Happy Carl Sagan Day!

It’s his birthday. If you were hoping to celebrate by making an apple pie from scratch, as is customary, I hope you remembered to start your universe preheating well ahead of time. It takes over 13 billion years, you know.

If you forgot, that’s OK. Watch him on youtube or read one of his books, instead.

(Also on Sb)


  1. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time someting like that happened in politics or religion.

    Carl Sagan, 1987 CSICOP Keynote Address

  2. Gareth says

    I think one should leave the universe to cool for 13 billion years rather than heating it :-)

  3. says

    I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t seen Cosmos as a child. Carl truly made the world a better place for having been in it. For this I will always be grateful.

  4. says

    I remember years and years and yea… a long time ago when Sagan did the Royal Soc Xmas Lectures, broadcast on (I think) Beeb2.

    Ahh! What that guy could do with a tray of mud and a projectile!! :-)

  5. meanmike says

    Happy birthday Carl! It is time watch some Cosmos. Not that this is outside my normal behavior.

  6. nazani14 says

    If it weren’t for Sagan, I probably wouldn’t be planning to retire to Ithaca, NY, where there are billions and billions of functional brain cells and good senior services. – and where one still bear to be outside for most of the summer.

  7. anthonyallen says

    I’m in the middle of The Demon-Haunted World right now.

    Happy birthday, Dr. Sagan. The world is a lesser place without you, and a better place for having had you.

  8. Cannabinaceae says

    I would like to have been able to share a nice bowl of an herbal preparation that Dr. Sagan was reportedly quite fond of.

    Not liking apples or the pies made therefrom, I will herewith celebrate in absentia with said material: Here’s to Doctor X!

  9. greame says

    Thank you, Carl. Your words changed my life. At a time when the world needs a voice a reason like yours, you are truly missed.

  10. Kaintukee Bob says

    Cosmos is on Hulu.

    I suspect my children will be watching some of it today. They’re 2 and 4, but it’s never too early.

    Come to think of it, I haven’t seen it in a while. I might just have to watch some tonight, myself.

  11. Ing says

    I cannot recall the last time someting like that happened in politics or religion.

    I remember it happening with Hitchens…though we literally had to torture him first.

  12. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    A toast raised in the general direction of the Sagan Memorial Station on Mars, where Pathfinder and its little rover Sojourner are.

    Time for some Cosmos Turkey Day week.

  13. Big Boppa says

    A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism.”

    Carl Sagan

  14. Tom Clark says

    Totally useless facts: My sister’s birthday was yesterday! We went to an awesome burger place. They did not have apple pies, because they are not a multi-million-dollar corporation bent on making and whoring any product that people will give them money for. The burgers, on the other hand, were in fact made from scratch, universe and all.

  15. says

    I am an atheist now thanks to Carl Sagan. I used to be into all kinds of New Age woo, until I took a seminar focusing on genetics and history of race. The first day, our professor assigned the introduction (I think, possibly the first chapter) of The Demon-Haunted World, where he talks about critical thinking and pseudosciences. It was as if the proverbial light-bulb went off above my head and I haven’t turned back since.
    Thank you and happy birthday, Carl Sagan!

  16. Random_Lurker says

    I was a child when Cosmos first aired, and it no doubt helped shape the person I am today. I’ll be forever indebted, and I’ll always miss Carl.

  17. Predator Handshake says

    Very appropriate Google Doodle for his birthday. There’s an invisible dragon there and it does stuff if you click on it, I promise!

  18. greame says

    Very appropriate Google Doodle for his birthday. There’s an invisible dragon there and it does stuff if you click on it, I promise!

    *Pulls out baloney detection kit…* ;)

  19. Blobulon says

    I had to google the apple pie reference. In doing so found out that Carl was a stoner. I had no idea!

    Happy Birthday duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude.

  20. Brett says

    I’ll second Kel, and say that it’s time to re-read The Demon-Haunted World. That was always my favorite Sagan book, and it played a key role in my transition to atheism.

