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Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and…
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Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the… (original 1997; edition 1998)

by Carl Sagan (Author)

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2,063146,044 (4.08)16
In this book, his last, Carl Sagan shows once again his extraordinary ability to interpret the mysteries of life and the majesty of the universe for the general reader. In Billions and Billions Sagan applies what we know about science, mathematics, and space to everyday life as well as to the exploration of many essential questions concerning the environment and our future. Ranging far and wide in subject matter, he takes his readers on a soaring journey, from the invention of chess to the possibility of life on Mars, from Monday Night Football to the relationship between the United States and Russia, from global warming to the abortion debate. And, on a more intimate note, we are given a rare glimpse of the author himself as he movingly describes his valiant fight for his life, his love for his family, and his personal beliefs about death and God.… (more)
Member:C.Pickarski
Title:Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium
Authors:Carl Sagan (Author)
Info:Ballantine Books (1998), Edition: Reprint, 320 pages
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Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium by Carl Sagan (1997)

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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
A collection of essays, not completely read, individual reviews:

Chapter 19: In the Valley of the Shadow
Quite biographical, and written shortly before his death from a disease which was treated with a bone marrow transplant. A little sentimental, but that's kind of understandable if you're dying.
  themulhern | Nov 19, 2020 |
"Our technology has becoms so powerful that—not only consciously, but inadvertently—we are becoming a danger to ourselves. Science and technology have saved billions of lives, improved the well-being of many more, built up the planet in a slowly anastomosing unity—and at the same time, changed the world so much that many people no longer feel at home in it. We've created a range of new evils; hard to see, hard to understand, problems that cannot be readily cured—certainly not without challenging those already in power."

Carl Sagan never said "billions and billions," despite Johnny Carson's parody of Dr. Sagan on The Tonight Show (on which Sagan was a guest nearly 30 times).

Sagan begins his final book on this humorous note before delving into a diverse range of topics from human evolution and cultural development to ethnocentrism and xenophobia. He discusses the advancement of communications technology from the telegraph to satellites, and while he touches on astronomy and cosmology, a large portion of the book is spent reviewing the current state (as of the mid-1990s), and pondering the future of, our environment and the dangers we face if we do not cease our reliance on fossil fuels.

Sagan also tackles the controversial and often incendiary topic of abortion and the question of when human life truly begins. He discusses the religious and political points of view on abortion, Roe vs. Wade, and women's reproductive rights.

Although I have this book in paperback at home, I listened to the audiobook over three days at work. The narrator for most of the book is the fabulous Adenrele Ojo. The final chapter was co-written with Sagan's wife, Ann Druyan, and describes his diagnosis of, and struggle with, myelodysplasia.

It was a grueling experience for Sagan and his family, involving four trips from his home in Ithaca, NY to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (aka "The Hutch") in Seattle and the bone marrow transplant from his sister, Cari.

Ann narrated the epilogue, which she wrote after Sagan's death. In it, she details the events of the last month of his life and of their final trip to "The Hutch" where he died in December 1996. No, I wasn't choked up at all. Nope, I'm fine...

Where's that damn box of tissues?

Five stars all the way, Carl. I'd give you a billion, if I could. ( )
  pgiunta | Jan 8, 2020 |
Sagan

This falls into the Books I Should Have Read Already category, although it could also be in the Small Stacks of Found Books one because I did find it at a used bookstore while looking for something else.

Sagan covered a lot, in his very accessible way, and a reader might get an impression that he ran out of time, which of course, he did. I’ll not summarize here but I will share a few notes I made and observations I flagged...

On language and communication Ethnocentrism - the idea that our little group, no matter which one it is, is better than any other - and xenophobia - a “shoot first, ask questions later” fear of strangers -are deeply built into us. They are by no means peculiarly human; all our monkey and ape cousins behave similarly, as do many other mammals. These attitudes are at east aided and abetted by the short distance over which speech is possible.Some humans, and human mimics, have a hard time with that simple fact that we are genetically still rather primitive. Aggression and fear of others is sadly normal.

On the environmentThe worse the catastrophe is, the harder it is to keep our balance. We want so badly to either ignore it utterly or to devote all our resources to circumventing it.Hard truth boiled down to a simple dichotomy. And on the predictions of climate change, for the ignorant “ideologically driven radio talk-show hosts [and wrongwing politicians and media] who insist that the greenhouse effect is a ‘hoax.’”To roughly quote Richard Dawkins, it’s science b*itches! He notes “Considering hw contentious the scientific community is, it is notable that not a single paper is offered claiming that depletion of the ozone layer or global warming are snares and delusions or that global warming is considerably less than the estimated 1 to 4 C for a doubling in the carbon dioxide abundance.” Well, no legitimate scientific peer-reviewed paper - there is a host of cottage industry trolls masquerading as scientists that have cropped up since Sagan’s death spewing gibberish that is eaten up by the wrongwing.

I’d forgotten that the first truly horrendous president of my adulthood, Reagan, had the solar-thermal converter take off the White House roof. Sagan observes “It was somehow ideologically offensive.” Idiot (not Sagan, of course.) And now the administration of 2017 is bent on rolling back all environmental progress of the last 100 years. Ideological offense has something to do with it, as does lining the pockets of the billionaire cronies.

