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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cosmos: A Taste of the Apple Pie of the Universe
I did not come across Carl Sagan until I was in my mid-20s and was tutoring at a secondary school in Devon. I occasionally helped out in one teacher's science lessons, and this teacher had been inspired to teach Science by a man called Carl Sagan. She was one of the most enthusiastic teachers I have come across, and her students were always motivated and eager to learn...
Published on 29 July 2011 by Greenleaf

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe showing its age?
I recognise this is a classic book, but having read it 30 odd years after it was written I am wondering if it is now showing its age. A previous 3* review went to town with criticism, so I will keep this very brief.

What I liked:
Written with a great deal of enthusiasm for the scientific endeavour.
The chapter at the end that argues for a...
Published on 18 Aug. 2012 by BrynG


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brief history of the universe and its inhabitants, 29 Nov. 2011
By 
Rama Rao "Rama" (Annandale, VA, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Cosmos: The Story of Cosmic Evolution, Science and Civilisation (Paperback)
This book has not been revised since its first publications in 1980, but in the meantime our understanding of physics and biology has advanced significantly. Although the book is dated, the physical principle on which the universe is founded remains unchanged. The author is a brilliant physicist & philosopher, a cosmologist, a sociologist and a humanist who is at ease when he is describing the physics of spacetime and matter from which this cosmos evolved or formation of life on this planet or the scientific, political and sociological issues surrounding the space exploration. The author quotes extensively from the history of physics and biology, religious literature, world history, media and numerous other sources with which he is familiar, and discusses our responsibilities and commitment for the preservation of the planet and the universe. He not only touches on diverse topics with deep understanding but also communicates with his readers equally well.

The author describes his experiences with the American space program and NASA. He briefed the Apollo astronauts before their flights to the moon, and his wok with missions that explored the solar system. He is responsible for the universal message from earth (on a plaque) on spacecrafts Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, and the Golden Record (voice message) on Voyager mission. Many space missions he was associated with have left solar system; Voyager 1, Voyager 2, Pioneer 10, and Pioneer 11. These spacecrafts will probably survive in interstellar space lot longer than human race. He gives reasonable amount of information about voyager missions and the possible problems it could have faced while entering the Jupiter's outer shell of high-energy charged particles or the need for small nuclear power plant for energy for its long flight farther away from sun. The geological wonders of Jovian moons Io, and his optimism of Voyager spacecraft entering the heliopause, the outer boundary of solar system in the middle of 21st century.

While discussing the personal and professional conflicts faced by German mathematician Johannes Kepler with the local Roman Catholic Church, and challenges he faced with the imperial mathematician, Tyco Brahe, to get access to his experimental data, the author makes it all come alive. Kepler and Newton represent critical transition in human history and their discovery that fairly simple mathematical laws pervade all of nature. Their accurate predictions of planetary motions based on experimental data are the first step in understanding of our interaction with the rest of the cosmos. The city of Alexandria, Egypt was a home for learning and culture and how it tragically ended life of a brilliant woman scientist known by the name of Hypatia. She stood at the epicenter of social forces that were manipulating free thinking and intellectual pursuit. The slavery sapped classical civilization of its vitality. The growing Christian church was consolidating power and attempting to eradicate scientific thought that it claimed to be paganism. She continued to teach and publish until 415 A.D., when local Cyril parishioners murdered her and her remains burned. Her name was long forgotten while Cyril became a saint.

Does our cosmos expand indefinitely or at some stage it starts contracting? The author draws an interesting analogy with Hindu scriptures of Upanishads and Puranas, which predicts that the universe undergoes the cycles of birth and death every one hundred Brahma years, where one day and a night of Brahma are about 8.64 billion years, approximately half the age of our universe. It is supposed that a universe is a dream of God who after one hundred Brahma years dissolves himself into a dreamless sleep, and the universe dissolves with him. After another Brahma century, he recomposes himself to another great cosmic dream.

The author concludes this book by stating that since consciousness arose on this planet and our immediate concern is our own survival, but our own survival is balanced by numerous cosmic forces. We owe our obligations to this planet and the universe and not just ourselves.

