by Carl Sagan


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Cosmos is one of the bestselling science books of all time. In clear-eyed prose, Sagan reveals a jewel-like blue world inhabited by a life form that is just beginning to discover its own identity and to venture into the vast ocean of space. Featuring a new Introduction by Sagan’s collaborator, Ann Druyan, full color illustrations, and a new Foreword by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Cosmos retraces the fourteen billion years of cosmic evolution that have transformed matter into consciousness, exploring such topics as the origin of life, the human brain, Egyptian hieroglyphics, spacecraft missions, the death of the Sun, the evolution of galaxies, and the forces and individuals who helped to shape modern science.

Praise for Cosmos
“Magnificent . . . With a lyrical literary style, and a range that touches almost all aspects of human knowledge, Cosmos often seems too good to be true.”The Plain Dealer
“Sagan is an astronomer with one eye on the stars, another on history, and a third—his mind’s—on the human condition.”Newsday
“Brilliant in its scope and provocative in its suggestions . . . shimmers with a sense of wonder.”The Miami Herald
“Sagan dazzles the mind with the miracle of our survival, framed by the stately galaxies of space.”Cosmopolitan
“Enticing . . . iridescent . . . imaginatively illustrated.”The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780394502946
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/12/1980
Pages: 365
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 1.50(h) x 9.50(d)

About the Author

Carl Sagan served as the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He played a leading role in the Mariner, Viking, Voyager, and Galileo spacecraft expeditions, for which he received the NASA Medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and (twice) for Distinguished Public Service.

His Emmy- and Peabody–winning television series, Cosmos, became the most widely watched series in the history of American public television. The accompanying book, also called Cosmos, is one of the bestselling science books ever published in the English language. Dr. Sagan received the Pulitzer Prize, the Oersted Medal, and many other awards—including twenty honorary degrees from American colleges and universities—for his contributions to science, literature, education, and the preservation of the environment. In their posthumous award to Dr. Sagan of their highest honor, the National Science Foundation declared that his “research transformed planetary science . . . his gifts to mankind were infinite.” Dr. Sagan died on December 20, 1996.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter I

The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean

The first men to be created and formed were called the Sorcerer of Fatal Laughter, the Sorcerer of Night, Unkempt, and the Black Sorcerer . . . They were endowed with intelligence, they succeeded in knowing all that there is in the world. When they looked, instantly they saw all that is around them, and they contemplated in turn the arc of heaven and the round face of the earth . . . [Then the Creator said]: “They know all . . . what shall we do with them now? Let their sight reach only to that which is near; let them see only a little of the face of the earth! . . . Are they not by nature simple creatures of our making? Must they also be gods?”

—The Popol Vuh of the Quiché Maya

The known is finite, the unknown infinite; intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land.

—T. H. Huxley, 1887

The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us—there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.

The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky.

Those explorations required skepticism and imagination both. Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it, we go nowhere. Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. The Cosmos is rich beyond measure—in elegant facts, in exquisite interrelationships, in the subtle machinery of awe.

The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. From it we have learned most of what we know. Recently, we have waded a little out to sea, enough to dampen our toes or, at most, wet our ankles. The water seems inviting. The ocean calls. Some part of our being knows this is from where we came. We long to return. These aspirations are not, I think, irreverent, although they may trouble whatever gods may be.

The dimensions of the Cosmos are so large that using familiar units of distance, such as meters or miles, chosen for their utility on Earth, would make little sense. Instead, we measure distance with the speed of light. In one second a beam of light travels 186,000 miles, nearly 300,000 kilometers or seven times around the Earth. In eight minutes it will travel from the Sun to the Earth. We can say the Sun is eight light-minutes away. In a year, it crosses nearly ten trillion kilometers, about six trillion miles, of intervening space. That unit of length, the distance light goes in a year, is called a light-year. It measures not time but distances—enormous distances.

