Carl Sagan

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Carl Sagan : biography

1934-11-9 – 20 December 1996

Skeptic magazine, Dec. 2006]] –>On November 9, 2001, on what would have been Sagan’s 67th birthday, the NASA Ames Research Center dedicated the site for the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Cosmos. "Carl was an incredible visionary, and now his legacy can be preserved and advanced by a 21st century research and education laboratory committed to enhancing our understanding of life in the universe and furthering the cause of space exploration for all time", said NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin. Ann Druyan was at the Center as it opened its doors on October 22, 2006.

Sagan has at least three awards named in his honor:

  • The Carl Sagan Memorial Award presented jointly since 1997 by the American Astronomical Society (AAS) and the Planetary Society,
  • The Carl Sagan Medal for Excellence in Public Communication in Planetary Science presented since 1998 by the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences (AAS/DPS) for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public—Carl Sagan was one of the original organizing committee members of the DPS, and
  • The Carl Sagan Award for Public Understanding of Science presented by the Council of Scientific Society Presidents (CSSP)—Sagan was the first recipient of the CSSP award in 1993.

On December 20, 2006, the tenth anniversary of Sagan’s death, blogger Joel Schlosberg organized a Carl Sagan "blog‑a‑thon" to commemorate Sagan’s death, and the idea was supported by Nick Sagan. Many members of the blogging community participated.

August 2007 the Independent Investigations Group (IIG) awarded Sagan posthumously a Lifetime Achievement Award. This honor has also been awarded to Harry Houdini and James Randi.

Beginning in 2009, a musical project known as Symphony of Science sampled several excerpts of Sagan from his series Cosmos and remixed them to electronic music. To date, the videos have received over 21 million views worldwide on YouTube, and have exposed a new generation to the interconnected grandeur of the universe as Sagan described them in his documentary series.Carl Sagan – A Glorious Dawn http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSgiXGELjbc

Social concerns

Sagan believed that the Drake equation, on substitution of reasonable estimates, suggested that a large number of extraterrestrial civilizations would form, but that the lack of evidence of such civilizations highlighted by the Fermi paradox suggests technological civilizations tend to self-destruct. This stimulated his interest in identifying and publicizing ways that humanity could destroy itself, with the hope of avoiding such a cataclysm and eventually becoming a spacefaring species. Sagan’s deep concern regarding the potential destruction of human civilization in a nuclear holocaust was conveyed in a memorable cinematic sequence in the final episode of Cosmos, called "Who Speaks for Earth?" Sagan had already resigned from the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board and voluntarily surrendered his top secret clearance in protest over the Vietnam War. Following his marriage to his third wife (novelist Ann Druyan) in June 1981, Sagan became more politically active—particularly in opposing escalation of the nuclear arms race under President Ronald Reagan.

In March 1983, Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative—a multi-billion dollar project to develop a comprehensive defense against attack by nuclear missiles, which was quickly dubbed the "Star Wars" program. Sagan spoke out against the project, arguing that it was technically impossible to develop a system with the level of perfection required, and far more expensive to build than for an enemy to defeat through decoys and other means—and that its construction would seriously destabilize the nuclear balance between the United States and the Soviet Union, making further progress toward nuclear disarmament impossible.

When Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared a unilateral moratorium on the testing of nuclear weapons, which would begin on August 6, 1985—the 40th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima—the Reagan administration dismissed the dramatic move as nothing more than propaganda, and refused to follow suit. In response, US anti-nuclear and peace activists staged a series of protest actions at the Nevada Test Site, beginning on Easter Sunday in 1986 and continuing through 1987. Hundreds of people were arrested, including Sagan, who was arrested on two separate occasions as he climbed over a chain-link fence at the test site.,