on 1 May 2010
After more than twenty years of waiting finally I read COSMOS. You may say why? In spite of knowing there were a book called COSMOS and written by the famous astronomer. I was born in north of Iraq. My mother tongue is Kurdish and my second language is Arabic. I couldn't find translated one in my country.
So after many years straggling to learn English finally I read one of the masterpieces of a great mind. It is very well written and easy to read.
COSMOS is very inspiring book to anyone seek knowledge. I highly recommend to anyone in the world.
on 20 May 2004
After reading this book I felt I understood the significance and the insignificance of life itself, and more over life on this planet of ours. The description and explanation of the cosmos and its elements, its distances, its sizes and its continuous reaction, movement and change are inspiring. I read it again recently and even after 20 years it was as good as the first time. The writing is not too detailed to be at all boring and is well written and easy to read. I highly recommend this book to everyone with even the slightest interest in what is outside the boundary of our own planet, and even those who don't have that interest.
on 9 January 2002
My mother bought me this book in 1981 for me and I have it to this day as a cherished possession. Carl Sagan through 'Cosmos' takes you on a journey through space and time in a fashion that is both easy to understand whilst being technically detailed. No other book or current series has come up to this one and I would thoroughly recommend the book to anyone, whether they are interested in astronomy or history or just wish an interesting read.
An enchanting and thought provoking book.
Andrew, Edinburgh, UK
on 28 January 2011
First published in 1983? Really? More like 2050. Cosmos has been cited by so many popular scientists, from Stephen Hawking to Brian Cox, I felt I should at least open the cover so I knew what it was about. But really... 1983?! It can't possibly be up to date with contemporary understanding or years of excellent popular science writing. What an idiot. Never dismiss something because of its age.
Carl Sagen is the Man. It turns out that every popular science book I've ever read has been inspired by Cosmos. The stories, the facts, the language... it's all in here! I wasn't expecting much from a book so old but it left me feeling short changed by all the other books I'd read. Cosmos should be required reading, not a bibliographical note.
A contemporary news story, still running as I type, concerns the Voyager I spacecraft just now leaving the solar system. The fastest man-made object ever created; the farthest distance ever travelled; and then some. Carl Sagen actually worked on this very mission at NASA nearly 40 years ago. He writes about what it was like. What it actually means to leave the solar system. The clever engineering that made it possible. The dream that created it and what it means for all of us. In every chapter you're getting so much more than somebody's retelling of a story.
Cosmos is far more than a thrilling popular science read; it is a momentous achievement. Carl Sagen gives the Cosmos entire to the future of the Human Race.
on 3 November 2000
In Cosmos, Sagan's triumph as a masterly writer climaxes in this universal masterpiece. The visionary scientist and writer takes us on a powerful and epic journey of discovery, awakening the imagination and stirring the spirit. Even when discussing extremely complex issues and scientific phenomena such as Einstein's theory of relativity, Sagan is able to keep us transfixed on the subject with his unique writing style which keeps readers of all persuasions and levels of experience completely interested and informed. Cosmos is a tour de force, and in my opinion goes beyond the works of people like Stephen Hawking, Marcus Chown and Patrick Moore in terms of its imaginative power and easy impartation of the facts. From beginning to end, we are inspired, enthralled and, most of all, educated. 'Cosmos' is an absolute necessity for anyone studying astronomy - novice, amateur or professional, and is great value for money because it will be read time and time again.
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.
on 29 July 2011
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. She would occasionally show them excerpts of Sagan's TV programme, Cosmos, during her lessons, and she also had a picture of him on her 'wall of inspiration'. You might say that she was a die-hard fan! When she recommended that I read Sagan's book, also titled Cosmos, I did not hesitate as I was intrigued to find out more about him.
Sagan was a very intelligent scientist- an astrophysicist, cosmologist and astronomer- yet he also had a powerful flair for writing. He wrote Cosmos in 1980 and it was an immediate success, causing a wave of other authors to follow him in writing on science-related topics (eg Hawking's A Brief History of Time). Fans around the world still state today that Sagan was the man who made science accessible to the average person- and exciting. Indeed, I was never inspired by my science lessons when I was at school, but I became fascinated by it while reading Cosmos, and still have that interest to this day. As a literature-geek I found his poetic writing style compelling and nourishing, as well as easy to follow- MUCH easier, in fact, than I found A Brief History of Time. I think this is what stands Cosmos apart from other scientific or factual books: it is so well-written that when reading it I didn't feel overwhelmed with facts and information, even though the book is largely based on those two things, which are required in order to explain some very in-depth subject matter.
Cosmos is a guide to the universe and Sagan expands his readers' minds by capturing the immensity of the universe with his vivacious language. "We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it's forever", he writes of the insignificance of human life- and yet he also celebrates this life and humankind's ability to evolve, grow, nurture, and so on. Equally, he writes "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe"- and this is the journey he takes us on: a comprehensive guide from the birth of the cosmos, through consciousness, to civilisation, and the valuable part science plays in continuing that journey without boundaries.
Although this book is over 30 years old now, the ideas in it are not dated. First, all of his theories are still held to be true, and there is more evidence to support them now than there was in his lifetime. Second, Sagan was well before his time with his foresight. For example, he saw in the 70s and 80s the way people were beginning to treat the Earth and based on this he theorised about climate change long before it was on anyone's radar. He was also deeply aware of the threat of nuclear weapons to mankind's progress, and was prematurely outspoken about it. He had various theories as to why these things exist, ie why humans create war and conflict, and how they can be overcome.