The Earth is a place. It is by no means the only place. It is not even a typical place. No planet or star or galaxy can be typical, because the Cosmos is mostly empty. The only typical place is within the vast, cold, universal vacuum, the everlasting night of intergalactic space, a place so strange and desolate that, by comparison, planets and stars and galaxies seem achingly rare and lovely. If we were randomly inserted into the Cosmos, the chance that we would find ourselves on or near a planet would be less than one in a billion trillion trillion (1033, a one followed by 33 zeroes). In everyday life such odds are called compelling. Worlds are precious.

From an intergalactic vantage point we would see, strewn like sea froth on the waves of space, innumerable faint, wispy tendrils of light. These are the galaxies. Some are solitary wanderers; most inhabit communal clusters, huddling together, drifting endlessly in the great cosmic dark. Before us is the Cosmos on the grandest scale we know. We are in the realm of the nebulae, eight billion light-years from Earth, halfway to the edge of the known universe.

A galaxy is composed of gas and dust and stars—billions upon billions of stars. Every star may be a sun to someone. Within a galaxy are stars and worlds and, it may be, a proliferation of living things and intelligent beings and spacefaring civilizations. But from afar, a galaxy reminds me more of a collection of lovely found objects—seashells, perhaps, or corals, the productions of Nature laboring for aeons in the cosmic ocean.

There are some hundred billion (1011) galaxies, each with, on the average, a hundred billion stars. In all the galaxies, there are perhaps as many planets as stars, 1011 × 1011 = 1022, ten billion trillion. In the face of such overpowering numbers, what is the likelihood that only one ordinary star, the Sun, is accompanied by an inhabited planet? Why should we, tucked away in some forgotten corner of the Cosmos, be so fortunate? To me, it seems far more likely that the universe is brimming over with life. But we humans do not yet know. We are just beginning our explorations. From eight billion light-years away we are hard pressed to find even the cluster in which our Milky Way Galaxy is embedded, much less the Sun or the Earth. The only planet we are sure is inhabited is a tiny speck of rock and metal, shining feebly by reflected sunlight, and at this distance utterly lost.

But presently our journey takes us to what astronomers on Earth like to call the Local Group of galaxies. Several million light-years across, it is composed of some twenty constituent galaxies. It is a sparse and obscure and unpretentious cluster. One of these galaxies is M31, seen from the Earth in the constellation Andromeda. Like other spiral galaxies, it is a huge pinwheel of stars, gas and dust. M31 has two small satellites, dwarf elliptical galaxies bound to it by gravity, by the identical law of physics that tends to keep me in my chair. The laws of nature are the same throughout the Cosmos. We are now two million light-years from home.

Beyond M31 is another, very similar galaxy, our own, its spiral arms turning slowly, once every quarter billion years. Now, forty thousand light-years from home, we find ourselves falling toward the massive center of the Milky Way. But if we wish to find the Earth, we must redirect our course to the remote outskirts of the Galaxy, to an obscure locale near the edge of a distant spiral arm.

Our overwhelming impression, even between the spiral arms, is of stars streaming by us—a vast array of exquisitely self-luminous stars, some as flimsy as a soap bubble and so large that they could contain ten thousand Suns or a trillion Earths; others the size of a small town and a hundred trillion times denser than lead. Some stars are solitary, like the Sun. Most have companions. Systems are commonly double, two stars orbiting one another. But there is a continuous gradation from triple systems through loose clusters of a few dozen stars to the great globular clusters, resplendent with a million suns. Some double stars are so close that they touch, and starstuff flows between them. Most are as separated as Jupiter is from the Sun. Some stars, the supernovae, are as bright as the entire galaxy that contains them; others, the black holes, are invisible from a few kilometers away. Some shine with a constant brightness; others flicker uncertainly or blink with an unfaltering rhythm. Some rotate in stately elegance; others spin so feverishly that they distort themselves to oblateness. Most shine mainly in visible and infrared light; others are also brilliant sources of X-rays or radio waves. Blue stars are hot and young; yellow stars, conventional and middle-aged; red stars, often elderly and dying; and small white or black stars are in the final throes of death. The Milky Way contains some 400 billion stars of all sorts moving with a complex and orderly grace. Of all the stars, the inhabitants of Earth know close-up, so far, but one.

