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Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  9,829 ratings  ·  283 reviews
Carl Sagan, writer & scientist, returns from the frontier to tell us about how the world works. In his delightfully down-to-earth style, he explores & explains a mind-boggling future of intelligent robots, extraterrestrial life & its consquences, & other provocative, fascinating quandries of the future we want to see today. ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 398 pages
Published February 12th 1986 by Ballantine Books (first published April 12th 1979)
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Average rating 4.04  · 
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 ·  9,829 ratings  ·  283 reviews

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Apr 07, 2011 rated it liked it
It's very hard to give a review and rating for the entirety of this book. From chapter to chapter it feels disjointed and varies quite a bit in both content and quality. I seem forced to review the different parts and chapters individually.

The first "part" of the book, titled "Science and Human Concern" and encompassing the first four chapters, showcases Sagan's eloquent and brilliant writing especially well. In these chapters I learned new things and gained a new appreciation for Einstein's in
i'm amazed that i was able to understand three quarters of this book with little or no help at all from any outside source. there were times when i had to use the dictionary or find someone on the internet who can explain physics to a near idiot in the domain; even so, i can give myself a pat on the back for this one.

of course, sagan writes for the masses, and this here is not real science, but more like an introduction to it, a taste.. even if it's a really small one for an expert, for someone
Nandakishore Varma
Oct 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Miscellaneous writings by Carl Sagan. I read it immediately after "Cosmos" was aired on Doordarshan (the national TV channel of India). Sagan is a great explainer - reading him will automatically engender a love for science!
David (דוד)
A re-read after 13 years certainly was worth the effort for at least a few chapters. Although a lot of information must be now updated considering this being a 1979 (updated) edition, this book must have been intense at that time. An entire section is dedicated to debunking "Paradoxers" which occupies more than a quarter of the book, especially on Immanuel Velikovsky's theories.

Certain introductory chapters dealing with "Why Science?", "Albert Einstein" and "about the lack of public education in
Apr 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Considering this book was written forty years ago, it's a masterpiece. In it, Carl Sagan covers a range of different topics. In one whole chapter, which I think is the bulk of this book, Sagan makes a critical analysis of Velikovsky's book, Worlds in Collision. Sometimes the borderline between science and pseudoscience is so thin, you have to be a scientist to point it out. That being said, in most cases we can apply methods and tools of skepticism and critical thinking to come to a sound decisi ...more
Dec 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Museums have an inner world that the public never sees. In one of these hideaways, Carl Sagan was permitted to view the brain of Paul Broca, a surgeon who died in 1880. As Dr. Sagan looked at the cerebral remains of one of his heroes, he had this thought: “It was difficult to hold Broca’s brain without wondering whether in some sense Broca was still in there.”

Sagan wondered at a possible future where technology would allow us to download Broca’s memories. And then he wrote something that struck
Apr 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This should be a school textbook. The world would be a better place.
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
It took me a lot more time than I expected, mainly because I kept checking for update information about most of the interesting topics. I still love Carl Sagan's writing though.
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I read most of Carl Sagan's Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science while I was in Guatemala in January. I had never read any of Sagan's work before, and rather like well-written popularizations of science. Some of the chapters were, however, well beyond my own knowledge; but I soldiered through them. ...more
Apr 04, 2010 rated it liked it
I've been on a Sagan kick, but this was a tough read to get through. The book is a little technical, but even more tedious in sections, discussing in depth discoveries of the 1950s and 1960s. The best parts of the book require a grasping understand of the nature of present day astronomy to compare and contrast with what Sagan thinks will occur. Ever the optimist, it is a little disappointing to realize that we have not come close to the explorations that Sagan envisioned in the late 1970s. Some ...more
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is a collection of essays, some dated and some that probably didn't belong in the first place. In the better essays, Sagan's love of science comes through, but reading Cosmos would deliver all of that and none of the fluff. 2½ stars at best.
Arun Divakar
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
The science and mathematics text books that were used at my school time all started off with a little pledge that set out to instill in the young minds a scientific spirit. It spoke of endless curiosity, an investigative spirit and the willingness to observe and rework. I don’t remember the words nor the structure but I can remember looking at those pages in something like fondness for they were the only islands of difference in an otherwise droll sea of studies. The essays in Sagan’s book are a ...more
Daniel Gonçalves
Jun 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Carl Sagan instigates within me a deep will to know, to leave the myths that might reduce me to lurk in the shadows of deep-seated ignorance. I've read many of his books so far and they have all inspired me, they all served a specific purpose.

