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Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium

4.26  ·  Rating Details ·  10,168 Ratings  ·  324 Reviews
In the final book of his astonishing career, Carl Sagan brilliantly examines the burning questions of our lives, our world, and the universe around us. These luminous, entertaining essays travel both the vastness of the cosmos and the intimacy of the human mind, posing such fascinating questions as how did the universe originate and how will it end, and how can we meld sci ...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published May 12th 1998 by Ballantine Books (first published 1997)
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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonA Brief History of Time by Stephen HawkingCosmos by Carl SaganThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Science Books - Non-Fiction Only
153rd out of 1,064 books — 2,620 voters
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonA Brief History of Time by Stephen HawkingGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared DiamondCosmos by Carl SaganThe Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
Best General Science Books
36th out of 377 books — 363 voters

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Huda Yahya
Aug 14, 2015 Huda Yahya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: carl-sagan, science

ما الذي يمكنك قوله عن كتاب تشاهد فيه ابتسامة واحد من أعز الناس على قلبك وهي تخفت

ما الذي يمكنك فعله وأنت تقرأ كلماته الأخيرة
وتشعر بأوجاعه تشتد قرب النهاية فلا تملك إلا البكاء مع ابتسامة سكينة تملأ وجهك

لا يمكنك مع كارل ساجان إلا الشعور بالسكينة والطمأنينة مهما كنت تتوجع

اختتمت آن زوجته الكتاب وهي تصف بحزن نبيل لحظات كارل الأخيرة
معاناته والجو المحيط به حينما عاد لأجداده النجوم مرة أخرى


في كتابات كارل الأخيرة تلحظ دوماً إنشغاله الشديد بقضية البشرية ومستقبلهم على هذه الأرض

كيف يمكننا إطالة
Jenny GB
Jul 01, 2012 Jenny GB rated it really liked it
Carl Sagan writes about many topics in this book, but manages to make them all readable and understandable. My favorites are his essays on exponential growth and decay, the universe, and abortion. He really clearly lays out his thoughts and makes hard to understand concepts reachable in science and mathematics. He makes what is probably the most logical argument I have ever read in the abortion debates about our need to decide what makes us human and determine at what point that happens. His sho ...more
Feb 10, 2016 Marijan rated it it was amazing
Posljednja knjiga koju je Sagan napisao prije svoje prerane smrti. U ovom djelu veliki humanist iznosi svoje viđenje nekoliko svjetskih problema, kao i svoju viziju poterncijalnih rješenja. Ražalostolo me zapravo, što se u dva desetljeća otkad je djelo napisano toliko malo pomaklo na bolje. strah, paranoja, iracionalnost, fanaticizam i zatvaranje očiju pred dugotrajnim rješenjima radi kratkotrajne koristi vladaju svijetom više nego ikada. Ima li nade za nas?
Katie Cakes
May 27, 2012 Katie Cakes rated it it was amazing
I liken Carl Sagan's explanation of physics, mathematics and astronomy in Billions and Billions and all his books to what Steven Pinker did for the field of linguistics in The Language Instinct: he takes extraordinarily complex phenomena and breaks them down so the intelligent reader fascinated by such quandaries, but who just didn't have the passion to study them academically, can understand and muse upon. I used Pinker's work when teaching linguistics in graduate school, and I could see physic ...more
Jan 03, 2016 Santhosh rated it really liked it
The core premise of Sagan's final book is, to paraphrase an old Native American saying, "We have not inherited the Earth from our ancestors, but have borrowed it from our children." So stop the F screwing it up.

Presented as 3 parts of 19 essays in total, some of the essays, especially in the first part, are similar to the material he covered in Cosmos: cosmology and the vastness of space, our history as a species, general physics, life outside Earth. Some of the other essays are about then emerg
I am a great fan of Carl Sagan and it is with some sadness that I can recommend this, his last book, only partially. It is a collection of nineteen essays, organized into three mostly unrelated parts. Some items are well worth reading—particularly the last—but some not at all.

