Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dr. Lilt

B. J. Hunnicutt may have the lilt and panache necessary to rise to the top of MASH 4077's storytellers, but there are few in the realms of science who can compare with the lilt, panache and absolute joy that Carl Sagan brought into his PBS series "Cosmos," which I recently rediscovered at

These shows remind me of my father. We watched them religiously when they aired in the late 1970s, never missing an episode. Dad even let us put off homework while Dr. Sagan was on the air, because Dad figured what we heard Sagan say was a lot more important than repetitiously learning how to add and subtract. I credit this show with my early interest in astronomy, and my continued interest in the subject today. I still go out at night to stare up at the stars, wondering what it would be like to visit the stars in Orion's Belt, to sail past the Horsehead Nebula and to feel the bitter cols and searing heat of space and stars.

But I'm stepping in on Dr. Sagan's territory. He's the lilty one, remember:

"For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love."

"In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe."

"Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works."

"Personally, I would be delighted if there were a life after death, especially if it permitted me to continue to learn about this world and others, if it gave me a chance to discover how history turns out."

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."

Thanks, Dr. Sagan. From where you are, I hope you're discovering how history turns out.

Addendum: I'm not a fan of Ann Druyan's foreword to this episode. She drones on for about five minutes and seems to imply that no science, or at least limited science, occurred in the United States until after the Cold War ended. Moon landings, the Voyager program (in which Sagan was involved) the erradication of polio, et cetera, don't seem to matter. Anyway. Endure the prologue, then enjoy the ride.


carl g said...

I really liked Sagan. Great science communicators like him are a rarity. Maybe his committed use of marijuana helped lift his prose (true fact). I loved his book Contact and have Broca's Brain, but have not read the latter (the science of it really dated now, anyway).

The other great modern science writer was Stephen Jay Gould. He is the only writer to make me truly regret I did not become a scientist.

Mister Fweem said...

If you're into environmental writing (and by that, I mean writing about the environment with a small e, not the Environment with the big E,) you'd enjoy John McPhee. He does more than write about science, he takes you on a journey. Another writer I enjoy is Berton Roueche, who writes in the medical field.