Each star system is an island in space, quarantined from its neighbors by the light-years. I can imagine creatures evolving into glimmerings of knowledge on innumerable worlds, every one of them assuming at first their puny planet and paltry few suns to be all that is. We grow up in isolation. Only slowly do we teach ourselves the Cosmos.

Some stars may be surrounded by millions of lifeless and rocky worldlets, planetary systems frozen at some early stage in their evolution. Perhaps many stars have planetary systems rather like our own: at the periphery, great gaseous ringed planets and icy moons, and nearer to the center, small, warm, blue-white, cloud-covered worlds. On some, intelligent life may have evolved, reworking the planetary surface in some massive engineering enterprise. These are our brothers and sisters in the Cosmos. Are they very different from us? What is their form, biochemistry, neurobiology, history, politics, science, technology, art, music, religion, philosophy? Perhaps someday we will know them.

We have now reached our own backyard, a light-year from Earth. Surrounding our Sun is a spherical swarm of giant snowballs composed of ice and rock and organic molecules: the cometary nuclei. Every now and then a passing star gives a tiny gravitational tug, and one of them obligingly careens into the inner solar system. There the Sun heats it, the ice is vaporized, and a lovely cometary tail develops.

We approach the planets of our system, largish worlds, captives of the Sun, gravitationally constrained to follow nearly circular orbits, heated mainly by sunlight. Pluto, covered with methane ice and accompanied by its solitary giant moon Charon, is illuminated by a distant Sun, which appears as no more than a bright point of light in a pitch-black sky. The giant gas worlds, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn—the jewel of the solar system—and Jupiter all have an entourage of icy moons. Interior to the region of gassy planets and orbiting icebergs are the warm, rocky provinces of the inner solar system. There is, for example, the red planet Mars, with soaring volcanoes, great rift valleys, enormous planet-wide sandstorms, and, just possibly, some simple forms of life. All the planets orbit the Sun, the nearest star, an inferno of hydrogen and helium gas engaged in thermonuclear reactions, flooding the solar system with light.

Finally, at the end of all our wanderings, we return to our tiny, fragile, blue-white world, lost in a cosmic ocean vast beyond our most courageous imaginings. It is a world among an immensity of others. It may be significant only for us. The Earth is our home, our parent. Our kind of life arose and evolved here. The human species is coming of age here. It is on this world that we developed our passion for exploring the Cosmos, and it is here that we are, in some pain and with no guarantees, working out our destiny.

Welcome to the planet Earth—a place of blue nitrogen skies, oceans of liquid water, cool forests and soft meadows, a world positively rippling with life. In the cosmic perspective it is, as I have said, poignantly beautiful and rare; but it is also, for the moment, unique. In all our journeying through space and time, it is, so far, the only world on which we know with certainty that the matter of the Cosmos has become alive and aware. There must be many such worlds scattered through space, but our search for them begins here, with the accumulated wisdom of the men and women of our species, garnered at great cost over a million years. We are privileged to live among brilliant and passionately inquisitive people, and in a time when the search for knowledge is generally prized. Human beings, born ultimately of the stars and now for a while inhabiting a world called Earth, have begun their long voyage home.

The discovery that the Earth is a little world was made, as so many important human discoveries were, in the ancient Near East, in a time some humans call the third century b.c., in the greatest metropolis of the age, the Egyptian city of Alexandria. Here there lived a man named Eratosthenes. One of his envious contemporaries called him “Beta,” the second letter of the Greek alphabet, because, he said, Eratosthenes was second best in the world in everything. But it seems clear that in almost everything Eratosthenes was “Alpha.” He was an astronomer, historian, geographer, philosopher, poet, theater critic and mathematician. The titles of the books he wrote range from Astronomy to On Freedom from Pain. He was also the director of the great library of Alexandria, where one day he read in a papyrus book that in the southern frontier outpost of Syene, near the first cataract of the Nile, at noon on June 21 vertical sticks cast no shadows. On the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, as the hours crept toward midday, the shadows of temple columns grew shorter. At noon, they were gone. A reflection of the Sun could then be seen in the water at the bottom of a deep well. The Sun was directly overhead.

