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Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space [Paperback]

Carl Sagan , Ann Druyan
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 8 1997
--The Washington Post Book World (front page review)

In Cosmos, the late astronomer Carl Sagan cast his gaze over the magnificent mystery of the Universe and made it accessible to millions of people around the world. Now in this stunning sequel, Carl Sagan completes his revolutionary journey through space and time.

Future generations will look back on our epoch as the time when the human race finally broke into a radically new frontier--space. In Pale Blue Dot Sagan traces the spellbinding history of our launch into the cosmos and assesses the future that looms before us as we move out into our own solar system and on to distant galaxies beyond. The exploration and eventual settlement of other worlds is neither a fantasy nor luxury, insists Sagan, but rather a necessary condition for the survival of the human race.

"TAKES READERS FAR BEYOND Cosmos . . . Sagan sees humanity's future in the stars."
--Chicago Tribune

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From Publishers Weekly

In a tour of our solar system, galaxy and beyond, Cornell astronomer Sagan meshes a history of astronomical discovery, a cogent brief for space exploration and an overview of life-from its origins in the oceans to humanity's first emergence to a projected future where humans "terraform" and settle other planets and asteroids, Earth having long been swallowed by the sun. Maintaining that such relocation is inevitable, the author further argues that planetary science is of practical utility, fostering an interdisciplinary approach to looming environmental catastrophes such as "nuclear winter" (lethal cooling of Earth after a nuclear war, a widely accepted prediction first calculated by Sagan in 1982). His exploration of our place in the universe is illustrated with photographs, relief maps and paintings, including high-resolution images made by Voyager 1 and 2, as well as photos taken by the Galileo spacecraft, the Hubble Space Telescope and satellites orbiting Earth, which show our planet as a pale blue dot. A worthy sequel to Sagan's Cosmos. Author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Sagan's great appeal as a popular-science writer, beyond his prodigious knowledge, is his optimism and sense of wonder. A visualizer and a visionary, he fires our imagination and turns science into high drama. After writing about our origins in Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992), Sagan turns his attention to outer space and takes up where Cosmos left off 14 years ago. An astonishing amount of information was amassed during that productive era, and Sagan, of course, is up on all of it. A passionate and eloquent advocate of space exploration, he believes that the urge to wander, and the need for a frontier, is intrinsic to our nature, and that this trait is linked to our survival as a species. Throughout this beautifully illustrated, revelatory, and compelling volume, Sagan returns again and again to our need for journeys and quests as well as our unending curiosity about our place in the universe. Such philosophical musings are interwoven with precise and enthusiastic accounts of the triumphs of interplanetary exploration, from the Apollo moon landings to the spectacular findings of robotic missions, especially the Voyager spacecraft. Sagan describes one exciting discovery after another regarding the four giants--Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune--and their many moons, mysterious and exquisite rings, and volatile atmospheres. He argues, convincingly, that planetary exploration is of immense value. It not only teaches us about our celestial neighbors, but helps us understand and protect Earth. Yes, we have seemingly insurmountable problems on this pale blue dot, but we have always reached for the stars, and we mustn't stop now. Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The spacecraft was a long way from home, beyond the orbit of the outermost planet and high above the ecliptic plane-which is an imaginary flat surface that we can think of as something like a racetrack in which the orbits of the planets are mainly confined. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Watch out! Feb. 5 2002
There are two paperback editions of this book at Amazon. The 1995 edition contains the pictures that were so helpful (and entertaining) in the hardcover edition. The 1997 paperback edition has had the photographs removed. If you like beautiful astronomical photographs, order the 1995 edition.
Otherwise, the book is very enjoyable, and provides a cogent discussion of where Carl Sagan thinks we should aim our space program.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious, flawed, worthy Nov. 13 2001
It's hard to believe that seven years have passed since this book was published, and there's still disagreement about where it belongs. The conventional wisdom has it that it's the sequel to Cosmos--probably because it's the only the second book (along with the unfairly neglected Comet) Sagan wrote after Cosmos to have much to do with astronomy.
But Pale Blue Dot is only partly about astronomy. In the 15 or so years that separated the two books, Sagan seems to have acquired a much more political perspective on science and exploration, and it finds its way repeatedly into the later book. Time and again, we find ourselves confronted not only with what's out there, but what *should* be out there--and who.
The central motivation behind this book is the observation that manned space exploration has foundered since the end of the Apollo project in the early 1970s, in large part because of the lack of any coherent direction. As Sagan describes throughout the book, robotic exploration can be so successful, with no risk to human life, that we're left wondering what reasons could possibly justify sending people back out into space.
Sagan's proposed justifications might surprise some people who haven't yet read this book. They have little to do with the spirit of exploration (although he surely views that as an ancillary feature), or the need to have on-demand human intelligence at the site of new discoveries.
