Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 313 - Carl Sagan Smoked Pot

Am I the last person on Earth to know this?

Aside from the people who don't know who Carl Sagan is because they are too young.

Or not nerdy enough to have been watching his amazing Cosmos series on PBS in 1980.

That TV series was defibrillator to my brain.

To my parent's credit, they would turn over the TV to me on Cosmos nights. I would spread out on the kitchen floor (why the best TV was in the kitchen is a whole blog post in itself), and stare at the screen, in sponge mode, trying to soak it all in.

And it worked. I can trace my interest in science, math, and the origin of the universe directly to these evenings on the kitchen floor.

I used to think that if I ever ran into Prof. Sagan, he'd take to me immediately, tousle my hair in a manner that was in no way creepy, seeing that we shared the excitement and enthusiasm for seeking truth that is out there, just waiting to be discovered. I thought of Carl Sagan as the uncle I never had.

My actual uncle was a brilliant miscreant. He was kicked out of the best schools in the country. He was a hippy way after hippies were cool. And, he smoked a lot of pot.

Turns out, so did Carl.*

I'm glad I didn't know that in 1980. I was bummed when I found out the Beatles did drugs. But, they were musicians, and  I didn't see myself as one day being a Beatle. I did want to be the next Carl Sagan, though, and it would have been heartbreaking to find out, when I was a violently naive 15 year old, that he was a pot smoker.

Now, though, I'm ok with it. And it helps to make sense of how enthralled he was with those images from Hubble.

Just look at the billions and billions of galaxies,
each with billions and billions
of (Pfffffffffff...Pfffff.... cough...Poooooooo) staarrrrs, man. Wild, right?

Today would have been Carl's 76th birthday.

My dear imaginary uncle Carl was a wonderful teacher, able to explain complex concepts, simply, clearly, and in an captivating way. He was also a consummate scientist, seeker of truth, and skeptic, having famously said "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". There was no bullshitting Carl Sagan.

He also wore a turtlenecks. A little too often.

If you don't know Carl Sagan, or you've forgotten him, or you'd like to revisit him, check out this video on the number googol, and this one on black holes.

Oh, and I had a great run today.

Good running,

*My uncle also did a lot of LSD. Not sure about Carl, but I'd guess not.

Numbers: 3.3 miles, with the dog, who also loves Carl Sagan, especially his lesser known series Squirrels: Scourge of the Cosmos.