1. The Demon-haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark
2. Pale Blue Dot: a Vision of the Human Future in Space
3. Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Billions and billions, 11 Jan. 2006
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
How many people who watched the 'Cosmos' series on television (PBS in America - perhaps the best astronomy and general science series ever produced by them) could ever forget Carl Sagan's intonation at proclaiming the wonders of the universe in grand terms, billions and billions of stars and galaxies and planets (and consequently, everything else).
While this book was published in 1980 to be a companion to the television series, there is nonetheless a certain timelessness about it. Many science texts (even general readers such as this) become dated fairly quickly. Yet this book remains a volume to which I refer time and again for its history, philosophy and insight into scientific method and personality.
This book more than anything provided the inspiration for me to study astronomy. While I did not take a degree in it (when I arrived at university I was informed that I had already studied more than their undergraduate curriculum provided; that I should take some physics and mathematics courses and then take a Master's degree later if interested--which may happen after the my current degree progress is completed), my interest in astronomy has remained strong and permeates many of my other interests, including my current work in theology and philosophy.
The visual presentation of this book is stunning. Pictures, particularly those from telescopes, space probes, and dramatic artistic renderings of phenomena not yet captured on film give a real feel for the subject.
Sagan begins the book with a grand tour of the universe, starting at the outermost edges with quasars and unknowns, and travelling back through galaxies and stars, passing interesting objects such as nebulae, black holes, stellar nurseries, planetary systems, finally to arrive back on earth, the unique planet (from our perspective) because it has life.
From here, Sagan goes back in history to the great library of Alexandria, which remains an object of fascination (current archaeological excavations continue in Alexandria, and there are various plans for memorialising the library). He introduces early efforts at scientific method and investigation by discussing Eratosthenes, a librarian who investigated reports in the various texts for himself, rather than taking things at face value.
Chapters include explorations of planetary astronomy, with special attention to Mars; stellar astronomy and the life cycle of stars; issues of space and time; issues of observation and epistemology (how do we know what we know, and why do we think we know it?); the origin and fate of the universe; the idea of life on other planets (Sagan confesses to a prejudice--the idea that life must be based on carbon, and not other elements); and the idea of SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) which due to Sagan's work and influence continues today in various ways around the globe. Finally, Sagan discusses the politics of science (and politics in general) giving a cautious hope for the fate of the earth--this was the height of the Cold War, after all.
'We are the local embodiment of a Cosmos grown to self-awareness. We have begun to contemplate our origins: starstuff pondering the stars; organised assemblages of ten billion billion billion atoms considering the evolution of atoms; tracing the long journey which, here at least, consciousness arose. Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.'
Intelligent, written with grace and humour, the narrative is largely non-technical but not condescending and lends itself well to understanding.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular!, 10 Jan. 2007
By 
J. Jagger "jacjag" (scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cosmos: The Story of Cosmic Evolution, Science and Civilisation (Paperback)
This book takes my breath away! I felt not only that explanations of the universe opened and expanded my mind but also the glimpse into the beautiful mind of Carl Sagan. After reading the book I learned that he had died and I felt the loss for us all! Read it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and Accessable for all!, 7 Feb. 2003
By 
J. Maher (Rochdale , Lancs, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cosmos (Hardcover)
I remember the television series way back in 1980/81 watching Carl Sagan open up the universe in an exciting stimulating way, and in some ways marrying science fact with science fiction.
My dad bought me the book for my birthday in 1981 and I still have and cherish and often read it in the quiet moments.
It's sad that Carl Sagan is no longer with us but his work lives on through this wonderful book. I would like to say one day thank you Carl for introducing to the universe.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe showing its age?, 18 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Cosmos: The Story of Cosmic Evolution, Science and Civilisation (Paperback)
I recognise this is a classic book, but having read it 30 odd years after it was written I am wondering if it is now showing its age. A previous 3* review went to town with criticism, so I will keep this very brief.

What I liked:
Written with a great deal of enthusiasm for the scientific endeavour.
The chapter at the end that argues for a worldwide human community, to prevent our nuclear destruction.
The insignificance of we humans in the grand scheme of things is explained very powerfully (assuming you accept the science).

