On September 28, 1980, PBS aired the first episode of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: a Personal Voyage. For me, it was like someone finally showing me the back room of the museum, you know, where all the good stuff is. I was 12.
I’d been learning about science in school, of course, but I was always disappointed by it. Where was all the good stuff? Where were the connections, the links to my life experience, the relationship between science and religion, art, culture, music, and so on? Cosmos brought it all together for me, showed me that science was not just a subject in school. It was a way of seeing the world. A way of seeing with new eyes.
Since I’ve already reviewed all 13 episodes of Cosmos on this blog, for this 30th birthday I’ll just list some of my favorite Sagan quotes from the series. There are so many more, and of course the context is greater still – an emergence that changed me (and others, too) forever.
“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 of a distant memory, as if we were falling from a great height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”
“We on Earth have just awakened to the great oceans of space and time from which we have emerged. We are the legacy of 15 billion years of cosmic evolution. We have a choice: We can enhance life and come to know the universe that made us, or we can squander our 15 billion-year heritage in meaningless self-destruction. What happens in the first second of the next cosmic year depends on what we do, here and now, with our intelligence and our knowledge of the cosmos.”
“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”
“National boundaries are not evident when we view the Earth from space. Fanatical ethnic or religious or national identifications are a little difficult to support when we see our Earth as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and the citadel of the stars.”
“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.”
“A googolplex is precisely as far from infinity as is the number 1.”
“We speak for Earth.”
“We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.”
“Every one of us is precious in the cosmic perspective. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”
“The Cosmos if full beyond measure of elegant truths, of exquisite interrelationships, of the awesome machinery of nature.”
“We embarked on our cosmic voyage with a question first framed in the childhood of our species and in each generation asked anew with undiminished wonder: What are the stars? Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.”
” . . . the Cosmos is also within us; we are made of ‘star stuff’ – we are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.”
Happy birthday Cosmos!