  21. kennyg says

    Happy birthday, Carl! You will forever be remembered and honored by rational folk the world over.

  22. outaworkee says

    Yeah, it was Broca’s Brain and Dragons of Eden that helped convince me that science was great.

  23. Marius Rowell says

    “A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism.”

    Carl Sagan”

    If only all religions demanded celibacy of all members the world would be a better place in just a few more generations.

    Happy Birthday, Carl – I do miss the xmas lectures.

  24. greame says

    @26 Blobulon

    I had to google the apple pie reference. In doing so found out that Carl was a stoner. I had no idea!

    Happy Birthday duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude.

    If this isn’t what you found, you can read his annonymous essay by Mr. X on cannabis use.

    While I’m at it I’ll share a few of my favorite Sagan links…

    If anyone hasn’t seen them, check out the Carl Sagan Tribute Series on Youtube.

    For a great little comic story, check out Carl Sagan and his Fully Armed Spaceship of the Imagination as he battles astrology.

    And see Carl Sagan invade internet memes

  25. NitricAcid says

    Now I’m craving apple pie. I loved the book Cosmos as a child, but found that his accent ruined the show for me.

  26. says

    Steve Benson, grandson of mormon prophet/seer/revelator Ezra Taft Benson, took the time recently to debunk several claims that Carl Sagan believed in UFOs, alien visitors to earth, and so on. Having debunked mormonism, Benson is skilled at debunking other myths.



    …There is, indeed, a breathless story floating around out there in outer space, er, cyberspace about Sagan supposedly coming clean on UFOs…. courtesy of a UFO-buff publication out of Denver–the “Denver UFO Examiner (DUE)”…”ZlandCommunications News Network,” or “ZNN” (not to be confused with “CNN”).

    “ZNN” announced that “[r]enowned astronomer and astrophysicist Dr. Carl Sagan revealed to [astronomer, professor and ufologist] Dr. J. Allen Hynek that he believed UFOs were real but avoided any public statements to prevent the loss of academic research funding. Sagan’s once powerful influence on mainstream science to play-down the reality of UFOs is now in question.”

    …“’My RECOLLECTION is that Hynek said it was backstage of one of the many Johnny Carson “Tonight” shows Sagan did. He [Sagan] BASICALLY SAID [to Hynek] in 1984, ‘I know UFOs are real, but I would not risk my research [college] funding, as you do, to talk openly about them in public.’”

    Note that Leopizzi-Harris describes her claim as a “recollection” of a statement Sagan is alleged to have made backstage during the Johnny Carson “Tonight Show,” in 1984, to an individual who is now dead (Hynet having died back in 1986).

    Not exactly a meteoric trail of blazing evidence.

    …(“Carl Sagan Knew UFOs Are Real, Confidant Reveals, but Kept Viewpoint Quiet to Avoid Losing Funding,” by Jeff Peckman, “Denver UFO Examiner,” 6 May 2010, at: http://www.examiner.com/ufo-in-denver/carl-sagan-knew-ufos-are-real-confidant-reveals-but-kept-viewpoint-quiet-to-avoid-losing-funding
    The “ZlandCommunications News Network” describes itself on its blog (in rather sensationalistic language) as “a news service dedicated to the compilation, distribution and analysis of news relating to the Disclosure of information concerning the EXTRATERRESTRIAL PRESENCE ENGAGING THE PLANET AS MANIFESTED BY THE UFO PHENOMENON AND OTHER RELATED ANOMALOUS EVENTS.”

    (“Zyland Communications” blogspot at: http://zlandcommunications.blogspot.com/, emphasis added)

    OK, so what about the writer for the “Denver UFO Examiner,” Jeff Peckman, who relayed Sagan’s alleged UFO confession from “ZNN”?

    To be polite, Peckman comes across as a non-mainstream “science writer” (using that term quite loosely), as demonstrated by this dramatic description of what he does:

    “Jeff Peckman’s ‘Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission’ campaign and ‘alien-in-the-window-video’ press conference became global news in 2008. He advocates exposing government cover-ups of UFO’s and extraterrestrials.”

