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Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium Paperback – May 12 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (May 12 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345379187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345379184
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #49,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell on March 30 2002
Format: Paperback
Published not long after his death, this--Sagan's last book--is a collection of essays on a variety of subjects having in common a palpable urgency traceable to both the state of the planet and the state of Sagan's health, both perceived as perilous. Besides Sagan's distinctive blend of stark optimism and stern alarm, and his splendid rationality, one is struck by a kind of anger in his tone, as though he has grown impatient with the stupidities of humankind. Thus one reads in the essay on abortion these bitter words: "There is no right to life in any society on Earth today... We raise farm animals for slaughter; destroy forests; pollute rivers and lakes until no fish can live there; kill deer and elk for sport, leopards for their pelts, and whales for fertilizer; entrap dolphins, gasping and writhing, in great tuna nets; club seal pups to death... What is (allegedly) protected is not life, but human life." (p. 166)
What he is against in these essays, as his widow, Ann Druyan, notes in her Epilogue on page 228, are "the forces of superstition and fundamentalism." Sagan is preeminently the champion of education and reason as the means to better our life, and the implacable enemy of ignorance. (For "superstition and fundamentalism," read "ignorance," plain and simple.) In some respects this book is a continuation of his volume from the year before, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, but the emphasis here is on the problems confronting us and what can be done about them. In particular, Sagan confronts the depletion of the ozone layer, global warming, pollution, the threat of nuclear war, overpopulation, etc. He asks the question (the title of Part II), "What Are Conservatives Conserving?" and gives the answer, their short-sighted bottom line.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By V. Balasubrahmanyam on Dec 23 2003
Format: Paperback
This is the first book by Sagan that I've read. Simply said, it's written brilliantly ! I was amazed when I read the chapter on abortion. Sagan leads you to start thinking about issues in a different plane altogether. His systematic, analytical & scientific approach to solving problems would help anyone with a little logical bent of mind. The chapter on '20th century' seemed to cover environmental issues (again !) though Sagan had dealt with those exhaustively in earlier chapters.
All in all, definitely worth reading. Pity that we don't have him around to share his views on what is going on in today's world !
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By ectron on Feb. 14 2003
Format: Paperback
I think Brett Williams felt attacked by this book. It is certainly true that it challenges a lot of modern ideas about the world and how we all fit into it. It is jam packed with facts to back up his thoughts. This is not a book I would reccommend for my parents generation- the sixty something's and up- but I wish that GW Bush would take a good hard look at it someday really soon before it's too late.
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Format: Paperback
I've used this book in a unique way, being able to site it in just about every paper I wrote for a science class this year. Sagan covers many of the pressing environmental and ethical dilemmas facing us in the modern world. It's a very readable book that makes the case for being an environmentalist without becoming dogmatic. Sagan also outlines the significance of exponential numbers in the universe and everyday life, with fun and interesting examples. A very useful book to have on your shelf.
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Format: Paperback
Carl Sagan was surely a man with perspective. He was involved in great scientific teams and proyects, but he was not only a Scientist doing science in isolation, he had deep concerns in the world he was leaving. Being this his posthumous book (he was actually dying, and died without finishing it, his widow ,Chemist by the way, Ann Druyan finished it for him) he shows his concerns on ecology, politics, wars, to name a few. You should read this book if you share his concerns, it gives you perspective on this issues and helps you make judgements based on evidence.
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Format: Paperback
In this work Carl Sagan approaches many of the more philisophical questions that are begged by pondering the nature of the cosmos and the human condidtion. Although the topics vary a bit, given Sagan's body of work and knowlege, this book gives us a peek at what Sagan only previously suggests in his other works - what it feels like to be human. The final chapter is written just at the conclusion of Sagan's life, and is as powerful an account of what it is like to be staring down death as you're likely ever find - powerful beyond words.
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Format: Paperback
This is an unbelievably moving and brilliant book. I wasn't prepared for what an environmentalist Sagan was or how much of his last book would be devoted to those causes, but it was a welcome surprise, especially since he comes to environmentalism from a place, quite simply, of understanding the human being's place in the cosmos. Sagan doesn't believe in man's place being at the top of creation -- on the contrary, he asserts that human beings are a transitional step in evolution, and if we don't destroy ourselves, there are still more strange and fascinating creatues left to evolve from us. What really makes the book a stunning series of insights, though, is the closing essay "In the Shadow of the Valley," Sagan's first-person account of his struggle with cancer. As he continues to fight bravely and, nonetheless, closes in on death, he shows an admirable ability to embrace the rational world he's known so well, rather than fleeing into superstition. His wife, Ann Druyan, made me weep with her inspiring and sad account of Carl's final hours, which serves as an afterword for the book. Truly an amazing achievement, to look in the face of death, without fear, believing that the only afterlife comes in the way people remember you. Magnificent and terrifying.
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