Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Making Contact

Had he lived longer, today would've been Carl Sagan's 74th birthday. Sagan, for those of you who don't know, was an astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist and perhaps most famously, a regular on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. (Way back when The Tonight Show was a relevant piece of Americana.)

I didn't know about Sagan until 1997, a year after he died, when I went to see Air Force One* with a couple buddies from college. The movie was sold-out, so we took our extremely stoned selves and went to see some flick we had never heard of called Contact. We managed to get to our seats just in time and then saw this...

That brilliant panoramic view of the universe had me hooked, and the whole idea behind the movie really began a change in the way I thought about the world. It is still one of my top-five movies to this day, and I think Jodie Foster's best work. I read a couple of Sagan's books after seeing the movie, including "Billions and Billions," which is my favorite work of non-fiction. Sagan actually wrote much of the book while dying, and it was finished by his wife Ann Druyan. Actually, she is an author and cosmologist herself, and was on Real Time with Bill Maher a couple weeks ago.

Oh, I probably should have mentioned above that Sagan was the author of the novel "Contact," which the movie was based off of. (Was that not clear?) As a scientist, Sagan was a much better stickler for detail than I am.


*Air Force One is a pretty solid movie, too. The kind you can catch any rainy day, no matter where in the movie, and curl up and watch. Am I right, or am I right?


Barry said...

Ah, memories. I remember when Johnny used to say, "Billions and billions" in his best imitation of Carl Sagan. Of course, I was a mere fetus at the time.

Dave said...

At the beginning of "Billions and Billions" Carl writes that he never actually said it, but people thought he did because of Johnny.

Hal said...

Just as Cary Grant never said "Judy, Judy, Judy" and Humphrey Bogart never said "Play it again, Sam." But that was back when you were a zygote, Barry.