1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
How All Science Should be Communicated,
This review is from: Carl Sagan's Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective (Hardcover)
Sandwiched between Ann Druyan's valiant defence of her late husband's legacy and David Morrison's worthy (but probably unnecessary) epilogue, nestles, perhaps, one of the finest pieces of popular science writing ever published! Less restrained than Sagan's later work, Cosmic Connection reveals the author at his optimistic and speculative best, providing readers with a lavish feast of passion and idealism, tempered by reasoned argument and scientific discipline - every page is inspiring.
The book comprises a series of short essays that combine effortlessly to take the reader on an odyssey through the cosmos and link humanity's destiny (and its heritage) to the stars. Throughout, one senses Sagan developing the themes that would come to dominate his later writing and fuel his advocacy for space exploration. The first section (of three) considers issues of cosmic perspective and scale: Sagan understood that widespread acceptance of his ideas rested on his audience understanding the sheer magnitude and immense age of the universe - he also knew that most of his readers probably didn't grasp such concepts and so wisely dedicated nearly a third of the book trying to impart something of the vastness of the cosmos. In the second part, he turns his attention to the Solar System, honing his arguments for extending robotic exploration of our nearest neighbours and counselling of the dangers of anthropogenic climate change. Finally, Sagan permits himself the luxury of speculating about the existence of extraterrestrial life. Despite debunking many of the modern alien-contact myths during his (all too short) life, Sagan did much to initiate and legitimize the search for intelligent life in the universe; it remained a recurring theme throughout his work and provided the inspiration for his foray into fiction (and Hollywood).
Nonetheless, in places, Cosmic Connection is showing signs of its age - even this posthumous version was published more than a decade ago and the original, nearly four - but it's central message is still as relevant and important as it was when Sagan first articulated his vision for humanity's future in space. Moreover, whilst the book has stood the test of time reasonably well (although not all of the science has survived completely in tact) and is still worth reading today, some of Sagan's pontifications on humanity's ability to grow beyond superstition and pseudo-science (for example, p.59) have, with the benefit of hindsight, been exposed as little more than naive optimism.
Notwithstanding these minor criticisms, Cosmic Connections epitomises the best of the popular science genre - it's how all science should be communicated to a lay-audience. Whilst it may be stretching the point a little too far to describe Sagan's prose and vision as beautiful, it is only a little too far!
(3 customer reviews)