For me, this book opened up my mind philosophically and also spiritually. As I thought about the way mankind has evolved, as well as Sagan's ideas and theories of the cosmos, I began to ask my own questions, and I am still fascinated by this subject matter today. Cosmos is, without question, science at its best, not just because Sagan was a genius in his time but because his writing is so accessible as literature. Sagan himself writes: "Books permit us to voyage through time, to tap the wisdom of our ancestors. The library connects us with the insights and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were.." His words are eloquent and riveting, yet also humble in their generosity as Sagan was so strongly aware of his own insignificance as a writer- even as writing this magnificent book.
Sagan was not afraid to launch into the unknown, and to take his reader with him. It seems that his imagination allowed him to go beyond the scope of the average scientist, and this is what makes Cosmos so inspiring and eye-opening: his brave ability to imagine infinite possibilities based on reason.
I now recommend and lend this book to absolutely everyone, and have not yet found a reader who wasn't affected by it in a profound way. In Sagan's words, "The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be." So why not take the leap into discovering a bit more about it?
This is an epic tale - exploring, understanding and describing the Universe in its entirety. This book is a delight to read, and it succeeds in making science lively and engaging. The book was first published in 1983, as a tie-in to the TV documentary series Carl Sagan's Cosmos [DVD] . Both book and series follow the same general structure - and both are concerned with illuminating the nature of the cosmos.
Sagan writes majestically, explaining otherwise complex issues and problems in a manner that makes them far more easily comprehensible. Everything from the origins of the universe to the formation of galaxies, from the processes that build planets to the evolution of life, is discussed eloquently. Sagan describes the cosmos in an imaginative way, drawing-in the reader and retaining attention throughout. This is as far away as possible from a 'dry' scientific text ... instead it entices the reader's fascination and clearly shows the cosmos for what it truly is: awesome.
This is the perfect book for anyone who's interested in finding out more about physics, cosmology, astronomy and astrobiology. It's a fantastic introductory book, and is suitable for both adults and older teenagers. I've read through it a few times, and it's my favourite 'science' book. I highly recommend it.
on 22 October 2014
This book was written shortly after the ground-breaking documentary series of the same name also presented by the author. The book was published in 1981, which puts it in a time frame with two other ground-breaking popular science books: The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins and A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawkins. In no way can the book be considered dated. Indeed, it has a certain freshness, being written close to the great, pioneering space exploration mission of the Voyager and Pioneer probes which are discussed. The book could be described as a history of ideas, in particular the supreme achievement of humans, that of Science. Indeed, as far as we are currently aware, humans represent the first point at which the cosmos became aware of itself; a remarkable and humbling thought (although I hope there are other civilisations). Sagan is in no way dismissive of ideas about the cosmos arising from non-scientific approaches. In the very early days of humanity, these were brave attempts to understand the world. However, the message is very clear: the methods developed by science are the only way to understand the cosmos. Religion and the appeal to authority cannot provide adequate understanding. The origins of science in the pre-Socratic period and its tragic abandonment are described.
The writing is crisp, clear and a pleasure to read. It is a unique combination of science, history and philosophy. I also recommend watching Sagan's documentary series and indeed the recently released new version of Cosmos presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
To quote the first line of the first chapter: "The cosmos is all that ever is or ever was or ever will be."
Cosmos (Carl Sagan)
Turn on any TV these days and there will be channels with one of more science , history or arts programmes.
Some 26 years ago (1980) these programmes were relatively rare and a classic 13 one hour episode science programme entitled the Cosmos was presented as a personal view by one Carl Sagan ( sometime participant of various NASA space programmes and cosmological investigations then Director of Planetary studies at Cornell University) . An accompanying book to the series was also written and published. It covered right up until the Voyager mission views of Jupiter and Saturn in 1977-1979. (Voyager 2 – still active in 2016 – has just passed Pluto and left the conventional Solar system – not bad for 1975 technology. Its onboard power source – a mini nuclear reactor – should last another 10 years)
The hardback book contains both script and illustrations and can be obtained as good quality second hand ,for very reasonable prices.
A book allows stopping , pausing , thinking , reversing and rereading the text but for those who want the full visual experience ( film/TV presentation being intrinsically different to books with the sight , sounds , narration and a flowing story line to hold the attention) . The TV series had updates added some 10 years later and in 2000 , a DVD transfer was released. The TV series also featured a music soundtrack taken from “Heaven and hell” ( (Vangelis 1975) .
Obviously there have been many advances / updates in the last 30 or so years but I can still recommend both as an example of the thoughts and presentation of the times . Carl Sagan , a great communicator , sadly died in 1996
Rate 5 star as classic examples of their time covering the Cosmos ( as it seemed then) . The series ended very topically with a view of our the earth , and the threats faced by the latter - comparing the possible outcomes of irresponsible misuse of the planets resources to the planetary hell of Venus and the cold desolation of Mars.
(Note there has been a recent re casting of the original series by Neil de Grasse Tyson ( written in conjunction with Carl Sagan’s widow) – also available on DVD and Blu Ray. The content is more up to date but many still prefer the older Sagan version with less reliance on CGI.)