Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

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

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  6,569 ratings  ·  224 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, 320 pages
Published May 12th 1998 by Ballantine Books (first published 1997)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
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
126th out of 709 books — 1,814 voters
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonA Brief History of Time by Stephen HawkingCosmos by Carl SaganGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared DiamondThe Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
Best General Science Books
25th out of 243 books — 216 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Huda Yahya

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
...more
Jenny GB
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
Katie
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
Bakari
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...more
Chris
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...more
Kyle
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
fatma
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
Nawar Youssef


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

...more
Eva
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...more
Santhosh
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...more
Misha
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...more
Jake
“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 abov...more
Melissa
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
J.P.
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
Rose
The Cold War is over, though its lessons are strong. The MS Turanor cuts through a nearby harbor and harvests a nearby star. Sagan is long dead and while bits of his last collection of essays are dated, most are as relevant as ever. The facts, hopes and cautions are relayed simply and applicably. Billions and Billions is still handy for extrapolation, still important, still interesting as hell.

On second thought, I take back its datedness as a con. It's all the more fascinating to juxtapose the...more
Rob
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
Justin
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
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.
Vinicius
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...more
Tim
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
Jamie
First it was Ann Druyan’s bittersweet epilogue, and then the very next page Carl’s unfinished acknowledgements began with his words to Annie: “I want to be like you when I grow up.” Every copy of this book, not just mine, must have those pages wrinkled up with water.

The rest: everything you would expect from Carl Sagan. Fabulous, even when what should be badly dated by now still sadly applies.

Highly recommended to any and all.
Analu
"There are some..who think that the number of (grains of) sand is infinite...There are some who, without regarding it as infinite, yet think no number has been named which is great enough...But I will try to show you (numbers that) exceed not only the number of the mass of sand equal of the Earth filled up..but also that of a mass equal in magnitude to the Universe." -Archimedes (CA. 287-212 B.C.) The Sand-Reckoner
Schuyler
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.
Kendra
For some reason I was very hesitant to pick up the book. Perhaps it is the intimidating content, however, it is incredible. I am no where near finished yet as I am re-reading several topics. Sometimes I like to breeze through books, other times I like to soak in every letter.
Charles
A bit of a bittersweet read, since Sagan does speculate about his own death in this book, and it was written shortly before he died. Great stuff as always by a true legend.
Leanne  Curtis
Carl Sagan is fierce and so is this book. Insightful and educational, captures your attention right away, especially if you have an interest in science.
Martyn Rush
A mesmerizing read - my first acquaintance with Sagan; the truly great pioneer in the popularisation of science. This book is less about laying bare the beauty of the Universe - that is for his book Cosmos, which I'll be on to next, but rather about how science can help with ethical and political issues. Sagan was committed to an American form of socialism, and this good-hearted, intelligent, if at times equanimitous approach shines through on every page. The Universe is beautiful and so is huma...more
Sofia
Ok, this is going to be a bizarre review due to the fact that although this book receives a 5 star, I wrote a 4 start. The reason is this: just before reading this book, I finished "Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence" (written as well by Sagan). So, through the first half of the book, every single information was completely new; I was really into keeping reading it. However, suddenly, when the word "CO2" was appearing too many times, I didn't feel as motivated a...more
Jorge
Carl Sagan é uma das minhas referências literárias/cientificas. Talvez por o Biliões e Biliões ter sido, em parte, escrito durante a doença que lhe causou a morte, o livro comoveu-me.
Neste contexto a comparação das circunstâncias em que o livro de Tony Judt, The Memory Chalet (outra das minhas grandes referências) foi escrito é, por demais, evidente.
Em Biliões e Biliões Carl Sagan situa-nos no Universo desta forma "o Universo é composto por centenas de biliões de galáxias, uma das quais é a Via...more
Brent Watson
Excellent book to make you think about the current state of humanity and the choices we face each day. Sagan discusses perspectives on everything from morality and game theory to nuclear fission and fusion. What a delightful and quick book!

Great references and quotes:
"We have not inherited the Earth from our ancestors, but have borrowed it from our children."
-Speakers at the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders

"I cannon conceive of a god who reward and punishes his creatures or ha...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Conversations with Carl Sagan
  • Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax"
  • Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution
  • Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder
  • The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist
  • Carl Sagan: A Life in the Cosmos
  • Black Holes and Baby Universes
  • Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century
  • The First Three Minutes: A Modern View Of The Origin Of The Universe
  • Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe
  • Coming of Age in the Milky Way
  • Feynman's Lost Lecture: The Motion of Planets Around the Sun
  • Carl Sagan: A Life
  • Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud
  • Flim-Flam!
10538
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
More about Carl Sagan...
Contact Cosmos The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence

Share This Book

“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.” 444 likes
“Perhaps, in retrospect, there would be little motivation even for malevolent extraterrestrials to attack the Earth; perhaps, after a preliminary survey, they might decide it is more expedient just to be patient for a little while and wait for us to self-destruct.” 18 likes
More quotes…