It was an observation that someone else might easily have ignored. Sticks, shadows, reflections in wells, the position of the Sun—of what possible importance could such simple everyday matters be? But Eratosthenes was a scientist, and his musings on these commonplaces changed the world; in a way, they made the world. Eratosthenes had the presence of mind to do an experiment, actually to observe whether in Alexandria vertical sticks cast shadows near noon on June 21. And, he discovered, sticks do.

Eratosthenes asked himself how, at the same moment, a stick in Syene could cast no shadow and a stick in Alexandria, far to the north, could cast a pronounced shadow. Consider a map of ancient Egypt with two vertical sticks of equal length, one stuck in Alexandria, the other in Syene. Suppose that, at a certain moment, each stick casts no shadow at all. This is perfectly easy to understand—provided the Earth is flat. The Sun would then be directly overhead. If the two sticks cast shadows of equal length, that also would make sense on a flat Earth: the Sun’s rays would then be inclined at the same angle to the two sticks. But how could it be that at the same instant there was no shadow at Syene and a substantial shadow at Alexandria?

Table of Contents

Reflections on Carl Sagan's Cosmos, by Neil deGrasse Tyson xiii

Foreword Ann Druyan xvii

Introduction xxi

I The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean 1

II One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue 17

III The Harmony of Worlds 41

IV Heaven and Hell 76

V Blues for a Red Planet 108

VI Travelers' Tales 142

VII The Backbone of Night 171

VIII Travels in Space and Time 207

IX The Lives of the Stars 229

X The Edge of Forever 256

XI The Persistence of Memory 284

XII Encyclopaedia Galactica 307

XIII Who Speaks for Earth? 336

Acknowledgments 367

Appendix 1 Reductio ad Absurdum and the Square Root of Two 369

Appendix 2 The Five Pythagorean Solids 372

For Further Reading 375

Index 384

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Cosmos 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
Pandaocalypse More than 1 year ago
Everything about this book is fascinating! Carl Sagan provides great facts and EXCELLENT food for thought as he ponders life's mysteries. A great thing about this book is that it IS filled with lots of information, but the way Carl Sagan presents it makes it easier to understand and he even put foot notes about how certain scientific numbers were calculated, for those who like seeing HOW things are done. Over all this book is one of the best I've read and I personally think everyone should read it!
-NICK- More than 1 year ago
In Cosmos, Carl Sagan takes you on an incredible journey through time and through space. Few sections of science go ignored in this book even though each topic is covered thoroughly and intelligibly. Along with the many relevant facts, Sagan gives his thoughtful analysis and insight to make everything crystal clear. What I most like about Cosmos is how the knowledge introduced is done so in a poetic way which spices it up from being like a textbook and makes it seem like a work of art. Furthermore, Sagan's delivery instigates very profound and spectacular thought of the wonder of how the world works and how well humanity could exist compared to the present. This book is seriously full of mind blowing information that is just plain fun to think about. The most endearing part of this book is how it is written with so much heart, passion, and fervor. If there is anything to complain about it'd be that some parts require numerous re-readings to fully comprehend as some of the concepts are so difficult to grasp. If you are thinking about reading this book then you must. You learn so much from this book and as the adage goes, "knowledge is power". All joking aside, this is a really enjoyable book because it really makes you think and it paints the picture of how beautiful and wonderful the world, the universe, and mere existence are! This book will get a ten out of ten every time in my eyes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The most influencial book I have ever read. Sagan leads us across time and space, showing the evolution of thought and mankind. He is a prophet of science and nature, showing us that we are all part of the matter and the spaces between of the Universe.
AmoghJ More than 1 year ago
Cosmos is just fantastic! This definitely is a 5 star book. In Cosmos Carl Sagan takes one on a ride through the universe and all of its perplexities including time and evolution. He discusses Einstein’s Special and General Theories of Relativity as well as topics on how the universe came to be. Additionally¸ the amazing voyages of various spacecraft such as the Voyager are discussed and of course the witty personal life of Carl Sagan are discussed as well. Furthermore, Sagan tells his readers about his viewpoint on extraterrestrial life, which is that the largeness of the universe permits the existence of thousands of alien civilizations but no credible evidence exists to demonstrate that such life exists. Sagan also explores the anthropological, cosmological, and biological matters from long ago until modern day times. Lastly, future speculations of science are discussed. Throughout this book there