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Jun. 21, 2011

Carl Sagan Is Back On The Air With ‘The Sagan Series’

by Ian Chant

Do you know anyone who ever tires of listening to Carl Sagan talk about space? Yeah, neither do we. That’s why we’re thankful for The Sagan Series, a collection of video montages combining music, news clips, film footage, and Carl Sagan doing what he does best — talking about science in a way that’s engaging, accessible, and often poetic.

These shorts, produced by 25-year-old Reid Gower, have been picking up steam, and the five episodes produced so far are a great way to introduce Sagan to a new generation of fans – like Gower himself – or to remind Sagan devotees why he’s still the world’s favorite astronomer (sorry, Copernicus). They’re also a refreshing break from the standard YouTube fare. Don’t worry, the cat who barks like a dog will still be there tomorrow.

The latest video, “Decide to Listen,” offers up Sagan’s take on the Search for Extraterrestrial Life (SETI), from his explanation of how it works to his compelling argument for why it is important. (He’s also got some kind words for radio as a medium, which we agree with wholeheartedly).


And it couldn’t be more timely. The National Science Foundation recently slashed SETI’s budget. That has sent the program’s main listening post, the Allen Telescope Array in northern California, into mothballs. You can hear Ira’s conversation about the program’s plight with SETI director Jill Tarter from April of this year here. But while the 42 radio telescopes that make up the bulk of SETI’s work have gone silent for the time being, astronomers at SETI and their partners at the UC Berkeley aren’t sitting on their hands. Instead, they’re working with astronomers at the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope to gather radio data from 86 planets that might be suitable for life. And you can still help out by offering some of your computing power to SETI@Home, which uses your computer’s spare processing power to help analyze possible messages from outer space. Which is, frankly, pretty cool.

Meanwhile, if you’re waiting for the next episode of the Sagan Series with bated breath like we are, you can get updates on the series’ Facebook page.

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About Ian Chant

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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