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Carl Sagan: From Cosmos to Nuclear Winter

Semester and Year SU 2014
Course Number IDSEM-UG1780
Section 001
Instructor Matthew Stanley
Days Mon,Wed
Time 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Units 4.0
Level U
Foundation Requirement SCI


Session I: May 27 - July 3


This course uses Carl Sagan as a frame through which to examine the complicated relationship between professional science and the public, the place of humans in the universe, the tensions between science and pseudoscience, and the role of science in political activism. Sagan introduced a generation of readers and television viewers to a romantic, awe-filled vision of the universe. He explained that we were literally stardust, and let ordinary people inhabit the excitement of the exploration of space. Through The Tonight Show  and Cosmos , he became a fixture of the American home. But Sagan was also censured by his colleagues for his work to popularize science, even as he vigorously patrolled the borders of science against those who fell short of professional stature. And while he gained fame by trying to communicate with aliens, he used that fame to warn against the dangers of nuclear war and environmental destruction. We will read works by Sagan, including Cosmos and its companion television program, Dragons of Eden ,  Murmurs of Earth , The Demon Haunted World , and The Cold and the Dark . These sources will be supplemented with theoretical work on the rhetoric and philosophy of science.

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)

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