are many features I like, while there are many that I do not. One thing that I find appealing about this book is the way Carl Sagan explains theories such as Relativity, makes it such that the reader understands the topic easily and in its entirety. In addition, I like how Carl Sagan weaves historical events and science together. This just adds “flavor” to the book instead of just being straight-up science facts. Another thing I find interesting about this book is the mixing of Sagan’s life events with science fact. Once again, this just adds flavor to the book so it is not just facts. Lastly, one thing I found extremely interesting was Sagan’s tone. He uses a very casual tone, like he is making conversation to his reader. He uses this to his advantage, so that he does not sound like a textbook. On the other hand, there are many things about this book that I was disappointed in. One major thing was sometimes the amount of philosophical and political rants from Carl Sagan were too much, and in the end they took away from what this book had to offer. Also, on rare occasions Sagan would go on random tangents that weren’t related to the topic. While sometimes they were humorous, when there were too many this also took away from what the book had to offer. While this book was written to gain the attention of the average person, that person should definitely have a mindset in order to really enjoy this book. One should have an interest in science whether it be very small, because even though Carl Sagan explains topics in a way most people can understand, if they are not interested they will probably get very bored. Without a doubt Cosmos is utterly fantastic and makes one ponder about the universe and the strange yet fascinating events that occur in it.
Katie03 More than 1 year ago
I decided to read Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" after reading his wonderful book "Contact." (Much better than the movie!) His descriptions throughout that book were simple enough that I could understand, but not so simple that I felt like I was missing out on the important aspects. "Cosmos" is even better. A science book that is actually interesting, the descriptions and explanations are in-depth and comprehensive, but easy enough for a non-scientist to understand. Although written quite a while ago in terms of science, I feel like this book gives a great basic understanding to many concepts, allowing me to read newer, and more difficult, books. I definitely recommend this for any person who wants a better understanding of the cosmos, especially those with little to no scientific background.
Jbeck More than 1 year ago
I recall when the Cosmos Series was on television and what a wonderful experience it was. It was my first introduction to Carl Sagan and his warm, welcoming manner and friendly presentation made me a loyal viewer for the entire series. The Book, Cosmos, I purchased for reading for my travels in Italy in celebration of the IYA2009 and it was a perfect choice. Carl Sagan's heart and mind pour our of every page and everything he presents is well within the grasp of even scientifically challenged readers like me. The warmth and human quality of the book make it one i cannot recommend strongly enough. Read it, then read it again. You're welcome. jb
Guest More than 1 year ago
This second Masterpiece from Carl Sagan is better most documentaries with a book companion. The detailed scientific and historical information is laid out beautifully with no stone left unturned. Dr. Sagan shows that We are indebted to the thousands of years of research that came before in other cultures. Without them, there would have been no advancement. And he knows how to show that many of the problems that We face today are of our own making and the responsibility to solve those problems is Our Own, NOT someone else. This book and the TV series should be in use as mandatory science education tools in our schools. They are both far superior to the textbooks and techniques currently in use.
TheLiveSoundGuy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When you truly understand Carl Sagan's views of the Cosmos, it will become very clear that we are only just beginning our journey. It is no wonder that this book is a classic for all of time. Carl Sagan was truly one of the higher forms of intelligent life
richardbsmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is an older book,and much has been done in astronomy since 1980. He mentions the supernovae observed by Brahe in 1572 and by Kepler in 1604, and laments that there have been none since. He talks about no observation of a comet colliding with a planet.Since the publication, both have been observed.But it is not so much the specifics of astronomy that make this a must read book, even today with the retiring shuttle program, the coming replacement of Hubble evidencing the age of the book.That said, the science in the book remains true, and the presentation is an excellent help for any who are new to the study of astronomy. There is the additional benefit today of looking back to appreciate the vision that Carl Sagan had in 1980.Sagan covers the cosmos in this book. He offers a modern perspective, informed with scientific method and scientific knowledge of multiple fields, an understanding and an appreciation of faith, a hope and a challenge for us all.This with the added benefit that Carl Sagan writes well. His understated irony will provide you with many powerful and memorable quotes, as well as many opportunities to smile.Enjoy his knowledge, his perspective, his hope, and his challenge for us.