An uncomfortable truth, Sagan, after noting the annexations and occupations of the Soviet Union, turned to the United StatesExcluding World Wars and expeditions to suppress piracy or the slave trade, the United States has made [as of 1996] armed invasions and interventions in other countries on more than 130 separate occasions, including China (on 18 separate occasions), Mexico (13), Nicaragua and Panama (9 each), Honduras (7), Columbia and Turkey (6 each), the Dominican Republic, Korea, and Japan (5 each), Argentina, Cuba, Haiti, the Kingdom of Hawaii, and Samoa (4 each), Uruguay and Fiji (3 each), Guatemala, Lebanon, the Soviet Union, and Sumatra (2 each), Grenada, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Chile, Morocco, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Syria, Iraq, Peru, Formosa, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.Add Iraq again, Afghanistan, Syria again, Somalia, and I don't know how many more. Those data came from records of the House Armed Services Committee. We're not clean and never have been.

He talks about abortion and opens "The issue had been decided years ago. The court had chosen the middle ground, You'd think the fight was over." ... well, actually... far from. He'd likely not be surprised, and still somehow remain optimistic.

Ann wrote a heart-tugging epilogue that if you aren't moved after reading, well, you're not human.

I should have read this long ago - I had an unread copy that was lost to a fire. Life's too short to keep making that mistake. I do believe I'll revisit Demon Haunted World this year...we'll see. ( )
  Razinha | Jan 3, 2020 |
სეიგანის უკანასკნელი წიგნი რომელშიც ის ტრადიციას არ ღალატობს და მკითხველს აფრთხილებს იმ საფრთხეებზე რაც ჩვენ დაუდევარ ქმედებებს შეიძლება მოყვეს. ეს არის გამაფრთხილებელი წერილი. რომელიც გვიყვება ოზონის ხვრელზე, გლობალურ დათბობაზე, ბირთვული იარაღის და პოლიტიკის პრობლემებზე, კოლაბორაციის, გამჭრიახობის და პასუხისმგებლობის მნიშვნელობაზე.
ჩვენი ბომბების გამანადგურებელი ძალა საუკუნეზე ნაკლებ დროში მილიარდჯერ გაიზარდა, გავხდით კი მილიარდჯერ უფრო ჭკვიანები? საინტერესოა კარლის მიერ 1988 წელს დაწერილი სტატია საბჭოთა კავშირის და ამერიკის შესახებ. ორი სუპერსახელმწიფოს უგუნური პოლიტიკის ანალიზი, დაპყრობაში და სამხედრო ტექნიკაში ჩადებული უამრავი ადამიანის სიცოცხლე, ადამიანური და მატერიალური რესურსი. თუმცა სეიგანის მიზანი კრიტიკა არაა, მას უნდა ამ ორ სახელმწიფოს დაანახოს საერთო მტერი. საერთო პრობლემები და მათი გადაჭრის გზები.
ძალიან სევდიანია წიგნის ბოლო ნაწილი სადაც კარლი თავის ავადმყოფობაზე ყვება, რა გამოცდილებას აძლევს სიკვდილ სიცოცხლის კიდესთან მიახლოება. ასევე ენ დრიანის ეპოლოგი კარლის სიკვდილზე.
( )
  Misha.Kaulashvili | Aug 22, 2016 |
While Dr. Sagan may never be viewed at the same level of some scientists for their pure scientific advances, he surpasses almost all in his ability to craft a message about the importance of science which can be understood by almost all. This book covers many topics, but each is linked to the others, the overall message, and the constant message throughout others of his books I have read: we are but one people, inhabiting one planet together, and can only hope to survive for the long term through compromise and cooperation. Further, that compromise and cooperation needs to be grounded in science. ( )
  dpevers | Feb 3, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carl Saganprimary authorall editionscalculated
Druyan, AnnEpiloguesecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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To my sister, Cari, one in six billion
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I never said it.
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There's an old joke about the plantarium lecturer who tells his audience that in 5 billion years the Sun will swell to become a bloated red giant, engulfing the planets Mercury and Venus and eventually perhaps even gobbling up the Earth. Afterward, an anxious member of the audience buttonholes him:
'Excuse me, Doctor, did you say that the Sun will burn up the Earth in 5 billion years?'
'Yes, more or less.'
'Thank God. For a moment I thought you said 5 million.'
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In this book, his last, Carl Sagan shows once again his extraordinary ability to interpret the mysteries of life and the majesty of the universe for the general reader. In Billions and Billions Sagan applies what we know about science, mathematics, and space to everyday life as well as to the exploration of many essential questions concerning the environment and our future. Ranging far and wide in subject matter, he takes his readers on a soaring journey, from the invention of chess to the possibility of life on Mars, from Monday Night Football to the relationship between the United States and Russia, from global warming to the abortion debate. And, on a more intimate note, we are given a rare glimpse of the author himself as he movingly describes his valiant fight for his life, his love for his family, and his personal beliefs about death and God.

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