Part 1, "The Power and Beauty of Quantification," is merely a simple echo of his famous book Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (1980). The first chapter on large numbers, from which the "Billions and Billions" of this book's title
Dec 26, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Sagan is eloquent as always. It helps even more to read it out loud to yourself, (muttering lest someone observe) and make up a Sagan accent as you go. He takes a gentle hand, which I think bespeaks desperation in his last years, his last chance to nudge the ball forward amidst tangible fear that forceful will be deemed strident, erudite will sound preachy, and warning the bitter rantings of an old Cassandra. Carl knows he's on the losing team, he loves humanity, and deeply fears our suicide by ...more
Paul Martin
Jun 25, 2015 Paul Martin rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Six times now have I looked Death in the face. And six times Death has averted his gaze and let me pass. Eventually, of course, Death will claim me - as he does each of us. It's only a question of when. And how.

I've learned much from our confrontations - especially about the beauty and sweet poignancy of life, about the preciousness of friends and family, and about the transforming power of love. In fact, almost dying is such a positive, character-building experience that I'd recommend it to eve
This is I think Carl Sagan's last published book, published in 1996. His chapter/essay, entitled "The Twentieth Century," is one of the most insightful summaries of what the universe is that I ever read. Well, maybe not the most insightful, but surely in the top three:

"Perhaps the most wrenching by-product of the scientific revolution has been to render untenable many of our most cherished and most comforting beliefs. The tidy anthropocentric proscenium of our ancestors has been replaced by a co
Fulya İçöz
Carl Sagan en sevdiğim bilim insanıdır. Onun gökbilim için yaptıkları, insanın geleceği için kaygıları, evrenin gizemini çözmek için yanıp tutuşan kalbi beni her zaman derinden etkilemiştir. Daha önce Karanlık Bir Dünyada Bilimin Mum Işığı kitabını okuduğum için bu kitabı onunla kıyaslıyorum haliyle. Karanlık Bir Dünyada... bu kitaba göre daha derli toplu ve daha tematikti. Bu kitap ise daha dağınık ve takip etmesi dolayısıyla daha zor bir derleme. En fazla kürtajla ilgili olan makaleyi sevdiğim ...more
Nov 26, 2013 fatma rated it it was amazing
كتاب رائع مهما خالفت معتقداتك افكار كارل ساجان لاتستطيع الا ان تحترمه وتحب فيه انسانيته وشغفه بالعلم وبتوعية الآخرين..الكتاب رائع والمقالات جدا مؤثرة تأخذك الى مستوى مختلف تماما من الوعي والشعور بالمسؤلية حول كوكب الارض وتأثيرنا فيه كبشر ..وينبهك الى خطورة الاسلحة النووية وكيف ان وجودها يمسنا بشكل شخصي ومباشر..اما نهاية الكتاب فقد كانت شديدة التأثير وموجعة حيث تصدمك بفكرة المرض والموت والجدوى من الحياة وقيمة الحب بمواقف من حياة الكاتب نفسه الذي فارق الحياة .. كارل ساجان مازال يضيء عقول الآخرين ح ...more
Saurav Sharan
Jul 25, 2014 Saurav Sharan rated it really liked it
I must say, I have never completed a book faster:just three sittings and last half in a two hour flight to Mumbai.I am inclined to be a little proud of this achievement.
My heroics were partly possible because the book is predictable in its first half, where Carl Sagan begins by enumerating the environmental problems,the world is facing,beamed especially with Ozone depletion and Global warming. The research and subsequent efforts by different companies, countries and communities have been capture
May 27, 2009 Schuyler rated it liked it
Sagan can be a little repetitive but that doesn't mean his words carry no less value. The chapter on abortion is worth your time if you've ever been even mildly divided on the issue, which you should be. Also, I teared up on the bus reading In The Valley of the Shadow, which documents Sagan's fatal battle with myelodysplastic syndrome.
Aug 31, 2015 Nathan rated it really liked it
What a great book. It was well written and really touched on a variety of different topics. Though it is dated now, I still feel that I gained a lot by reading it. And the last two chapters where he talked about his disease and views on death really struck deep with me.
Jul 13, 2009 Kyle rated it it was amazing
Written at the end of his life and published with an post script illuminating his unsuccessful battle with myelodysplasia, as well as a touching epilogue by his widow Ann Druyan. The book starts out with a kind of fleshing-out of humanity by its numbers, things like human population and resource usage and the age of the species are all implicitly synthesized into a description of people by very large numbers. It then touches on social and environmental issues, how people react to them, and what ...more
Reem Meshkawi
Mar 28, 2016 Reem Meshkawi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
كتاب ممتع فيه حقائق قيمة . طرح فيه الكاتب مواضيع هامة أغناها بالإحصائيات و بالأرقام . تحدث فيه عن الكثير من الأمور الأساسية في حماية البيئة و مستقبلها .
ختم الكتاب بقصة مرض الكاتب و وفاته ... قصة مؤثرة أبكتني و أدمعت عيني بسخاء .
Nawar Youssef
May 22, 2014 Nawar Youssef rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, science