Rather, he takes a global view of the human species. Provided that we can put our social affairs in proper order, he poses, what are the dangers to humans and civilization? The short-term danger is provided by humans themselves, through their aggressiveness and short-sightedness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Vision Dulled. May 24 2001
To the original version of this book I would have certainly given five stars; it is a wonderfully inspiring book, by a man who was not only a fine scientist but a great humanitarian, a man who had worked hard to persuade governments of the danger of 'nuclear winter'. Sagan's astute mind, and his compassion, is brought to bear on his vision of our futures in Pale Blue Dot. This is not a utopian vision, Sagan is certainly cognizant of human frailty and our propensity for violence: "If we continue to accumulate only power and not wisdom we will surely destroy ourselves." It is, however, ultimately a hopeful vision, and one based largely upon what we know of our universe, the physics underpinning its behaviour. His thinking is thus more than merely speculative. When, however, I received my own paperback version...I found that all the photographs, images, and graphs - an important part of the book, still referenced in the index - had been removed from the text, hence the four stars, not five. These images in the original book had helped to elucidate what we had achieved already, our discoveries of strange new worlds, as well as what the author and others believed we might achieve in the future. The removal of this material, for reasons which I can only guess, is to be regretted. Would Carl Sagan have supported such editing of his work? What do you think?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reply to a brief comment Jan. 21 2004
Einstein religious? not at all. I quote from Einstein directly in "The Human Side" Ed. Dukas, Hoffman.
"It was of course a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal god and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it"
As for the issue of whether religious types should fear the scientific worldview; of course they should since organised science and organised religion are incompatible as long as religious leaders continue to claim authority on questions which can be experimentally determined (which is proving to be just about everything).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy and cosmology at its best Dec 7 2003
Pale Blue Dot is probably one of the best introductions to astronomy available to the public. In this book Dr. Sagan argues against human chauvinism, praises international efforts of space exploration, speculates about the future of human animal, describes evolution of science and much, much more.
The book is printed on high-quality glossy stock paper that makes the reading even more enjoyable. Unlike Cosmos, Dr. Sagan's other book on astronomy, photos in this book correspond perfectly to the text you are reading. Most photos were taken from NASA archives and are of best quality and resolutions available to human kind at the time. The book ,as any other book written on astronomy, is becoming outdated a bit (published in 1994). This ,however, should not sway you from reading this book at all. You can always catch up on new developments on NASA site. There were some new developments in space exploration that Sagan had no way of predicting. I'll give one example. Author writes about the largest moons of Saturn, Titan, and speculates about its surface and composition. It is now known that Titan contains methane seas. So every time you see speculations in book make sure you research on the topic to find newer information that is readily available.
There is one more thing. In Pale Blue Dot, author gives detailed information on most of the nine planets and many of their moons. However, Sagan decides to omit detailed information on planet Jupiter from Voyager 1 and 2 encounters (not Jovian moons) and explains that Jupiter was talked about in Cosmos.
My whine aside, Pale Blue Dot will endure.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than Cosmos
Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot is the sequel to his earlier Cosmos, in which he brought astronomy to the public in his characteristically elegant but accessible style. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Jayson Vavrek
5.0 out of 5 stars Very nice book
Very good book, nice writing. I'd recommend this book for every space science amateur. It really opens the mind. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Simon Deschenes
3.0 out of 5 stars Politics, not Science
Make no mistake, just as Sagan reveals his opinion that Apollo 11 was about politics, not science, I tell you that Pale Blue Dot is about politics, not science. Read more
Published on Dec 21 2003 by Tracy Fitzgerald
5.0 out of 5 stars A brief comment
I noticed a few negative reviews that seemed to be more about religion than this book, so I wanted to make one brief comment. Read more
Published on July 17 2003 by Magellan
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Sagan Masterpiece
A must read. This somewhat overlooked book is one of Sagans best. The descriptions of findings from the voyager missions, such as data on Neptune and its moons, are hypnotizing. Read more
Published on May 22 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Want to give it 6 stars
This was the first Sagan-book I read and I was 14 at that time. I can't say I really understood it then, but it simply CHANGED my life. Read more
Published on Nov. 1 2001 by "jay_jeong"
5.0 out of 5 stars lovely
Re: "The first couple chapters are filled with the usual Sagan illogical naturalism. I never understood how he could hold to such a [sic] irrational philosphy [sic] and yet... Read more
Published on Oct. 30 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as Cosmos
First, as I stated in my title, this book is nowhere near as good as Cosmos. Sagan does not have that flair that makes teh reader feel as if he is reaching out towards the great... Read more
Published on July 27 2001 by "dsrosen19"
3.0 out of 5 stars Pale
Mishmash of material lacks the scope and grandeur of Cosmos. In effect it gives him an opportunity to catch up on about 15 years since Cosmos, but adds little beyond what was... Read more
Published on July 16 2001
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