    (“Jeff Peckman,” at: http://www.examiner.com/ufo-in-denver/jeff-peckman)

    Below are details unmentioned in the above description concerning the life, times, education and career of Jeff Peckman (including about his “Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission” and “alien-in-the-window” video):

    “Peckman attended Maharishi International University in Iowa for one year. . .

    “In 1998 Peckman ran for the United States Senate as a member of the Natural Law Party, receiving 0.31% of the votes and coming in fifth in a field of seven. He is a practitioner and teacher of Transcendental Meditation. He promotes Metatron Technology, which he says defends against ‘harmful electromagnetic waves’ by transforming them into ‘desirable healthy energy.’

    “In 2003, Peckman got an initiative on the ballot in Denver which said, ‘Shall the voters for the city and county of Denver adopt an initiative ordinance to require the city to help ensure public safety by increasing peacefulness?’ The initiative failed to gain enough votes to pass. . .

  27. peterh says

    I have several of Sagan’s books as well as the Cosmos DVD set; The Dragons of Eden and The Demon Haunted World are the two I seem to revisit with regularity and with relish. Sagan was certainly a great communicator of the mind’s wonderful propensity for wondering and learning. He is certainly missed and remains deeply appreciated.

  28. says

    I was raised in a strict fundamentalist christian family, but I had the good fortune to have an uncle that often offered to babysit me as a child. His version of babysitting usually involved watching Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking, or reading their books. Those explanations of the universe filled my heart far more than the biblical teachings I got the rest of the week ever did. Thank goodness for good men who understand how incredibly amazing the universe is, without some big boogie man in the sky to make it so.

  29. SimBri says

    After reading about him on sites like this I looked for Cosmos on YouTube a couple of months ago. I was instantly hooked and watched them all in a couple of days. Someone above said they were put off by his accent, but I found his voice almost hypnotic. Great stuff. I think I’ll have to pick up one of his books now.

  30. says

    I’ve had Cosmos on my phone/laptop/tablet for over a year. lol Is awesome. I love the soundtrack so much- it is freaky. I love the far out videos too

  31. says

    I have the sound of the Cosmos series on my sleepytime playlist – for some reason astronomy and cosmology TV shows bliss me right out and are among the few things I can fall asleep to.

    My only complaint with Cosmos is when I wake up in the middle of the Betty and Barney Hill UFO incident – the rhythmic thunking of the windshield wipers can make me momentarily panic.

  32. Father Ogvorbis, OM: Delightfully Machiavellian says

    I credit Cosmos and Connections with showing me how to explain complicated ideas without dumbing them down. Very useful in my job. Thank you, Carl Sagan.

  33. cyberCMDR says

    Carl Sagan:
    For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

    Take that, Creationists!

  34. NitricAcid says

    That reminds me- I ought to make sure my copy of Cosmos is somewhere my kids can reach it….

  35. Jason says

    Just bought Demon-Haunted World yesterday and started reading it to celebrate the occasion. I’ve read portions of it online and in anthologies and have been meaning to get around to reading the whole thing. Loving it so far.

    Like many others commenting, Cosmos was very important to me. It elevated my interest in science despite going through a few years where I had family and peer pressure to stay Christian. And so it played an indirect role in the fact that I was able to emerge from my teenage years with a desire to be rational and a distaste for those who want to tell me that all the answers we need have already been revealed.

  36. magistramarla says

    My husband e-mailed me from work after he read this, asking me to make an apple pie. I agreed, but he has to do the difficult part when he gets home – coring, peeling and slicing the apples.
    I’ll make two, and I’ll have an interesting story to share with mt gourmet group tomorrow evening.

  37. magistramarla says

    A quick addendum to my last response – it is still early in the evening of Nov. 9 in California!

  38. Joe says

    sorry but

    >> Happy Birthday, Carl. we miss you.
    >> have a slice of Pi : 3.1415926/

    is unfortunately inaccurate. pi to that precision is 3.1415927

    I am truly sorry for being such a pettifogger