بلايين و بلايين كتاب غير عادي، ربما لان كاتبه غير عادي. يأخذك الكتاب في البداية برحلة خفيفة يطلعك خلالها على بعض العلوم و النظريات التي توصل إليها الذكاء البشري عبر الزمن و أيضاً يمر مرور سريع على
التقنيات و التطبيقات لهذه العلوم و النظريات. و بما أن الكاتب هو "كارل سيغان" فمن الطبيعي أن تجد كثير من المعلومات عن الفضاء و الفيزياء و عن جمال الكون و عظمته لكن كل هذا موجود في القسم الأول فقط.

و لان "كارل سيغان" يمثل العالم (بكسر اللام) المثالي لكثير من العلماء و الهواة الذين يؤمنون بالعلم، فهو لا ب

Gilda Felt
Aug 17, 2016 Gilda Felt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when it was first published, when the loss of him was still a fresh shock. Rereading it now, it was like meeting up with an old friend who you thought lost. His words come through clear and precise, and I could hear his voice in my head, reintroducing me to all the things that he held dear, or that concerned him, or that he just found interesting.

And he found so much interesting, far too much to be covered in just one book. History, astronomy, physics, the environment, religion.
Miguel Á.
Dec 22, 2015 Miguel Á. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, ensayo
Un alegato a la vida repleto de esperanza, un recorrido crítico a la historia de la Humanidad y los descubrimientos científicos, y una reflexión sobre cómo podríamos hacer de este un lugar mejor para vivir.
Dec 26, 2013 Eva rated it liked it
A collection of essays written by Sagan just before he (spoiler alert) died. Some quotes:

On the shrimp in a little glass ecosphere:
"All I have to do is make sure that they're not in too much light or too long in the dark and that they're always at temperatures between 40 degrees and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. (Above that, I guess, they make a bisque and not an ecosystem.)"

On the need for abortion to spare amother's life:
"Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, opposed even this exception: 'If t
სეიგანის უკანასკნელი წიგნი რომელშიც ის ტრადიციას არ ღალატობს და მკითხველს აფრთხილებს იმ საფრთხეებზე რაც ჩვენ დაუდევარ ქმედებებს შეიძლება მოყვეს. ეს არის გამაფრთხილებელი წერილი. რომელიც გვიყვება ოზონის ხვრელზე, გლობალურ დათბობაზე, ბირთვული იარაღის და პოლიტიკის პრობლემებზე, კოლაბორაციის, გამჭრიახობის და პასუხისმგებლობის მნიშვნელობაზე.
ჩვენი ბომბების გამანადგურებელი ძალა საუკუნეზე ნაკლებ დროში მილიარდჯერ გაიზარდა, გავხდით კი მილიარდჯერ უფრო ჭკვიანები? საინტერესოა კარლის მიერ 1988 წელს დაწერილი სტატ
Nov 24, 2012 Jake rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
“The hard-liners on each side encourage one another. They owe their credibility and their power to one another. They need one another. They are locked in a deadly embrace.”

