Carl Sagan- The man who taught the world about the Universe- needs no introduction. He has, for the unapprised, published hundreds of research papers, is the co-author of many books, and has written books like “Contact” and “Pale Blue Dot”, both of which were quite popular on the bookstands. But before all these books and papers, he was an astronomer and an astrochemist. However, he stood out from the scientist crowd all thanks to his ability to make the layman understand the science of astronomy. The documentary titled “Cosmos-A personal voyage” is one of the most popular BBC documentaries till date, with some 600 million viewers in over 60 countries. This documentary was followed by a book, which was a sell-out, with over 5 million copies sold in a matter of months! It remained on top of the NYC bestseller list for over 70 weeks. Here we will discuss the book, a master piece from Carl Sagan.
As a child, Carl Sagan always wondered what the twinkling points of lights in the sky were, how far away they were, what they were made up of, was there life beyond earth, and many such questions. These urges lead him towards pursuing a career in Astronomy, and the rest as they say is history. Once he had mastered his field, he felt that people still were amazed by the universe, and they still did not know what it is made up of, or what are the rules governing our planet, what is the possibility of life in space, and many other questions, similar to those which troubled him when he was a little kid. He was surprised when he saw that students still didn’t know that stars were as big (and even bigger) as our sun, or that our sun was a star too. He was appalled and therefore, he took on a mission, a mission to educate the world about the cosmos. And thus he came up with a documentary (which created history), and then later a book (which too has earned a place among book lovers) That he had succeeded in his mission of making people more aware about the Cosmos was evident by the popularity and iconic status he achieved after this documentary was shown on TV and when the book hit the stores.
The book, Cosmos, has been written in a tone which is far from dull. It’s riveting, involving, so much so that you just cannot put the book down once when you’ve started reading it. The excitement once felt by the author when he must have discovered all these things can be felt by the reader too, and even the passages which explain scientific laws are so interesting to read, you wonder why your science book was not so interesting!!! Such is the writing prowess of Carl Sagan, a scientist.
The author writes in a poetic manner, characteristic to him, which is adored by all his readers the world over. Moreover, the way he tackles changes in the topics is commendable. The book is exciting to read and will surely increase one’s knowledge, not only about astronomy, but about other sciences as well. It also makes the reader realize the importance of imagination and the vastness of human capabilities. The book made me wonder how much more talented, dedicated and pioneering people were back then, and how poor we are when it comes to observing, imagining, and innovating!!! As the author says, we must feel privileged to have been born in an age when many mysteries have been solved and our existence is not a big question mark for us, that we are the beneficiaries of results drawn from thousands of years of keen observation.
The way the author has moulded his words is fantastic. Even though the documentary was a video & audio one, the book is full of vivid descriptions which make the scene come alive. The book scores a plus point when it comes to a detailed explanation over the documentary and all this makes for a very interesting read.
The author does not hide his imaginations from the readers because he knows that the questions that troubled him during childhood are common questions. It’s just that he pursued a career in astronomy and now knows the answers. He therefore, makes it a point to include his thoughts, which are wonderful, as they immediately connect the reader with the authors’ views, thereby fulfilling what the author always wanted-A better understanding of our universe and its constituents by the general population.
The book has been set in a logical sequence. The author first introduces us to our cosmos, our position, our neighbours, the other constituents of the cosmos, and what and how learned men, during ancient times, knew, or tried to know, about Earth and the space.