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Carl Sagan holding the Pioneer plaque.

Carl Sagan holding the Pioneer plaque. If you know who the photographer is please let me know.

The successor to Carl Sagan’s classic work of education about the cosmos — the universe seen as a well-ordered whole — begins tonight1. Here’s a trailer2.

The original is as relevant today as it was thirty years ago and if you are at all interested in the greatest of questions and grandest of mysteries please watch the series and read the book as they complement each other perfectly.

Here are links to each Cosmos episode:

Sagan’s work is certainly one of my touchstones.

Human history can be viewed as a slowly dawning awareness that we are members of a larger group. Initially our loyalties were to ourselves and our immediate family, next, to bands of wandering hunter-gatherers, then to tribes, small settlements, city-states, nations. We have broadened the circle of those we love. We have now organized what are modestly described as super-powers, which include groups of people from divergent ethnic and cultural backgrounds working in some sense together - surely a humanizing and character building experience. If we are to survive, our loyalties must be broadened further, to include the whole human community, the entire planet Earth. Many of those who run the nations will find this idea unpleasant. They will fear the loss of power. We will hear much about treason and disloyalty. Rich nation-states will have to share their wealth with poor ones. But the choice, as H. G. Wells once said in a different context, is clearly the universe or nothing.

—Carl Sagan, Cosmos (01980)

  1. Ironically, the new show can only be watched in certain geographic locations and is not available worldwide on the internet, an example of our species’ — in this case television executives’ — limited intelligence. ↩︎

  2. Neil deGrasse Tyson is the new host — a perfect choice. Here’s Neil speaking about meeting Sagan for the first time↩︎

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