Tuesday, 9 August 2016

A guest post from beyond the grave by Carl Sagan (c/o Anne Rooney)

Having spent the whole of yesterday in hospital with a daughter, I haven't written anything. Luckily, I did come across a brilliant quotation a couple of days before, and will share it in place of anything erudite/witty/tolerable I might have otherwise written. It's much more important than anything I would have said. Share it far and wide. This is by Carl Sagan, brilliant American cosmologist and one of the founding figures of SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence:

"I grew up in Brooklyn, New York ... a city neighborhood that included houses, lampposts, walls, and bushes. But with an early bedtime in the winter, I could look out my window and see the stars, and the stars were not like anything else in my neighborhood. [At age 5] I didn't know what they were. [At age 9] my mother ... said to me, “You have a library card now, and you know how to read. Take the streetcar to the library and get a book on stars.” ... I stepped up to the big librarian and asked for a book on stars. ... I sat down and found out the answer, which was something really stunning. I found out that the stars are glowing balls of gas. I also found out that the Sun is a star but really close and that the stars are all suns except really far away I didn't know any physics or mathematics at that time, but I could imagine how far you'd have to move the Sun away from us till it was only as bright as a star. It was in that library, reading that book, that the scale of the universe opened up to me. There was something beautiful about it. At that young age, I already knew that I'd be very happy if I could devote my life to finding out more about the stars and the planets that go around them. And it's been my great good fortune to do just that."

- Tom Head (ed.), Conversations with Carl Sagan (2006)

So, children, go forth and use libraries and be inspired and become great intellectuals and great public educators and great astronomers and astrophysicists and, above all, great enthusiasts and great people.


Joan Lennon said...

Sorry for the hospital - hope all is better soon - and thank you for Carl's inspirational words. I can just hear his voice!

Penny Dolan said...

Wonderful quotation, Anne, that I'll certainly share. Hope the hospital visit sorted all the worries out for your daughter and for you.

Katherine Roberts said...

My old computer used to search for aliens with SETI@home - anyone still doing that?

catdownunder said...

Every person who thinks libraries are not important should be made to read this.