michaelcruse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Much better than the TV show
lpg3d on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While this book is now somewhat dated, it is still worth reading for an excellent view of our place in the universe.
dlgoldie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a B. Dalton science book buyer, this was one of my few "bestsellers"! Gotta love that!
Tullius22 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Overall, I found the writing adequate, usually. Some parts were better than average, other parts were flawed. As to the flaws, I will, for this review, restrict myself to saying that at times it could be a bit scattered and disorganized, however lofty the prose. And, to take one, probably very sensitive example, I did not understand the reasoning behind entering into a discussion of natural selection in a book about astronomy. Natural selection is a very important concept (and I do indeed assent to it), but it belongs to biology, not astronomy. Darwin did not write about the lives of the stars, and it is, quite simply, no slight to him to say so. I believe the purpose of including it as a topic was essentially polemical, and in doing so, he not only muddies the waters at that specific point, but by broading his scope beyond his proper subject, gives himself, in other areas as well, the intellectual space to wax loquacious about subjects, such as folklore, for example, which are far outside his competency, and not always with the utmost degree of respect. In short, he should not have dragged the divisions and factions of the earth with him to the stars of the heavens. I therefore conclude that, however great his technical knowledge and great reputation, that this book of his is a somewhat flawed production. (7/10)
danconsiglio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I remember this PBS series from when I was a kid. The shots of space and interviews with well spoken scientists stuck with me as I grew up and had a continued casual interest in physics and astronomy. While neither of these academic disciplines were ever my strong suit I still like to read up on the Hubble Space Telescope and whatever NASA is up to these days.Sagan's companion to the TV series goes much further than what I remember. I did not expect the spiritual direction in which he takes the big ideas in science that he presents. The book presents the love of science that has driven humanity to continue to ask questions of the universe around us. I found this book to be as informative in its exploration of learning and inquiry as it is about the actual findings concerning the universe. It presents a truly awesome view of the universe that even delves into the way that we can use our knowledge of the physical world to live better social and spiritual lives. Good freakin' stuff!
GaryPatella on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book follows the 13 episode series in content. Nevertheless, I believe that this is a worthy read even for those that have watched every episode of Cosmos. The book allows Sagan to go into a bit more detail on certain topics (e.g. the planetary orbits in our solar system). Yet there are many insights in the series that were not present in the book.I suppose what it comes down to is this: although the series and the book are very closely aligned, they are not in perfect alignment. Something can be gained from the book that is not available in the series, and vice versa. A true Sagan fan should embrace both.
ashishg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Written in 1980s, Cosmos is a comprehensive general science book dealing with history of astronomy and evolution. Book provides a overview of our universe and planet, regarding laws that govern them, how they were discovered, and what lies ahead. Information is well researched and well written in captivating way.
mckenz18 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First of all, I find the style employed by Sagan very readable. He does not dumb down what he is talking about, but he makes it accessible for someone without an intense background in science courses. I also like that much of the foundation of the book is comprised of concepts and ideas that I have already learned about and understand. Such a jumping off point made for easier comprehension of more in depth discussion. As for the subjects he treated, they ranged a wide spectrum, including biology, astronomy, evolution, and genetics. In tackling these topics he refers to many instances in history, philosophy, religion, and folklore, which adds a particular richness that most people at first glance might not assign to science. The one pitfall of this book is that it was written over twenty years ago¿so it is dated. Despite this, much of the book is still pertinent, and the insights packed in every page made it a worthwhile read for me. Reading Carl Sagan is like having a passionate conversation with a friend that happens to be a scientist. He is completely amiable in every sentence that he writes. Not only did I find that this book educated me on a range of topics that I was interested in, but it made me feel better equipped in my knowledge of the planet I live on and the universe around me.
