Carl Sagan Day: November 7

By Phil Plait | November 2, 2009 7:45 am

If you’re anywhere near southern Florida on Saturday, November 7, then you need to get yourself over to the Broward College, which is holding the very first celebration of Carl Sagan Day!


It’s in honor of Sagan’s birthday, which is on November 9th. He would’ve been 75 this year. Sagan inspired a generation of astronomers, and in reality a whole generation of people to look at the sky and appreciate the — yes, I’ll say it — cosmos.

Celebrating his life is a great idea, and the folks at BCCC have a full day planned (the schedule is online in PDF and Word formats). A lot of good speakers will be giving talks, including my friend Jeffrey Bennett (who wrote Max goes to the Moon series of kids’ books), skeptic and "Point of Inquiry" podcast host D. J. Grothe, and NASA astrobiologist and impact expert David Morrison (via satellite). I’ll be giving my Death from the Skies! talk at 4:00 (with David there, I’ll have to be on my toes). They’ll be showing "Cosmos" continuously in one room, with kids’ activities in another. There’s a planetarium show in the evening, too.

And this will be very special: James Randi will be there, talking about Sagan. The two were friends. Randi has a lot of personal insight on the man and will have wonderful things to say. This is a don’t-miss opportunity, folks. I think I’m looking forward to that part most of all.

For more info, there’s contact info on the Carl Sagan Day website. Also, there’s a writeup in the Broward/Palm Beach New Times.

This really will be a fun and wonderful tribute to Sagan. I’m very pleased and honored to be a part of this great day for a great man.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, DeathfromtheSkies!, JREF

Comments (53)

  1. Nomen Publicus

    I remember almost nothing of the TV Cosmos except I that was impressed (and the “billions and billions”.)

    It’s time for Cosmos v.2. With the images we now have from Hubble and other telescopes we could knock the socks off the viewers.

    Think of the impact of the BBC nature programs such as Life on Earth have had… Why can’t someone produce something as stunning about the universe?

  2. Well won’t be Florida anytime soon. Sounds like a great time. Right now I bet Larian kicking himself for moving away from Florida so soon.

  3. Time to dust off the tan blazer! (Apparently Sagan had several of these.)

    Phil, you missed a chance to acknowledge whomever alerted you to this with a “flash of the tan-blazer lapel”!

  4. That pumpkin carving of Sagan is even more lifelike than the other one!

  5. Davidlpf, I am only sort of kicking myself. Broward County is about as far away from where I was that it might as well have been another country! Heck, Disney was an 8 hour drive (9 hours on the clock if you counted timezone changes).

    I will make sure to pass info about this event along to as many folks as I can though! He is a man worthy of recognition and having his own day!

  6. nobody

    Sagan is one of the 2 reasons I am in physics/cosmology right now :)

    Star Trek is the other…

    We need more people like Sagan!!!!

  7. I’ll be there and I’ll bring Phil’s and Randi’s books to get them signed!

  8. Dan

    Nomen Publicus: The entire “Cosmos” series is available on Hulu. Y’all should go watch it, because it’s still every bit as brilliant, thought-provoking and awe-inspiring as it ever was.

    There is nothing, no Hubble image or size comparison chart or anything else that can give me that delightful “The universe is so very, very vast and amazing and I am so very, very tiny” feeling like hearing Vangelis’ “Heaven and Hell, Part III” aka the theme from “Cosmos.” Try listening to it while looking at Hubble Deep Field images. It’ll make your head asplode.

