Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Conversations with Carl Sagan edited by Tom Head

Lowdown: Sixteen Sagan interviews spanning three decades.
Conversations with Carl Sagan is a book with an interesting premises. It is a collection of sixteen interviews with Carl Sagan or articles about Carl Sagan or radio program scripts where Sagan was involved, collected between the early seventies and up to Sagan's death in 1996.
As none of the conversations were meant to be assimilated into a collection later, there is some significant overlap in the subjects they cover. For a start, reading those sixteen conversations means that you need to read some sixteen introductions telling you who Carl Sagan was (aside of the book's own intro dealing with this matter). However, this also means that a lot can be learned from the slight differences between the similar descriptions. Indeed, given the generation wide period that is covered by the book, one can learn a lot about Sagan's own evolution as a person dedicated to science and the scientific way.
As we start the book, we meet a younger and optimistic Sagan involved with the search for life on Mars. He tells us he expects to find it. Then, as we progress into the book, we see a Sagan who is less enthusiastic about the prospects of finding other life in the universe during his life time and a Sagan who is more and more worried about the human race and what it is doing to itself and its earth. Throughout the book, though, we find a person dedicated to the scientific way who goes out of his way to teach the masses the value of such an approach. More than anything, Sagan is concerned that in this day and age we simply cannot afford to have people's minds governed by disinformation. It is the very fact that science has brought us to where we are that means it is a must for us to utilize its approach if we do not want to fall down from where we are.
On a personal basis, I have to say I am a long time admirer of Sagan made to admire him even more after getting to know the person behind the scenes of Cosmos better through this book. I admire his standings for the things we both hold dear, and I admire his patience and openness to new ideas.
Overall: A very interesting way to know one of the worthier persons this world has had the pleasure to host. 4 out of 5 stars.

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