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[Book] Carl Sagan’s Quest for Extraterrestrial

Posted March. 17, 2008 08:31,   


The newly released book, “Carl Sagan,” starts with an unrealized dream of a man: Carl Sagan (1934-1996). He devoted his whole life to looking for life in the cosmos. Though his quest ended in failure, he was renowned for his passion for that dream.

“Carl Sagan” is about the life of Carl Sagan, the author of bestselling book “Cosmos” and movie “Contact,” which was adapted to the screen. Author William Poundstone, who specializes in science non-fiction, meticulously depicts Sagan’s life: his childhood when he was indulged in stars and science fiction; his college days when he was absorbed in UFOs; his quest for life in the universe; his scientific writings that enjoyed popularity among the public but were shunned by the mainstream scientific circle; and his unhappy marriage life.

Lee Myeong-hyeon, a senior researcher of Astronomy Department at Yonsei University, wrote his recommendation for the book, saying, “With this book, one will appreciate Sagan’s achievements involving diverse academic fields. He made these achievements by breaking with academic prejudices and boundaries.” His recommendation will bring home to many readers when they read about what Sagan did for life.

When the space probe Pioneer 10 was sent to Jupiter in 1972, he loaded the probe with a drawing of a human and a map of the earth along with other stuff made by human beings. Until the Pioneer 10 project was in preparation, the efforts of the scientists who looked for extraterrestrial life was limited to analyzing signals coming from outside the earth. But Sagan went one step further: he led the way in letting the outer space know the existence of terrestrials.

His ardor for the extraterrestrial, the existence of which nobody was sure of, drew admiration and support from people around the globe. “Cosmos,” an introduction to astronomy, became a best seller and 500 million people in 60 countries watched its documentary version on TV.

His wife should get her due credit for his making these feats. Ann Druyan whom he married after failing previous two marriages gave him much encouragement, as she helped him gain distinction as a “media scientist.” Sagan made astronomy, once considered a dreary study, accessible for the public. The universe is still mysterious for the mass, but no longer a place filled with obscure astronomical terms.

Sagan proposed a project called the “Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI),” where researchers from around the world are participating. It has not made visible progress since it was launched decades ago. But those involved in the project never stop their research remembering Sagan’s remarks: "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

Some say he was lucky and made the most of images and criticize that he succeeded by selling something that has no value. As they said, what Sagan gave people is not something the past generations had wanted. However, thanks to him, people could have dreams and expand their imagination. That is the greatest achievement Sagan made.