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The Disciples of Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan brought science out from the walls of academia and into a world where we could see it. On Cosmos and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, he inspired thousands upon thousands to wonder at the mysteries of the universe, including the next generation of scientists and engineers. Many – including a number of scientists featured on our series – credit Sagan with inspiring both their work and their desire to leave the lab and share it with the world. And we didn’t even have to ask. Secret Lifer Michelle Thaller told us that in high school, she hung Sagan’s photo in her locker. Bill Nye used his advice to shape the tone and voice of his hit PBS series Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Thanks to Sagan and those who followed in his footsteps, science is now a part of a larger cultural conversation that lives online and on social media, in daily conversation among co-workers, and among comedians on late night talk shows. Thanks to Sagan, scientists come on our little web series and share their lives, their personalities, and their passions – along with their scientific research. Thanks to Sagan, we like to think that at least one kid has a photo of a scientist in his locker (or maybe pinned to her Tumblr page).

As Neil deGrasse Tyson picks up Sagan’s Cosmos torch and Bill Nye takes the media by storm, we’re tipping our hat to the king of science communication. The Youtube channel below is a collection of videos in which our scientists tell us about the influence of Sagan on their lives and their work. Watch the videos. Watch Cosmos. Hang a photo of Neil deGrasse Tyson on your cubicle wall, or share a Bill Nye meme on Facebook. And thank Sagan that today, when somebody calls you a nerd, it’s actually a compliment.

Tell us what you think on Twitter, Facebook, or email.

Seandor Szeles

    Seandor Szeles is the co-editor of the Secret Life Blog. He is most interested in the human side of science and providing take-away for educators.

    • Padric O’Fish

      Nothing about Brian Cox. Seriously? For shame.

    • Charles_Miller

      Disciples of Carl Sagan, indeed. Partisan, politically-motivated, intolerant, eco-alarmist, Left-wing hacks…especially Michelle Thaller. These latter-day spewers of “scientific” dogma have parroted their cherished Saganisms — vague cliches such as “all the grains of sand” and “primordial soup” and “nuclear winter” and “not a matter of IF but WHEN” — for decades, without even attempting to advance any fresh metaphor. The real difference between these “disciples” and their departed guru is that Carl Sagan actually was brilliant and original and able to effectively communicate complex astrophysical concepts to the general public. This latest crop of Saganites, however, have significantly lowered the bar when it comes to science and education, siezing every opportunity to impart their political sentiments above and beyond any truly scientific insights.

      • Nora Hull

        Fooey- you are just a hypercritical, supercilious person. So what if it is lowered a bit? More people will “get” it.

        • Charles_Miller

          That’s just it, people are NOT getting science educations from these “edutainment” personalities so much as political lectures. American education has been in a death spiral for 20 years thanks to lowered educational standards; and these pop-science personalities such as Thaller, Nye and Tyson aren’t actually INSPIRING anyone, as did Carl Sagan. Rather, and deplorably, these modern talking heads spend more time spreading FEAR of asteroid impact and gamma ray burst and anthropogenic global warming THEORIES than they do teaching scientific method. Because, surely, if they were teaching REAL science, they would warn their audience of the perils of fear-mongering THEORY.

          • Zip Oner

            Damn Conservatives everything is political with you people, SMDH !!!

            • Charles_Miller

              Have you ever had a discussion with Michelle Thaller, who is so indoctrinated to Manmade Global Warming THEORY that she REFUSES to acknowledge the FACT that the European Union is backing down from “climate protection” initiatives, and that Australia is REPEALING its Carbon Tax, and that China (the world’s WORST polluter) is now backing away from the Carbon Tax? That’s not MY politics, Zippy, that’s the politics of the WORLD.

            • Zip Oner

              So in other words the United Corporations of the World do not want to be held accountable for destroying our planet, specially if it is going to mess with the bottom line (Profits)? Why does that NOT surprise me ????

    • Andy W Spivey

      Charles, are you mad at your father? Because if it’s not daddy issues then that means you’re just a jerk.

      • Charles_Miller

        That’s the best you “Secret Lifers” have, is it? Name-calling? It figures.

        • Andy W Spivey

          You criticized my name calling with more name calling….genius. We have a saying here in the south: “you ain’t real bright are ya son”?

          • Charles_Miller

            So, how is calling you a “Secret Lifer” on a WEBSITE called “The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers” name-calling? So, you’re not actually a member of this site?

            • Andy W Spivey

              My eyesight isn’t that great but I could swear it says in my browser. I’m a member of neither. Don’t even see anywhere on here where one could become a member….or even where a member could log in. In fact, do YOU even have a clue what you’re talking about? How is this relevant? Oh that’s right it’s not. Go away troll.

            • Charles_Miller

              You’re right, your eyesight isn’t that great.

            • Andy W Spivey

              Hopefully you can hear me from way over there in left field when I get back to the original point. I think you have a very negative viewpoint on this (and probably most other things in your life too) in the fact that you think no one is being turned onto science by these shows and the only thing they’re learning by watching them is political dogma. My 12 year old daughter and a number of her friends are so involved and interested in their science classes now because they grew up watching shows like “The Universe” and now the new “Cosmos”. If dumbing it down a little bit opens it up to a broader audience then I’m ok with that. If it sparks one child’s’ interest in science then it has done it’s job. Looking back on the original Cosmos, it was great. But nothing in present day will ever be viewed on a level playing field with how we view things from “the good ‘ol days”. That’s just how our minds work. The reality is that the world is changing, and technology is changing and kids now would rather play Candy Crush on their smart phones than watch a science program. So if “Cosmos” or any other present day science program gets our children off their iPhone and sparks their interest then we should welcome that with open arms instead of b*tching about it like you have so obsessively done this morning.

    • Charles_Miller

      Just for your edification, here’s a perfect example of the politicization of Science at the highest level: NASA, which has suffered multi-billion-dollar budget cuts under EVERY YEAR of the current administration, is apparently moving out of the space exploration business in favor of the comparative anthropology business. NASA is now conducting studies to endorse the Redistribution of Wealth, a Socialist concept; which is ironic, at least. Do you think anyone at NASA seriously believes that LESS money will advance Science and Mankind?

      • Duncan

        You’re so trapped in the little bubble of ignorance your parents created. NASA employed some systems thinking and math to conclude that complex systems with gross inequality of resource distribution are prone to collapse.

        Thinkin’ ain’t really your game, is it?

      • Joe Bush

        Nowhere does it say anything about the redistribution of wealth. When you interpret everything subjectively these are the false conclusions you will come up with. Whether you meant it or not, your post is pure propaganda and is in no way supported by the referenced article.

    • I <3 Michio Kaku, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and Brian Cox. I also <3 Carl Sagan but he rests in peace as we speak.

    • twill

      Can’t you see that this Charles miller is just a red troll

    • Did Mt. Rushmore have a radical transformation with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and Carl Sagan’s visages carved into the granite rock by lasers? Or are they just paper masks for presidents Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln so they can celebrate Carnival scientist-style? You mean it was aliens who shape-shifted the mountain instead of creating crop circles? How cosmic is that?

    • ClarkMa

      Man made global warming and the gov controlling Carbon emissions is like the fox guarding the henhouse. Stalin, Mao, HItler, Pol Pot, etc would approve. Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, ect would not.
      How would a liberal distract you from that? They were slave owners. The Marxist plan is to focus attention on victims. But in the long run, liberals will turn us all into slaves, and global warming is part of their plan.
      No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I want to be a slave of the state.” So the liberal leaders have to have distractions.