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Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science Mass Market Paperback – Feb 12 1986

4.8 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (Feb. 12 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345336895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345336897
  • Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 3 x 17.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #192,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From the Inside Flap

Carl Sagan, writer and scientist, returns from the frontier to tell us about how the world works. In his delightfully down-to-earth style, he explores and explains a mind-boggling future of intelligent robots, extraterrestrial life and its consquences, and other provocative, fascinating quandries of the future that we want to see today.

About the Author

Carl Sagan was the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He played a leading role in the Mariner, Viking and Voyager missions to the planets and briefed the Apollo astronauts before their flights to the Moon. He helped solve many mysteries in planetary science from the high temperature of Venus to the seasonal changes on Mars. For his unique contributions, he was awarded the NASA Medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievment and for Distinguished Public Service (twice), as well as the Tsiolkovsky Medal of the Soviet Cosmonautics Federation, the John F. Kennedy Award of the American Astronautical Society and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Space Education.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Broca's brain is a difficult book to rate, because Sagan is really all over the place with it, covering tons of different topics. I gave it four stars because a lot of it is fascinating and amazingly written (easily 5 stars), but some of the other sections really pull it down. By and large, it's all good stuff, with two exceptions - he goes on for a couple dozen pages about the names of various craters on various planets and moons in our solar system. Maybe I missed the point, but I just couldn't get interested in it. The second thing, which is what really lost the book that last star, is the chapter on Velikovskian Catastrophism. Apparently around the time this book was written (about thirty years ago, but it's all still interesting and relevant information), there was a book going around by someone named Velikovsky, who pretty much claimed that the book of Exodus, and all of the fantastic things that happen in it (the plagues, the parting of the red sea, etc.) where caused by some six comets or meteors that passed so close to the earth as to gravitationally (or magnetically, apparently this Velikovsky isn't quite sure) affect various things (i.e. somehow the gravitational pull of the nearby comet caused the water of the red sea to rise up in two different directions, therefor allowing the israelites to pass in between). Now I have a great deal of respect for Carl Sagan and his work, and I don't know what the climate of popular science was like thirty years ago. Clearly he felt a need to strongly discredit this theory - maybe a lot of people believed it then. But today, it seems pretty silly - I'm not a student of physics, astronomy or anything like that and the sum of my knowledge on the subject comes from popular science books that I enjoy reading.Read more ›
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
What makes this book the best science book that I've ever read, is its simplisity. Many scientific books are hard to read because while whatever is written in them is clear to the writer, usually a doctor or a professor, it is far beyond the understanding of the average reader. Most of the science books start high, they will explain you anything about black holes, assuming you know what a black hole is. They could tell you about the wonders of galaxies that are thousainds of miles away, assuming of course you can understand what they are saying without checking every second word in the dictionary.
"Broca's Brain" is the exact opposite. Instead of starting high, and force the reader to climb up to the book's level, Sagan is starting in the low and simple things (A grain of salt, for example.) and takes the fascinated reader to the high and miraculous.
Sagan is a great teacher, and more than that, he is a great storyteller. He is teaching science as it should be taught: As a story. Without funky formulas that most people can't even understand, and in simple and clear words. He is telling us the story of ourselves and everything that's around us, and in this book he is turning science from a magical and isolated thing to what it really should be: Simple, understandable by everyone, interesting and basically fun.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think. Sagan is a master of distilling scientific complexity for a layman's understanding.
A fascinating journey through various aspects of science. There are few books in the world which can instill such wonderment for the meaning of things.
Sagan was always opinionated, but seldom shows bias. He lets the reader make up his mind by asking the questions, not giving the answers.
One of the pillars of any good book collection.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
An often fascinating yet occasionally meandering collection of scientific explorations, which in retrospect reads like a warm-up for the author's masterpiece 'Cosmos.' Sagan is at his best when he recounts the science fiction stories that inspired him in his youth, while he explains the conventions of naming astronomical objects, and as he ponders the possibilities of life elsewhere in the universe. He sinks into the mire, however, while debunking the pseudoscience of characters like Velikovsky and Von Daniken. Sagan can hardly be faulted here- stories of ancient astronauts and similar fantastic hypotheses were all the rage in the 1970s, but he goes into such detail breaking down the fallacies of their theories that he inadvertently almost lends them a kind of credence. This book is certainly recommended for Sagan completists, but others are better off reading (or re-reading) 'Cosmos,' 'Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors,' or any of the exceptional works he wrote in the last years of his life.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The beauty of Broca's Brain, and indeed any of Carl Sagan's works that I am aquainted with, is his remarkable ability to inspire the reader with a sense of awe and excitement about the universe. Sagan demonstrates in his work that one can still have a magical, or even religious, perspective on life through the use of reason and scientific scrutiny. "Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge." Sagan puts this principle into action when he asks us, not to what extent we can understand the galaxy or a star, but the more modest question, "Can we know, ultimately and in detail, a grain of salt?" It is not through observation of every single atom in the grain of salt in which we understand it (Indeed it is impossible for humans to do so by that method!), it is through observing the underlying regularity within the grain of salt that we can make claims of it as a whole.
Sagan makes the case for science quite well and persuasively, extending it miracles, hoaxes, and unusual phenomona. Unlike many scientists of today, Sagan is not content with brushing off claims that he is skeptical of on first glance. He takes the claim head on, knowing that in the end, the truth is the ultimate goal. But confidence in science is only increased as skeptical inquiry leads one to see that there is often a simpler solution to a rare phenomenon than the posulate of a supernatural force or entity.
If you enjoy thinking and desire truth, this is a helpful and enjoyable book. If you fear becoming infected with an awe and sense of wonder towards the universe, do not read this book--Sagan is contagious.
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