  9. Phil:
    I didn’t know you knew Jeffrey Bennett! I have a signed copy of his “Beyond UFOs” right here. The Noisy Astronomer & I met him a month ago when he spoke here at UVa!
    Small universe! ;^)

    As for a hi-def remake of “Cosmos” I hereby volunteer to be on the crew! I have a HD camera and editing gear. Let’s do it! Somebody get a grant proposal together and let’s get the old film footage of Carl scanned into HD. Then let’s get, say, Phil & Pamela to do new segments to make it current…

  10. I wish more stuff like this would happen. I organize a star party every year for my school district here in Houston. I run a station called “whats up” where I teach people how to read star charts and take them on a tour of the sky with a cool green laser pointer. Another station has telescopes pointed at Saturn and the Moon. A third station has an array of astroscans set up so that people can get their hands on them, and a final station has different types of scopes and books set up for people to look at and ask questions. The whole thing is manned by volunteers like myself and other amateur astronomers. We have had over 500 people show up each year for the last three years. Great fun!

    The Skeptical Teacher

  11. T.E.L.

    I think Carl Sagan day is like Charles Darwin day: totally beside the point. All this sort of thing does is encourage the Cult of the Personality. Celebrating Sagan is the antithesis of Sagan’s lesson.

  12. Jason

    iTunes has the whole series of Cosmos for about 30 bucks. I highly recommend it for anybody.

    I think Bill Nye would be great for Cosmos 2 (sorry Phil, but something about Nye just seems like he’s really good at doing the whole Sagan thing where he tries to describe things in terms and scales that the layman can relate to a little better. I haven’t seen you speak, so I may be very wrong, but Nye’s the Guy).

    inb4commentmoderated :-p

  13. Caleb

    I recently watched Cosmos for the first time earlier this year. Amazing!

    For anyone whose interested, the complete collection of Cosmos is available for streaming on Netflix (which is what I used to watch it recently):

  14. Thanks to iTunes, last night I sat down to watch the first episode of “Cosmos” with my children, reliving a very similar moment so many years ago when I curled up with my own parents to watch the original run on PBS and had my mind opened.

    I checked out my first book on astronomy from the library the next day, and haven’t looked back down to Earth since.


  15. Ray

    BCCC is a fantastic place for astronomers. I was in vacation in FL back in 1997 and we stumbled across their observatory and planetarium, which had (has?) public shows.

    We didn’t get a star show, but we did get a fantastic laser show in the planetarium set of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” :)

  16. Roan

    I miss the dude, watched cosmos, show me how to edictae myself. I love the bit where he went to a library and asked for a book of stars, only to be shown film stars, classic. Although he showed that we DO live on earth, bit like Attenborough. God Bless

  17. Kris

    Any reason it’s being held on the 7th and not on the 9th, his actual birthday?

  18. cameron

    How does one celebrate Carl Sagan Day? With apple pie?

  19. Eric Howe

    Apple pie and the symphony of science:

    But you have to make the apple pie yourself…

  20. JB of Brisbane

    @cameron #18 – Yes, but you don’t have to start from scratch.

  21. USS Kevin

    Oh thanks, TEL – now what do I do with my Carl Sagan Altar? You know how much I spent on the candles alone? That’s right, billions and billions!

  22. This looks wonderful. It makes me want to make an unscheduled trip to south Florida!

    It seems very odd to not have Ann Druyan there. I wonder what her schedule is like these days.

  23. Also, the fine gentleman who brought us A Glorious Dawn has broadened his focus and generated another great video featuring Dr. Sagan:

  24. Pertti

    Speaking of a tribute to Carl Sagan “A Glorious Dawn”

  25. T.E.L.

    USS Kevin,

    What did Carl Sagan use to make soups? Bouillons and bouillons.

  26. Daniel J. Andrews

    T.E.L. has an interesting point. There’s an article online about how we need to get rid of the cult of Darwin. We speak of Darwinian evolution when we should just speak of evolution. The example in the article is (paraphrased because I’m too rushed to look it up now) a police officer at a crime scene doesn’t say “we have some Watson and Crick DNA over here…bring the forensic crews”. They just say “DNA”.

    Given the fact that so many creationists (young earth ones) fixate on Darwin (he’s a racist, he’s responsible for eugenics, he’s responsible for Hitler’s policies, he’s…ad nausuem nonsensium….), then we need to tone down this cult of personality. Evolution is robust and stands by itself now. Darwin should be praised as the founder, but not as this larger-than-life cult-like figure.

