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Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space Paperback – Sep 8 1997
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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.
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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Otherwise, the book is very enjoyable, and provides a cogent discussion of where Carl Sagan thinks we should aim our space program.
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.Read more ›
"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).
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
It wasn't for me but my son is a huge fan of Carl Sagan and has all of his books. Not for an easy reader mind you. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Sammy
Carl Sagan at his best. Every single living person should read this bookPublished 16 months ago by thomas leboeuf
Very good book, nice writing. I'd recommend this book for every space science amateur. It really opens the mind. Read morePublished on March 20 2014 by Simon Deschenes
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 morePublished on Dec 21 2003 by Tracy Fitzgerald
Pale Blue Dot is probably one of the best introductions to astronomy available to the public. In this book Dr. Read morePublished on Dec 7 2003 by Mr Tough Guy
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 morePublished on July 17 2003 by magellan
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