The Golden Record, Carl Sagan, empirical minds, imagination and knowledge, Einstein, NASA, alien civilizations, the human narrative 1977

rock stars of science …

One of the biggest reasons for remaining skeptical of the proposal that alien visitors from other planets, solar systems, galaxies — wherever — have been visiting us earthlings, is Carl Sagan. The scientist/astrophysicist, one of the true rock stars of science, determined there was no evidence for it.

Based on what I’ve read, I don’t think anyone understood Sagan, really, and I certainly don’t pretend to. But what is more certain is that the scientific establishment, to some significant extent, was jealous of his fame. Which is a curious reaction, considering how the establishment underscores and emphasizes the importance of science and empirical truths over social phenomena like fame and television ratings. Nevertheless the National Academy of Sciences rejected Sagan for membership  …. curious, eh.

And these days it’s particularly important to have a “candle in the dark.”…

Voyagers 1 and 2, and the Golden Records

The committee that selected what was on two gold-plated copper recordings — “THE SOUNDS OF EARTH” — sent to space by Voyagers 1 and 2, was in fact chaired by Carl Sagan. These recordings were designed to tell the human narrative, our story as it were, to extraterrestrials, should the items be found. A dozen or so copies remained on earth, kept at NASA. Yet, when Sagan requested one of those copies as a memento, NASA rejected the request …

“When Sagan wrote NASA in 1978 asking if he could receive one as a keepsake, the agency’s administrator sent back an apologetic message saying no” (from The Atlantic — “Forty Years Later, the Golden Record Goes Vinyl“). Another Atlantic article is “Solving the Mystery of Wbose Laughter is on the Golden Record.”

And from The New York Times: “Not even Dr. Sagan, the Cornell astrophysicist who led the creation of the record in 1977 for the listening pleasure of any aliens who happened upon it, could get a copy.”

Sagan’s open mind pushed boundaries

Sagan was a disciplined thinker and skeptic, but his imagination and broad-mindedness made a mark. He really looked into the subject of alien visitors to earth. He didn’t dismiss it because, hey, we all have our own ideas and the proposal of “alien civilizations” that taught us how to build pyramids, develop biochemistry or to acquire telepathic abilities, were easy to dismiss.

But not so easy if you wish to look at it scientifically. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

A rock star does a number…

Carl Sagan became one of the most enduring the rock stars of science in the 1980s and 1990s. “Part of what made him great was the number of things he pursued,” said Dave Morrison, director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe. And there was certainly that… Sagan was interest in astronomy and cosmology, of course, but also in poetry, literature, fiction writing, the arts, and much more

Back in 1999, Physics World magazine published a list of the “top 10” physicists in history. In spite of my personal viewpoint that “rankings are odious” in these kinds of things, I’ll put the list here. Just in case you are curious as to who is on the list (and not):

  1. Albert Einstein
  2. Isaac Newton
  3. James Clerk Maxwell
  4. Niels Bohr
  5. Werner Heisenberg
  6. Galileo Galilei
  7. Richard Feynman
  8. Paul Dirac
  9. Erwin Schrodinger
  10. Ernest Rutherford


Personally, I would have found a way to include Leonardo da Vinci on that list. But ok..

— to be continued —

P.S. in case you missed it — speaking of exploring and open-mindedness — here is our article, from July, on an underwater drone. (YOUCAN UNDERWATER DRONE)  — How to fight onset of winter…


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