    So while I admire Sagan and what he’s done, do we need another cult? I’m not sure. Maybe it doesn’t make any difference one way or the other. Still, interesting to contemplate.

  27. Russell

    Excellent, I’ve plans to be in Ft Lauderdale that morning anyhow, I’d love to see Randi and you talk about Sagan. I look forward to meeting you soon!

  28. The Sine

    Daniel, tell that to the people still anticipating his reincarnation replacement. 😉

    And wouldn’t it be more appropriate to celebrate with chocolate pudding pie, since that was his favorite?

  29. NOYB

    All in all, not too bad for a survivor from Brooklyn, NY.

    Sagan as a boy: “What are stars?”

    Typical Brooklyn response, “They’re lights in the sky, kid!”

  30. That’s merely a few hours south of me, so I’ll likely be in attendance, hopefully along with a group from FIT’s Student Astronomical Society.

  31. IBY

    @The Sine
    It would be appropriate to celebrate with chcolate pudding only because I love chocolate and chocolate is my favorite candy/food ever. 😉

  32. TommyBoy

    If I gotta worship somebody and emulate them, I don’t mind it being Carl Sagan at all.

    We all need heroes, okay? At least we know Sagan was real.

  33. JB of Brisbane

    Thought of a great Mondegreen from “Glorious Dawn” –

    “This guyyyyy calls to us… if we do not destroy ourselves.”

    @TommyBoy – I think we don’t want to finish up like the Objectivists, with their devotion bordering on worship of Ayn Rand.

  34. “All in all, not too bad for a survivor from Brooklyn, NY.

    Sagan as a boy: “What are stars?”

    Typical Brooklyn response, “They’re lights in the sky, kid!””

    Actually, Sagan himself told the following story. In the local library, he asked for a book
    about stars. The librarian gave him one—Humphrey Bogart, James Stewart etc. He
    said that that’s not what he meant, and she smiled and gave him a book about real stars.

  35. Naomi

    Aww, I’m nowhere near Florida. Damn. (And pity I’d miss David Morrison! The Astrobiology Institute at AMES is written in big letters and circled with a glitterpen as number one lifetime goal.)

    Plus side, during my PHYS178 Planets and Planetary Systems tutorial today, when we were going over the Drake equation, I mentioned to my friend that it’d be great to see that clip from Cosmos about it – and then the tutor put it on XD

  36. T.E.L.

    TommyBoy Said:

    “If I gotta worship somebody and emulate them, I don’t mind it being Carl Sagan at all.

    We all need heroes, okay? At least we know Sagan was real.”

    You don’t gotta worship anyone, real or not. I’ve learned a number of valuable things from Carl Sagan’s writings. I’ve also learned much from a lot of other people; for example, nearly everyone else I’ve eve known. I’ve also learned from more than just what people have to say. There’s food for thought to be found in all experience. So why would Sagan be so deserving of my, or your, admiration? If you want badly to celebrate some special person in your life, why not set aside a day to remember your parents? They made all things possible for you.

    And if you need a hero, then look to yourself. Be a hero, in the truest sense of the great myths. Learn from life. Transform yourself. Become more than you were.

  37. #1 Nomen Publicus, #21 USS Kevin:
    Actually, Sagan never said “billions and billions” – though he did of course frequently use the word “billions” in Cosmos. ( His emphatic pronunciation of the word, which led to many an impersonation, was simply intended to distinguish it from “millions”. ) This is one of those false “catchphrases”, which was invented by an impersonator.
    He did, however, write it – eventually, in the final months of his life. His last book is entitled Billions and Billions; the first essay in it has the same title, and the opening sentence is, “I never said it – honest!”

