PowerMac 7100. The name was only used internally, but Sagan was concerned that it would become a product endorsement and sent Apple a cease-and-desist letter. Apple complied, but engineers retaliated by changing the internal codename to “BHA” for “Butt-Head Astronomer”.Poundstone, p. 364Linzmayer, Owen, and Chaffin, Bryan, , The Mac Observer,, 2004-11-15. Accessed 2012-7-23. Sagan then sued Apple for libel, a form of defamation, in federal court. The court granted Apple’s motion to dismiss Sagan’s claims and opined in dicta that a reader aware of the context would understand Apple was “clearly attempting to retaliate in a humorous and satirical way”, and that “It strains reason to conclude that Defendant was attempting to criticize Plaintiff’s reputation or competency as an astronomer. One does not seriously attack the expertise of a scientist using the undefined phrase ‘butt-head’.”Sagan v. Apple Computer, Inc., 874 F.Supp. 1072 (USDC C.D. Cal. 1994), CV 94-2180 LGB (BRx); 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20154. Sagan then sued for Apple’s original use of his name and likeness, but again lost.Poundstone, p. 374 Sagan appealed the ruling. In November 1995, an out-of-court settlement was reached and Apple’s office of trademarks and patents released a conciliatory statement that “Apple has always had great respect for Dr. Sagan. It was never Apple’s intention to cause Dr. Sagan or his family any embarrassment or concern.”Poundstone, pp. 374–375. Apple’s third and final code name for the project was “LaW”, short for “Lawyers are Wimps”.

Sagan briefly served as an adviser on Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Sagan proposed that the film suggest, rather than depict, extraterrestrial superintelligence., 

Scientific achievements

Time cover, Oct. 20, 1980]] –> Sagan’s contributions were central to the discovery of the high surface temperatures of the planet Venus. In the early 1960s no one knew for certain the basic conditions of that planet’s surface, and Sagan listed the possibilities in a report later depicted for popularization in a Time-Life book, Planets. His own view was that Venus was dry and very hot as opposed to the balmy paradise others had imagined. He had investigated radio emissions from Venus and concluded that there was a surface temperature of . As a visiting scientist to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he contributed to the first Mariner missions to Venus, working on the design and management of the project. Mariner 2 confirmed his conclusions on the surface conditions of Venus in 1962.

Sagan was among the first to hypothesize that Saturn’s moon Titan might possess oceans of liquid compounds on its surface and that Jupiter’s moon Europa might possess subsurface oceans of water. This would make Europa potentially habitable.Much of Sagan’s research in the field of planetary science is outlined by William Poundstone. Poundstone’s biography of Sagan includes an 8-page list of Sagan’s scientific articles published from 1957 to 1998. Detailed information about Sagan’s scientific work comes from the primary research articles. Example: Sagan, C., Thompson, W. R., and Khare, B. N. Titan: A Laboratory for Prebiological Organic Chemistry, Accounts of Chemical Research, volume 25, page 286 (1992). There is commentary on this research article about Titan at . Europa’s subsurface ocean of water was later indirectly confirmed by the spacecraft Galileo. The mystery of Titan’s reddish haze was also solved with Sagan’s help. The reddish haze was revealed to be due to complex organic molecules constantly raining down onto Titan’s surface.