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Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space Paperback – Sep 8 1997


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Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space + Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark + Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Ballantine Books ed edition (Sept. 8 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345376595
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345376596
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #42,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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.

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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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on Feb. 5 2002
Format: Paperback
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 By Brian Tung on Nov. 13 2001
Format: Hardcover
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 By R. I. Favell on May 24 2001
Format: Paperback
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 By Peter Mcguinness on Jan. 21 2004
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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. In this iteration, Sagan goes beyond our present astronomical knowledge and looks both at the human future in space and why our plans to reach new worlds seem to have recently (as of 1994) stalled.

Quite honestly, I got bored with Cosmos after a while—nearly all the material can be found in a freshman astronomy course—but with Pale Blue Dot I had no such problem. Two particular chapters stood out to me. Chapter 3, The Great Demotions, outlines the historical sequence of demotions the human race has undergone. Starting as both the figurative and literal centre of the universe, we have discovered the heliocentric nature of the solar system, the existence of other galaxies, and the theory of evolution by natural selection to name a few. This material can probably be found in a typical history of science course, but I've never seen it as well-presented as in Pale Blue Dot. As well, Chapter 16 outlines most of the arguments *against* (or refutations of arguments for) human spaceflight, many of which Sagan agrees with; it was great to see the other side of the debate presented so clearly and rather impartially by an expert in the field.

Other topics include the search for extraterrestrial life, the looming (just post-Cold War) threat of nuclear war, global warming, and overall, what our studies of our neighbouring planets have added to each discussion.
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