boweraj on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fun read especially after 20 years (maybe 30 soon?). I found my mom's copy. If you are going to read this book, find the hardcover edition with the full page color pictures. This is where Sagan ties everything together beautifully.
Jasignature on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Possibly the first 'Scientist' who was able to popularise Astronomy/Science to the mass audience and his book descibes in a very 'layman' fashion which was mostly why it was a success around the world. Carl Sagan - he who brought the Heavens back 'down to earth'.
Beanstalk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I watched the Cosmos series about 16 years in High School. I was one of the few who actually enjoyed it, but never got around to reading the book until now. It brought back some good memories of the wondrous historic detail and and the exciting scientific facts and theories about this universe of which we are lucky enough to be floating around. Even many years later this was a fresh new view into the Cosmos. My only wish would be to be around long enough to actually witness some of the great discoveries that are bound to be had...probably many many thousands (or millions) of years from now. Excellent book!
Wprecht on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The classic introduction to astronomy and cosomolgy. I remember watching the TV series with Carl Sagan as a teenager, it was very inspirational.
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em370 More than 1 year ago
Starts out great, but ends on a bad note. For most of Cosmos by Carl Sagan the history of scientific advancement is discussed as well as some of NASA’s recent missions. It gives a very thorough look at science throughout history and what has helped and hindered it, from ancient libraries to book burnings. Discussions of ancient experiments and the scientific method are also given and explored. His discussion of scientific past is very impartial and uses logical deduction to help expand understanding of the ancient world. Towards the very end of the book, however, Carl Sagan veers away from strict science and facts and begins talking about his political views for the future, many of which he gives poor arguments for or leaves out any explanation at all. Many of his moral arguments are based on the fact that aggression developed before sex, so we should do away with marriage and encourage children to fulfill their sexual desires and give in to lust to prevent violence. There is no evidence that giving in to certain instincts inhibits others. His grasp on global politics is also very weak. He believes that by disarming all nuclear weapons the United States will make its enemies less likely to attack, which simply is not the case. He is against all retaliation against terrorists and believes their actions are validated simply because the United States maintains a military. Sticking strictly to the scientific content of the book Cosmos provides a great view of the history and future of science, but its logical and factual flow is greatly sundered by the last 50 pages in which he abandons scientific and logical thinking to spout his political nonsense.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A Wonderful Journey Through Time And Space In this book Carl Sagan takes you across the universe. He takes you from the beginning of time and matter to the distant future billions of years from now. He captures your imagination with astonishing facts and keeps you engrossed until the last page. At first you learn all about the history of science, every significant experiment and contribution there ever was. He gives you in depth detail about little known facts from 2000 years ago, and you learn how surprising facts were discovered. He goes on to explain everything about the universe from black holes, stars, the big bang, and anything else you can think of. One of the major themes is how exceptionally rare and precious life really is. The dangers of nuclear war are constantly addressed as well as how important it is to look for life beyond Earth. Sagan does an amazing job of illustrating how insignificant humans are in size, but how special and unique they are. I loved how much you learned and how effortlessly Carl Sagan could explain quasars and theorems and how a black hole forms. I would recommend this to any inquisitive person, and anyone who wonders about space. The book can feel like a list of facts at parts, and I wouldn’t suggest this book for anyone who likes adventure tales or books you fly through in a day because this book will make you stop and think. Overall I think everyone would benefit from reading this book and it’s hard not to gasp when you read about light speed, and the possibility of meeting other life forms. I would give this book five stars and it is absolutely one of the best books I have ever read. If you want to be excited and shocked and breath taken all at the same time, then this is the book for you.