Our Place in the Universe

I suspect I’m not the only person working in astronomy who found inspiration in Carl Sagan‘s epic TV series Cosmos, which was broadcast on British television when I was at Secondary School. Although the graphics are a bit dated now, and the language perhaps a bit florid for modern tastes, it has lost nothing of its splendour or profundity which is largely due to the charisma (and beautiful writing) of the presenter. It’s also in stark contrast to the simple-minded stuff served up by modern so-called science programmes. Here’s a little taster, which brought back happy memories to me, and I hope will do the same for fellow astronomers-of-a-certain-age.

We live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a Universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. We make our World significant by the courage of our questions, and by the depth of our answers.


16 Responses to “Our Place in the Universe”

  1. sagan… right

    more interestingly – what was the cut to 2011 studentships at cardiff?

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Stephen Curry, tom kitching and Stephen Serjeant, Peter Coles. Peter Coles said: Our Place in the Universe http://wp.me/pko9D-2mI […]

  3. Chris Clark Says:

    Alas, whenever astronomers of less-than-a-certain-age watch Sagan, all we can hear is Agent Smith off the Matrix.

    • telescoper Says:

      Who he?

      I always dozed off after the first few minutes whenever I tried to watch The Matrix. It would have been much improved had someone diagonalized it.

  4. Steve Jones Says:

    It seems a bit of a tragedy/ anomaly that so few Carl Sagan books are in print (at least in the UK). I have a few that I’ve bought on ebay/amazon marketplace 2nd hand often from the USA. But if you walk into Waterstones/Smiths you will hardly ever see one.

    All just seems a bit of a shame, but I imagine it has to do with the complexities of particular publishing deals and contracts etc etc etc

    As for the TV series “Cosmos”,I don’t know when this was last shown on UK tv but not in the last 20 years I don’t think, and wasn’t available on dvd until last year when it was finally released (but when I last checked had a pricetag of £40).

  5. One shouldn’t forget that Sagan was not just a popularizer with a science background (like, say, Asimov), but someone with a respectable publication list who was the editor of a major journal for years.

  6. Such programs are definitely missing today; they would, for sure, foster interest in astrophysics, and more generally science among youth.

  7. David Whitehouse Says:

    Carl had an eloquence, range combined with scholarship unmatched by anyone since. It is a shame for for some parts of Cosmos have not aged well. I suspect this is due to the years of dumbing-down and the continued desire of TV producers not to tax their audience too much (as they see it.)

    For years Cosmos was unavailable on DVD due to problems negotiating the music rights. Perhaps it missed a generation? Carl told me many times over the years that the BBC had the rights to show it again but didn’t want to. If they still have that right its intellectual core would make an interesting comparison to the BBC output in the past decade in this field.

  8. David Whitehouse Says:

    another thing….I believe that over his lifetime, on average, he published an academic paper every 3 weeks!

  9. Anton Garrett Says:

    I gave up watching this series because I got fed up of the endless shots in which the camera slowly circled Sagan as he looked upward with a rapt expression. For those who remembered Bronowski’s Ascent of Man it seemed thin fare. In those days I respected Carl Sagan a lot more as a scientist and a Skeptic.

  10. Our place in the Universe is very near the exact centre .. according to some of the models Ishibashi presented on Friday [without necessarily endorsing them…]. Pity you couldn’t be there.

  11. “Location of oneself is the present and all other remaining places have dived inside the deeper parts of the past of all” That is to say- Our home planet is present before us, likewise just at this time it is again submerged into the depth or the past from another place of space. In or under the circumstances- Everything is center point in the Universe i.e. Own place is middle or center in the Universe. From the Home Planet- Earth is center in the universe.

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