    #26 Daniel: While your point about Darwin is a valid one, I don’t think the same reasoning can be applied to Sagan. Notwithstanding all the important work he did in astronomy and planetary science, we are celebrating him here as a populariser of science. I doubt if any other person of his era – and certainly none since – has done as much to educate the public on the wonders of the Universe. Can we even imagine how many of today’s younger astronomers were inspired by him?
    I, for one, don’t hesitate to say that the world is a poorer place without him.

  38. Heather

    I have been a little in love with Carl since 11th grade Astronomy class’ viewing of Cosmos. The patches on the sleeves of his jacket and the way he said billions has always been a slight turn on for me:)

  39. T.E.L.

    Neil Haggath,

    What about all the other role models? What about the other scientists who inspired people to take interest in science? Where’s the special party for people to get together and celebrate Faraday? He not only made science cool in the eyes of the Public with his popular lectures, he did science that revolutionized Civilization. So where’s his special event? Where’s the sadness that he’s no longer with us? Or what about Marie Curie? She made science cool by promoting it tirelessly.

    I could mention Lise Meitner, but she was a rather private person and didn’t spend her time promoting science. All she did was science itself, such as leading the team that discovered nuclear fission. No party for her.

  40. Anthony

    This is full of win.

  41. Erwin Blonk

    Phil, you’re speaking on Carl Sagan Day? Oh My Imaginary Being! I’d give up all my psychic powers just to be there (yeah, I’m cheap).

    I <3 Cosmos.

  42. I cannot make South Florida, but my household will celebrate with a special Thanksgiving like dinner. To say thanks that we had Carl Sagan and thanks to him for all of the curiosity he inspired.

    Curiosity not only that inspired many of today’s scientists, but everyone who has paused to marvel at the Universe, thanks to him.


  43. T.E.L.

    dan`Satterfield Says:

    “Curiosity not only that inspired many of today’s scientists, but everyone who has paused to marvel at the Universe, thanks to him.”

    Carl Sagan did write a lot of inspiring stuff. But if he’s the only one who inspired you, then you haven’t been around much. There’s more to getting interested in science than any single person. There’s more to it than just people. Whence came Carl Sagan’s curiosity? Surely he didn’t see himself on TV and say, “I want to be just like him when I grow up.”

    And what about all the less than honorable episodes in his life? Are you aware that he as much as disowned one of his sons one day (insinuated to the mother that he and the son didn’t look like each other) just to get out of spending some time with the young man? What about how he treated his first wife, Lynn Margulis? She was just as well-educated as he was. She was a working scientist. Yet as far as he was concerned, changing diapers and keeping the floor swept was pretty much her job- not so much his.

  44. Kevin

    Nobody answered #17. Kris’s question.

    Why is “Carl Sagan Day” being celebrated on the 7th, and not on his birthday, the 9th?

    Even the website – – says “This November 7, 2009, we will celebrate the life and contributions of the great astronomer, author, and philosopher, Carl Sagan, on the 75th anniversary of his birth.”

    So even the website is wrong.

    I did email them and asked, but have not heard yet.

  45. Because the 9th is a Monday, and by doing it on the 7th people can have time to come.

  46. Jim Craig

    Sagan may not have been the only person to inspire me to study astronomy but he was the first and definitely one of the most influential. Now, nearly 30 years after Cosmos, I teach astronomy to students and the public at a planetarium.

    Sagan opened my eyes to the wonder and possibilities that were out there. And I sought out his other books and books by other authors. He rekindled a flame that had been all but extinguished by some unthinking teachers and adults who didn’t get the geeky kid who was more interested in the stars and planets than football and rodeo.

    Do I worship him? No. He was a man. Do I admire him? For his ability to turn science into poetry, I do.

    I only wish I could have met the man to thank him for giving me back the gift of scientific curiosity.

  47. By coincidence, last year, I named one mathematical result I found after Sagan. This is the link to the article, “Ramanujan’s 6-10-8 Identity and Sagan’s Identity”:


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar