Even in the fossil remains of the earliest lifeforms, there is unmistakable evidence of communal living arrangements and mutual cooperation. We humans have been able to design effective cultures that for hundreds of thousands of years have fostered one set of inborn characteristics and discouraged another. From brain anatomy, human behavior, personal introspection, the annals of recorded history, the fossil record, DNA sequencing, and the behavior of our closest relatives, a clear lesson emerges: There is more than one side to human nature. If our greater intelligence is the hallmark of our species, then we should use it as all the other beings use their distinctive advantages — to help ensure that their offspring prosper and their heredity is passed on. It is our business to understand that some predilections we bear as remnants of our evolutionary history, when coupled with our intelligence — especially with intelligence in the subordinate role — might threaten our future. Our intelligence is imperfect, surely, and newly arisen; the ease with which it can be sweet-talked, overwhelmed, or subverted by other hardwired propensities — sometimes themselves disguised as the cool light of reason — is worrisome. But if intelligence is our only edge, we must learn to use it better, to sharpen it, to understand its limitations and deficiencies — to use it as cats use stealth, as walking sticks use camouflage, to make it the tool of our survival.
Bill Nye Took Astronomy From Carl Sagan
The Science Guy discusses how taking an astronomy class from Carl Sagan helped set him on the path to bowtiehood, and how Carl’s advice helped mold Bill’s famous show.
Another wonderful reminder that teachers, famous or not, make all the difference. These are the guys who inspired me, and if I can pay forward one-tenth of that inspiration to someone else… Life Achievement Unlocked.
(via NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers)
You know it’s spring when, just after sunset, the refrigerator constellation rises in the western sky.
(But seriously, remember that our perspective on the stars is at the same time wonderfully unique but not at all special, and the stellar stories that we write are products not only of our imaginations, but also our brain’s relentless desire to recognize patterns in random assortments of far away dots)
This recipe is worth revisiting every year. This year I’m using all organic universe so I hope it turns out okay.
Also included: A lovely video classic from Vi Hart on why pi is wrong (sort of) as she makes the case for tau, with pie. Yummy math. I’ll take my transcendental irrational constants with a side of ice cream, please.
Celebrate Cosmos returning to TV by looking back at this lost episode of Carl Sagan’s original.
This pork volcano … tell me more. We are all made of star stuff, and bacon.
Carl Sagan guided the maiden voyage of Cosmos a generation ago. He was the most successful science communicator of the 20th century, but he was first and foremost a scientist. Carl contributed enormously to our knowledge of the planets. He correctly predicted the existence of methane lakes on Saturn’s giant moon Titan. He showed that the atmosphere of the early Earth must have contained powerful greenhouse gasses. He was the first to understand that seasonal changes on Mars were due to wind-blown dust. Carl was a pioneer in the search for extraterrestrial life and intelligence. He played a leading role in every major spacecraft mission to explore the solar system during the first 40 years of the space age.
Raise your hand if you think the best part of the new Cosmos were the amazing shots of Carl Sagan’s life and work.
I love you Neil, but so many Carl feels.
"There is only an infinitesimal chance that the plaque will ever be seen by a single extraterrestrial, but it will certainly be seen by billions of terrestrials. Its real function, therefore, is to appeal to and expand the human spirit,and to make contact with extraterrestrial intelligence a welcome expectation of mankind."
- B.M. Oliver, vice president of R&D for Hewlett-Packard, capturing the true essence behind the Voyager golden records.
Head over to Brain Pickings to read Maria’s wonderful summary of Carl Sagan’s Murmurs of Earth, the story behind the records. It’s got enough power to slingshot your curiosity well out into interstellar space. Best thing I’ve read all week.
Carl Sagan writes about the intersection of astronomy and poetry in his high school paper, because Sagans do as Sagans do.
In case you missed it, here’s my thoughts on Carl’s legacy in video form: