Happy Birthday, Carl Sagan!

Carl Sagan (1934 – 1996)

Today is the 78th trip around the sun since Carl Sagan was brought into this world. He inspired  everyone to think deeply about our cosmic ocean and the vast universe of hidden treasures that await us. He devoted his life to the pursuit of knowledge and critical thought, letting the facts lead the way, and was still able to explain it with a sense of calm thoughtfulness that made everyone stop and realize the inherent beauty of nature, science, and human thought.

Even today, Carl’s scientific efforts are bearing fruit. Just within the last couple of months, the Voyager 1 spacecraft is still providing us with groundbreaking scientific data, over 35 years after it’s launch. It is the furthest man-made object in space, currently exiting the solar system, and quite literally on its way to the stars. Because of Carl, we took the “Pale Blue Dot” photo which provided for the first time a unique perspective on just how vast the cosmos was, and how tiny of a planet we live on.

“All of human history has happened on that tiny pixel, which is our only home.” -Carl Sagan, speech at Cornell University, October 13, 1994. Earth is the tiny dot circled in blue.

Perhaps the most well known legacy of Carl is his Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, the 13 part series for PBS, which is still to this day the most watched PBS series in the world. Carl’s was of stating very complex and mind boggling ideas in simple, clear ways that anyone could understand, while still providing deep insight into the nature of the cosmos was at the heart of why this series was so special. He presented the largest pillars of knowledge that humans have uncovered with a poetic candor that mesmerized those who were watching.

I know that Carl played a large part in pushing me down the path that I have gone, and has left in his wake a new generation of role models to make the case for scientific though and reason, rationality, and human dignity. I hope that we can live up to the high water mark that he set. For now, he is back where he came from, someday, forming a new pile of star stuff.