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Pale Blue Dot: a Vision of the Human Future in Space Paperback – 1 Jan 1997


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Product details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books Inc.; Ballantine Books ed edition (1 Jan. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345376595
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345376596
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 61,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sagan was Dir. of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies & David Duncan Prof. of Astronomy & Space Sciences at Cornell University.He played a leading role in the Mariner, Viking & Voyage expeditions to the planets & was a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for literature. He died in 1996.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The spacecraft was a long way from home, beyond the orbit of the outermost planet and high above the ecliptic plane-which is an imaginary flat surface that we can think of as something like a racetrack in which the orbits of the planets are mainly confined. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 2 Oct. 2005
Format: Paperback
As these pages attest, there are a number of fine writers out there providing us non-scientists with insights on nature's mysteries. None, however, quite reached the breadth of view or intensity of feeling imparted by Carl Sagan. His writings explained topics ranging from quantum particles to the extent of the cosmos. Along the way, he addressed evolution, space engineering and countless other facets of science and technology. Even fiction wasn't beyond his grasp.
Pale Blue Dot is a journey in time and space. Beginning with the assertion that we're natural wanderers, being the only species to settle across our world, it continues with a plea to extend further our exploration of space. The early chapters challenge restrictions on our desire to explore and learn. Sagan demonstrates how foolish minds have restrained our quest for knowledge of the cosmos. He then takes us on a tour of the solar system, exhibiting the wonders revealed by the fleet of robot probes. He reminds us of the forces the cosmos can unleash, sometimes right in our neighbourhood. Like many of the rest of us, Sagan was awed by the collision of a comet with the Jovian gas giant. It was a hint of what might lay in store for us if we fail to understand the universe better than we do now. The space probes also returned images of worlds invalidating existing theories of planetary formation. If our own neighbours can present such bizarre structures, what kinds of worlds ride beyond our ken, circling suns we can barely imagine? What Sagan can't portray, he can conjecture. With his firm working scientist's foundation, Sagan's speculations command respectful attention.
This book must be shelved alongside Richard Dawkins THE SELFISH GENE and THE BLIND WATCHMAKER.
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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Paper Tiger on 7 Dec. 2000
Format: Paperback
Carl Sagan is one of the most brilliant thinkers of our generation and this book is an exclamation mark on a fruitful and alas, too short, career. This book is a sequel to the well-known "cosmos" in which, the author contemplates on the future of humankind on earth and in the farthest regions of space. As always, it is a riveting journey guided by the enthusiastic, humorous and eloquent Sagan who manages to leave the reader with a feeling of cautious optimism despite the many reasons humankind has to worry about its future. An excellent read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Dexter on 25 Sept. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Carl Sagan viewed space exploration as both a natural consequence of our nomadic past and an essential constituent of our survival: in Pale Blue Dot, he articulates this vision, making an elegant and compelling argument for a programme of sustained space-exploration in order to cheat the cosmos of humanity's ultimate extinction.

Given Sagan's prodigious output over an all too brief life, recycled material from earlier work is to be expected and the book opens with one of his recurrent themes, revisiting the idea that science continues to diminish humanity's over-inflated sense of importance and plots our species' ignominious ("great" ch.3 pp.20-37) demotion from cosmic "purpose" to universal bit part. Sagan also covers other favourite topics, including global warming and weapons of mass destruction, synthesising these themes into a comprehensive argument that humanity has reached a turning point in its evolution with the ability for self-destruction without, perhaps, the wisdom to prevent it. However, whilst some of the early content may feel familiar, this is not a simple rehashing of old arguments: it is a grand vision of humanity's future and, with his characteristic clarity and restraint, Sagan makes a powerful argument that our innate curiosity will eventually drive us to the stars.

For obvious reasons, the space exploration review appears a little dated but Sagan's intimate involvement with much of America's attempts to explore our solar system and unique ability to collaborate with Soviet scientists makes it a fascinating and insightful read nonetheless.
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By Mission on 20 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
You cannot read this book without Sagan enthusiasm for cosmology rubbing off on you. A fair amount of the book is concerned with the voyager missions he was involved with in the 1970s. He injects a wonderful human narrative into what is one of the most important (maybe THE most) scientific endeavours in space so far. You will be amazed at the ingenuity of scientists who were first to chart so many new worlds, especially as the mission were undertaken before modern day computing and miniaturisation.

It's wonderful to read about these missions, and I enjoyed looking up some of his unanswered questions on the internet to see which had been answered, although I found it very sad that he died before some missions he writes about, such as Cassini-Huygens, came to fruition.

The book also has a rather spiritual tone. The "pale blue dot" of which the book is named after is a picture of our earth taken from the outskirts of the solar system by the voyager missions. Sagan tells us that this is no distance at all in the scale of universe, and yet from here our planet is barely visible. Sagan elegantly uses this picture to illustrate humanities real place in the universe, putting into perspective our absurd delusions of grandeur and pointless wars. Such revelations may at first seem depressing but Sagan shows us that rather then feel isolated and unimportant we should instead feel embraced and connected to the majesty of cosmos.

Towards end of the book Carl Sagan writes of frailty of our planet. His words are so heart felt and beautiful. You will be inspired and hopefully moved to turn some lights off!

The really great thing about Sagan is he never comes across as arrogant nether do his views ever seek to belittle the less scientifically educated, he was a wonderful ambassador for science and I recommend this book to everyone.
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