What I didn't like:
I felt there was too much conjecture; particularly about the nature and number of potential lifeforms on other planets.
The complete lack of any diagrams when explaining difficult issues; such as explaining what the world looks like when travelling near the speed of light.
The book seemed a bit unstructured and didn't flow that well from chapter to chapter. I wonder if this reflects the sequencing of the associated TV series.
I felt Sagan tried to cover too much ground in 375 pages. This was at the cost of providing justifications for certain facts which I personally felt were needed (e.g. why does science say we can't travel faster than the speed of light? How does light travel through a vacuum? Why does Sagan think that a self replicating structure can be randomly created, and thus for evolution to begin?)

P.S. I accept the science myself and am not coming from a religious point of view; I would just have liked to have been convinced more about information the reader is required to accept.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understand the Cosmos, as explained by the master, 1 Jun. 2010
By 
R. F. Stevens "richard23491" (Ickenham UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cosmos: The Story of Cosmic Evolution, Science and Civilisation (Paperback)
Carl Sagan gave us one of the best TV documentary series ever screened, it was called Cosmos. This book supported the series. I was entranced by the TV series, but all too often found his hypnotic delivery sent me to sleep. Not so with the book! It is detailed, interesting, beautifully written and covers the formation and development of the universe in language we can all understand, and I stayed awake throughout reading it.

If you never read another book about what is around our little planet and how it came into existence, this is the one you must. If you want to see the latest pictures (almost) in all their glory then you must also find a copy of Giles Sparrow's huge book also called Cosmos because it complements Sagan's work beautifully.

My wife is not a scientist, but she found both books fascinating and read them from cover to cover. I am a scientist and engineer, and strongly recommend anyone who wants to know more about the Universe to read this one first, it is not difficult, and we can learn so much from it. Even though written thirty years ago it has not dated significantly, and Sparrow's recent book will fill in any gaps exposed by time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!, 23 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Cosmos: The Story of Cosmic Evolution, Science and Civilisation (Paperback)
Carl Sagan's book and TV series called Cosmos has opened the vast universe to millions and millions of people. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and watching the series.

It is not surprising that Cosmos is the best-selling science book ever published in the English language...and the series has been seen by half a billion people!

Carl Sagan was able to accomplish this feat by tapping into his psyche as a little boy who asked many questions about the universe. He then wrote and produced the series from the heart. His enthusiasm and fascination with the earth, planets, stars, galaxies, extraterrestrial life and more is contagious! He took an incredibly difficult subject and made it fun, exciting and educational for anyone from 8 to 80 who has looked up at the night skies...and wondered.

The book and series are not to be missed!

The Re-Discovery of Common Sense: A Guide To: The Lost Art of Critical Thinking
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Total Perspective Vortex, in a handy book format., 18 Jun. 2008
By 
Kevin Kenny "teh_klev" (Perthshire, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cosmos: The Story of Cosmic Evolution, Science and Civilisation (Paperback)
Whilst a few of the theories about the origins of the universe and life itself may have moved on, Cosmos still manages to feel relevant and current. I find it hard to believe that it's nearly 30 years since the TV series and the publishing of this great book. A word of warning though, you *will* feel quite insignificant about your place in the universe after reading it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cosmology with Passion, 10 April 2011
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This review is from: Cosmos: The Story of Cosmic Evolution, Science and Civilisation (Paperback)
The original major attempt to popularise cosmology , this tremendously successful book is probably now just slightly dated. Other subsequent works have managed, with the same journalistic approach, to cover somewhat more detail about the further reaches of cosmology.

Worth reading, however, to experience Sagan's vigour and inspiring passion for the subject.

The book covers the structure and chemistry of the solar system, and its individual planets and comets; the structure and chemistry of the universe, and its individual stars and black holes; and some speculations about the origins of life on earth, and the existence of life elsewhere in the universe.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 20 years and i still take it with me to the loo !, 4 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Cosmos: The Story of Cosmic Evolution, Science and Civilisation (Paperback)
This is one of those books I take to the loo...the ones you never get tired of reading...or re reading....or re re reading....I've had this book 20 odd years and can only recommend it to people who want to look up at night and see more than twinkling stars...This book has a layman's way of opening up the Cosmos for us all....
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