Dr. Carl Sagan wrote this in a piece dual-published by prominent magazines in the United States and the then Soviet Union. But it could just as easily describe the current toxicity of American politics, any given regional feud, or even big-box stores competing for sales on a day purportedly dedicated to thanksgiving. The abo
Jan 06, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it
One of Sagan's best nonfiction works (and his last before his death.) The title of the book does not do justice to the topics he explores, but his main theme centers around global synergy and cooperation to solve the ills of modern society: ozone depletion, global warming, population control, economic parity, etc. The two chapters on the ozone and global warming are the BEST scientific yet approachable renditions on the topics and can be read out of context of the rest of the book for great educ ...more
Sep 03, 2012 J.P. rated it it was amazing
I bought this book on a whim because I found a cheap, decent & used copy for a price I couldn't pass up. I've gotten more than my money's worth for this one. It's a great book & demonstrates how thoughtful Sagan was. I remember Bill Nye growing up but definitely wished I had been exposed to Carl Sagan as well. It's his memoirs written a little before his death. His thoughts on important issues such as Global Warming (Climate Change), our history as a species, our growth as a species & ...more
King Ævil
Carl Sagan's last book, finished shortly before his death, is an interesting and, at times, curious work. Dr. Sagan starts out a bit off form: the first third or so of the book is rather lacking in his signature eloquence, and he makes a couple of uncharacteristic errors. In the chapter "Monday-night Hunters," for example, he overextends our knowledge of the evolution of behavior in making sweeping, unsupported conclusions about our (and here, by "our", I mean "society's", and not my own) love o ...more
Benjamin Atkinson
After completing "In a Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark", I did not think that I would find anything better. I was wrong. Billions and Billions, although a softer edged, more humanistic book was still a life-changing read. Loaded with wisdom, wonder, and more critique on critical thinking, I found this last effort by Sagan, to be his most heart-warming. The death of Carl Sagan is a huge loss to the human race. His rare combination of scientific rigor, atheism, and spiritual e ...more
Apr 21, 2009 Justin rated it it was ok
I didn't enjoy this as much as Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World, mostly because I read Demon much closer to its 1996 publication date. I would have enjoyed Billions much more had I read it closer to when it was released (1997), as opposed to 12 years after Sagan's death. Many of the chapters comprising Billions were written in the 80s and are dated now. There were still some good parts, and obviously the more cosmic "big picture" stuff isn't much effected by 10-20 years. In fact, some of Sagan's ...more
Derek Valles
Jul 21, 2014 Derek Valles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I pick this book up for inspiration and eloquence, and it never lets me down. The last section, an epilogue by Sagan's wife written after his death, is incredibly touching. The book is highly suggested.
Jun 26, 2012 Vinicius rated it it was amazing
This was my first Carl Sagan book and I'm very happy I read it - and would totally recommend it.

The "story" itself is just a list of some of the author's thoughts and opinions (just like the title says). Some of which I couldn't completely understand as they refer exclusively to USA and some of which I can completely relate to/agree with. In general, they are not only thoughts, but information - I can honestly say I'd never really understood the ozone and global warming issues til now, for insta
Jun 09, 2009 Tim rated it it was amazing
Okay, there are definitely chapters here that should be required reading for honors science and/or math students here. There are definitely chapters that I think any science-minded adult or even those that are at least fascinated by science should be reading. For myself, it was the book that opened up my first thoughts that perhaps religion as an institution could be detrimental, and that there was a beginning of a dividing line between the institution and the spirituality that the institution t ...more
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  • The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist
  • Carl Sagan: A Life in the Cosmos
  • A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love
  • The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet
  • Black Holes and Baby Universes
  • Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe
  • Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax"
  • Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe
  • Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century
  • The First Three Minutes: A Modern View Of The Origin Of The Universe
  • Carl Sagan: A Life
  • Universe: The Definitive Visual Guide
  • Science Friction: Where the Known Meets the Unknown
in 1934, scientist Carl Sagan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. After earning bachelor and master's degrees at Cornell, Sagan earned a double doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1960. He became professor of astronomy and space science and director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University, and co-founder of the Planetary Society. A great popularizer of science, Sagan produced th ...more
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“I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.” 593 likes
“Coal, oil and gas are called fossil fuels, because they are mostly made of the fossil remains of beings from long ago. The chemical energy within them is a kind of stored sunlight originally accumulated by ancient plants. Our civilization runs by burning the remains of humble creatures who inhabited the Earth hundreds of millions of years before the first humans came on the scene. Like some ghastly cannibal cult, we subsist on the dead bodies of our ancestors and distant relatives.” 32 likes
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