Carl Sagan’s Glorious Dawn: The Promise of Cosmos

Trying to catch up I am wading through social media streams and notifications. I am delighted to discover a post that echoes EXACTLY what I feel / have once felt as a teenager and high school student who had just decided to become a physicist. In his reflections Carl Sagan’s Cosmos Samir Chopra said it better than I would have been able to do. Quote: “I react the way I do to “A Glorious Dawn” because when I watch it I am reminded of a kind of naiveté, one that infected a part of life with a very distinct sense of possibility; I am reminded indeed, of an older personality, an older way of looking at the world. You could call this simple nostalgia for childhood; I think you’d be partially right. This nostalgia has many components, of course. Then, science, its methods and its knowledge, seemed sacrosanct; its history the most glorious record of human achievement, rising above its sordid record in other domains. It seemed to document a long struggle against many forms of intellectual and political tyranny. Because I was a student of science then–if only in school–I felt myself tapping into a long and glorious tradition, becoming part of a distinguished stream of humans possessed of epistemic and moral rectitude. And because I felt myself to be have just barely begun my studies, I sensed a long, colorful, adventure–perhaps as dramatic as those that I had seen depicted in Cosmos‘ many episodes–lay ahead of me.”

Samir Chopra

The YouTube video titled “A Glorious Dawn” starring Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking (their voices run through Auto-Tune ), and snippets from Sagan’s epic  Cosmos , has now racked up almost nine million views and twenty-seven thousand comments since it was first put up sometime back in 2009. (Mysteriously, in addition to its seventy-seven thousand ‘Likes’ it has also attracted over a thousand thumbs-downs. There’s no pleasing some people.)

To that count of nine million views I have made several dozen contributions. And cheesily enough, on each occasion, I have detected a swelling, a lump in my throat, and sometimes even, most embarrassingly, a slight moistening of the eyes. I am a grown man, supposedly well above such trite sentimentality. What gives?

Like many of those that write those glowing comments on YouTube, I too watched Cosmos as a youngster. I learned a great deal of astronomy and the history…

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4 thoughts on “Carl Sagan’s Glorious Dawn: The Promise of Cosmos

  1. “Then, science, its methods and its knowledge, seemed sacrosanct; its history the most glorious record of human achievement, rising above its sordid record in other domains. It seemed to document a long struggle against many forms of intellectual and political tyranny.”

    Beautifully put. I try to hold on to this sentiment. Although it is now much clearer to me that scientists, even the great ones, are/were just as feeble and fallible as the rest of humanity, but they try harder 🙂

    • I fully agree! What I like about Samir’s post (actually about many of his posts) that he describes his nostalgic feelings perfectly without stating explicitly that he still adheres to them today unconditionally :-).

      I have read some biographies about these larger-than-life figures in science – and actually I am not sure if I would “liked” many of them really on a personal level. Also my expectations about the moral integrity and flawless character of the typical university professor were not exactly met at the university.

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