12. CARL SAGAN: Make the most of this life
Carl Sagan (1934-1996) was an American astronomer, cosmologist, author and the coolest nerd ever. He was famous for making science accessible to anyone with half a brain. His 1980 documentary series, Cosmos, inspired a whole generation of people and I think it’s the greatest television series ever made. I only watched it for the first time five years ago (I wish I saw it when I was 14 instead of 24), but since then I’ve devoured all of Sagan’s books and watched Cosmos again about a thousand times. His work explained so much to me: the history of the cosmos, evolution, civilisation, the beauty of science, the perils of superstition and pseudoscience, the origin of religion – basically life, the universe and everything. Carl Sagan was the teacher I never had.
– Sagan wrote the above quote in an article for Parade magazine in 1996 while in hospital and facing death himself. It’s a beautiful article and you can read the whole thing here.
– I highly recommend you watch Cosmos (it’s on Youtube). Yes, It was made over 30 years ago and it looks a bit dated, but I can honestly say it was life-changing for me.
– If you don’t have a spare 13 hours, then these short 10-minute Sagan tribute clips edited by Milky Way Musings are a good place to start.
– Seth MacFarlane (yes, the Family Guy creator) and Neil deGrasse Tyson (often said to be this generation’s Carl Sagan) are making a Cosmos sequel that will air next year.
– I find Carl Sagan’s voice to be soothing and pleasantly hypnotic. Others think it sounds like Agent Smith from The Matrix.