Carl Sagan

October 12th: Whale


Carl Sagan’s legacy is overwhelming.

He was a great physicist: he theorised about Venus’ atmospheric conditions and helped NASA’s Mariner expedition to confirm them.

He was a visionary astrobiologist: he researched the possibilities of extraterrestrial life, even producing amino acids by mixing chemicals and radiation.

He was an outstanding communicator: Cosmos, that he presented, was the most widely watched show on American TV. He won a Pulitzer for The Dragon of Eden. He taught people the importance of critical thinking forming generations of scientists and citizens.

But Sagan’s legacy extends outside planet earth, exactly 13,410,119,153 miles away from earth (at the time I type these words): this is the distance travelled by Voyager 1 in the 41 years since it was launched. Carl Sagan contributed in designing The Golden Record: a testimony of life on earth to reach the outer space, and hopefully other forms of intelligent life. The message contains the most diverse things: from a picture of people doing grocery shops to the sound of kisses and greetings in 55 different languages. But what is intelligent life? We only can imagine it as similar to our own. Thinking ahead and outside the box, Timothy Ferris -also participating in the recording of this golden disk- considered that maybe a whale song might make more sense to aliens than the human voice. Instead of using only a snippet of a whale song, he used the whole thing as a background to the voices of people from around the world. A perfect symphony of science, nature and humanity that Sagan helped to craft.

If you wondering what’s going on here, I explained it on this blog post: Inking Science