Austen's Reviews > Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium

Billions & Billions by Carl Sagan
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's review
May 27, 11

bookshelves: science
Recommended for: science teachers, elected officials, people looking for a counter-point to environmental debate
Read from April 12 to May 26, 2011, read count: 1

One of his last before he passed away, answering the question of what he believed when it came to spiritual/religious matters, whether or not he actually said "billions and billions" at any time during his "Cosmos" series on PBS, and hammering home many good points that began in other novels like 'The Dragons of Eden', 'Broca's Brain', 'Murmurs of Earth', 'The Demon-Haunted World' and many others. Calling attention to the madness of nuclear war (the missiles haven't gone anywhere), the hole in the ozone layer (affecting plankton and fish in the southern hemisphere), the need to push onwards and outwards into space and the need for education in many subjects, but mainly in science, his dedication to saving the planet is fearsome, solid and necessary, many years after his passing.

Describing his humble beginnings and his growing interest in science, it contrasts nicely with the last chapter, talking about his discovery of the disease that would ultimately take his life, and the efforts spent to cure him. His wife, Ann Druyan, adds the epilogue talking about the number of people who cared so much for him and how his work changed their attitudes and their lives.

Less visually appealing than some of his earlier works (Cosmos, Comet, Murmurs of Earth) and not as in-depth as others (The Demon-Haunted World) it was a very good read.

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Quotes Austen Liked

Carl Sagan
“The hole in the ozone layer is a kind of skywriting. At first it seemed to spell out our continuing complacency before a witch's brew of deadly perils. But perhaps it really tells of a newfound talent to work together to protect the global environment.”
Carl Sagan, Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium

Carl Sagan
“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.”
Carl Sagan, Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium

Reading Progress

04/18/2011 page 2
05/18/2011 page 80
25.0% "I think there is a reasonable chance that startling revelations in all four of these areas can be expected in he next decade or two. Again, there are many other questions in modern astronomy that I could have substituted, but the prediction I can make with the highest confidence is that the most amazing discoveries will be the ones we are not today wise enough to foresee."
05/21/2011 page 90
28.0% ""We are tugging at a planetwide biological tapestry and do not know whether one thread only will come out in our hands, or whether the whole tapestry will unravel before us.""
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