I just watched an episode of Cosmos, the early 80’s television series written and hosted by my main man Carl Sagan. Not only does he have the best voice in history, but his views and ideas are idyllic. Peaceful, concerned, inspired, curious. I love him. The show takes an inward view of the universe. Paralleling the galaxy to our own backyard. Like most of his other work, Cosmos brings science to the general public by making it fun.
Dr. Sagan is one of the “wackos” that helped popularize SETI (the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) A program largely scoffed at when it was first introduced. It’s considered fringe science now. Career suicide. Putting it the way Sagan has put it, they are looking for little green men. And “real scientists” are somehow offended by this.
The program has taken a fantastic, science-fiction idea, and made it mainstream. Humanized. People aren’t surprised by it anymore. And that’s a good thing. It should be noted that SETI could quite possibly be credited with one of the most profound scientific discoveries of all time.
In the late 90’s, the Seti@home project was born. Although not the first, this became (and I believe still is) the most popular distributed-computing program in the world. There’s no way the small clic of SETI radio astronomers can pour over the massive amounts of data they receive from the heavens, so they have ingeniously created a way to distribute this information to any normal person with a personal computer. Acting as a screen saver, the program analyzes chunks of data, and sends the results back to SETI. Then grabs some more, and repeats the process… until we find ET, Chewbacca, or John Travolta.
This is old news, but it says something about the popularity of the SETI concept. I wish Carl Sagan had gotten to see the Seti@home project blossom before he passed away in 1996. This is something he would have been astounded by and truly thankful for.
Do yourselves a favor and pick up this treasure. Cosmos is an Emmy winning journey of discovery that will make you question your place in the Universe. That was tacky, but its true. Cosmos @ Amazon.com
Another quick and easy way to get into Sagan is to watch the movie Contact. Its not explicitly said, but Jodie Foster basically plays the man. And she’s won two Oscars! Not to mention Carl wrote the book the movie is based on and was a presence on the set during production.