Monday, March 17, 2014

Who Was Carl Sagan?

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Carl Sagan

By Dan Vergano

     . . . The death threats partly derived from Sagan's work on the U.S. Air Force's Project Blue Book, which investigated UFOs in the 1950s and 1960s. "He started out with an open mind, but came to the conclusion that there wasn't any evidence for aliens visiting Earth," Poundstone says. Sagan was a big proponent of the likelihood of life existing elsewhere in the universe, however.

Sagan also waded into one of the wellsprings of today's global warming debate, as the senior author on a 1983 Science journal study of "nuclear winter." The group's climate model found worldwide subzero temperatures an inevitable consequence of the dust clouds resulting from a nuclear exchange between the superpowers.

He had angered both UFO fans and belligerent critics of the nuclear winter report. Morrison recalls that after Sagan received threats, "they hid his office number at Cornell and he used a back door to get to work." In the era of the "Unabomber" mailing explosives to professors, the threats were taken seriously.

"Science is more than a body of knowledge. It's a way of thinking, a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility," Sagan said in his last, 1996 interview with PBS's Charlie Rose. He died that same year from cancer. . . .

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