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The Daily Need

Photo: Happy Belated Birthday, Carl!

Carl Sagan in 1973. Photo: AP

Yesterday was Carl Sagan’s birthday, but instead of trying to sum up the late astronomer’s many accomplishments, including his work in astrophysics and natural sciences, his Pulitzer Prize, the many books that he authored, co-authored or edited, his more than 600 scientific papers and articles, his work promoting the SETI project and his PBS television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, we’ve decided to share a bit of trivia instead.

In 1994, Apple Computer began work on a new computer. Apple always gives their internal projects code names, and to honor the astronomer, they named the Power Macintosh 7100 “Sagan.” When Sagan learned of the name, he sued Apple for using his name without permission, even though the usage was strictly internal and not publicized. He lost the suit, but Apple engineers agreed to change the name, instead naming the project BHA (Butt Head Astronomer). Sagan discovered this, sued again and lost again, but the 7100 underwent another name change anyway… to LAW (Lawyers Are Wimps).

Here’s a bit of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos television show, re-edited into a song (a duet actually, with Stephen Hawking) by The Symphony of Science. If you are more of a traditionalist and would like to hear Carl in his own words without auto-tune, take a look back at the Pale Blue Dot.

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  • Pacific Vacuum

    cool facts about Sagan/Apple, didn’t know that

  • Paul Shannon


    Oh Apple, why are you run by idiots?

  • Emeric

    but if he dead, didnt believe and didnt believe in God, he didnt think he’d exist anymore. Why waste time giving birthday wishes to a dead guy? so many traditions are impractical in an atheist world.

  • Anonymous

    All traditions are impractical. That’s why they became traditions, so someone would keep up the practice despite its impracticality.

  • Ljh

    how dare apple bad mouth my hero

  • Ian Atkinson

    Being an atheist doesn’t mean disrespecting people, past and present. Nor does it mean living an austere, life without celebration. Carl Sagan gave a lot to the world; a damn sight more than any religious leader ever gave, so why not celebrate his birthday?

    So many people say stupid things about atheists and agnostics, like: how can an atheist be moral without God? The ancient Greeks discussed morality a thousand years before Judaic religions appeared — when a version of the Judaic god was still called Zeus. If you don’t believe there are very different conflicting versions of the Judaic/Muslim/Christian god, you haven’t been very thorough in reading the Bible.

    People bemoan that they’ll be no more Christmas. Well, in actual fact, most of us don’t actually celebrate Christmas (which is quite dismal and involves listening to somebody droning on about a highly fictionalised birth of somebody who probably never existed all, in a draughty church). We celebrate something else. We put up a tree — an ancient Nordic symbol of the world. We exchange gifts and tell ourselves it’s about the gifts that the wise men from the east gave to a baby in a stable. The same men of the east that King Herod is supposed to have met (Herod’s life is well documented from sources outside the Bible — he could be a brutal leader, but there is no record of him meeting men from the east, or of him having all the boy children of a certain age killed in order to try to kill Jesus). In actual fact, exchanging gifts at the winter solstice feast pre-dates Christianity in Europe. We can still be agnostic or atheist and celebrate the winter solstice. We can even call it Christmas if you like. The only thing we won’t accept, and we’ll fight where ever it appears, is the indoctrination of children in schools that things that are ‘not proven’ are facts, and the calling of religious points of view, science. All of us were taught as children that there’s a name for this kind of thing — it’s called lying.

  • Anonymous

    Are you saying there is ANYTHING practical and truthful about the theist world view Obviously, you know nothing about atheists and how we view the world and each other. But then, ignorance is how theism flourishes.

  • Anonymous

    Sure, Apple is run by idiots. That’s why it’s the largest computer manufacturer in the world and one of the most valuable companies – ever. Then let’s not forget how they have changed our concepts of computers, music players, and mobile phones. Or that other companies are playing the “let’s copy Apple” game. Yep, run by idiots, but idiots far smarter than you will ever be.

  • jj

    This anecdote doesn’t really make me feel good about Dr. Sagan, I’m sorry to say. Sounds like a frivolous excuse to sue, imho. Still, I was deeply impacted by his work and I won’t deny his contributions, and I admire him sincerely.