This book followed the premise of all of the others and made me, in essence a better, wiser person.
Dan Debono
Jan 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books of all time. If this doesn't make you think (and wonder), your brain needs a jump start! Sagan is one of my all-time favorite human beings!
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
"...we do not advance the human cause by refusing to consider ideas that make us frightened."
It's so odd to say that I miss Carl Sagan, and yet it's altogether true - I miss his wisdom, his wry humour, his empathetic presentation of hard-nosed science and constant questing and questioning of the world around us. Broca's Brain was published in 1979 and naturally some of the information in it is dated, although it only spurs the reader to research where the ideas eventually landed (Voyager 1 and 2
Neeraj Adhikari
Dec 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Good collection of Carl Sagan essays. Most are on themes Sagan is well-known for writing. Perhaps it is foolish but I keep expecting to feel the same intensity of emotion and wonder I felt when reading Cosmos and keep getting disappointed.

The most boring, and also the longest, chapter in this book was the debunking of the Velikovskian collision hypothesis. It was at times almost unbearable - to me, from my biased point of view in the future, the whole planet collision theory seemed outrageously
J Crossley
Dec 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although some of the book is dated since it was written in the early 1970’s, it was still an interesting book. It contains essays covering different topics. Although the ideas can be deep, Sagan is able to communicate the ideas to the masses.

The title of the book comes from the opportunity Sagan had to hold the brain of one of his idols. He wondered if future scientific advances would allow us to be able to obtain the memories of a deceased person. He then goes on to say that it would be the ul
Prakash Holla
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Re-read it....Carl Sagan arguably is one of the best writers on science specially astrophysics. Science and faith have always been at loggerheads since mankind started juxtaposing the two and it became the task of scientific analysers like Carl Sagan to argue, defend and convince the importance of scientific approach vi’s a vi’s the popular approach of faith which he does in this book lucidly..
Isaac Carrada
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Even if it’s an “old” book lots of its contents still apply and arre useful for our contemporary times. Brilliant, as Carl Sagan always was
Dec 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is one of Sagan's most eclectic works, covering a wide range of topics from Albert Einstein's political views and involvement to the hesitated acceptance of new scientific discoveries (the theory of relativity was repressed by Nazi Germany), the origins of life, and even the nomenclature of planets, craters and asteroids. This is really not a single book but five books in one package. Each major topic can be read independently.

Sagan reveals early on in the book that the gist of this book c
Jan 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Carl Sagan could have been the most favourite science teacher I never had. The way he advocated the wonders and romances of science, it would have been extremely difficult for any of his students to opt for anything other than a deeper study of matter, the world and the universe. In his scientific discourse he never hesitated to interject his social, political and historical remarks, without fearing any controversies, and that made him one of the intrepid science exponents of all time.
Broca's B
As a fan of Carl Sagan, this book is principally interesting because it appeared just before he "went viral" with his famous book Cosmos and the widely viewed TV series based on it. In Broca's Brain Sagan is at a transition between practicing scientist and the near-mythical popular science advocate he was about to become. Much of the science is dated—it's current to about 1975 or so—yet it is historically interesting to those tracking scientific development. And the chapter on "robots" is simply ...more
Sagar Vibhute
Jun 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Carl Sagan is science's poet. I might read Broca's Brain a few times more just to immerse into his almost idyllic prose, not to mention that Carl Sagan has, in a masterful style, tackled a very difficult beast in this book, that of convincing the reader of what makes science tick.

Science is a human endeavor, and so is susceptible to all the follies of our nature that plague our worldly pursuits. What makes science special is the very human agreement between its practitioners of putting evidence
May 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviews, astronomy
I really love Carl Sagan! His mission to popularize science is admirable and I thought that the Cosmos Series and the film Contact are both wonderful works.

That being said... I found Broca's Brain to be quite interesting, but it doesn't hold together as one book. In particular, the chapter on Venus and Dr. Velikovsky was drawn out. Carl Sagan's reflections on the romance of science got bogged down in overly detailed arguments against Dr. Velikovsky's first book "Worlds in Collision". After read
Ultimately I found this a bit disappointing. I liked the descriptions of historical scientists, and some of the language was beautiful, but mostly the book just dragged. Sagan's dissection of Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision--a 55-page takedown of a now-obscure pseudoscience tract that I've never read and never hope to--was particularly punishing. I also felt that Sagan occasionally forgot he was supposed to be addressing lay audiences--either that, or my poor performance in high school geometry ...more
Two Readers in Love
Part of my five start rating is for the book itself, but a big part of my experience of "Broca's Brain" is inextricably tangled up with memories of sitting late at night at the kitchen table with my father when I was a teenager, discussing Sagan, the brain, and life itself. We didn't know then that my erudite, articulate father's future would involve a fall and a chronic brain injury that would profoundly affect Wernicke's area and his ability to read and communicate.

Much of the neuroscience in
Mar 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Because the collection of material here is so eclectic, there is no over-arching theme or narrative. Consequently, While I really enjoyed some parts, breezing through them in a heartbeat, others were a little more tedious -- I just didn't find them particularly interesting.

However, it's still Carl Sagan, and even when the subject matter isn't particularly engaging, his writing style is. I couldn't read a single line of Broca's Brain without hearing it spoken in his voice. :)

I would recommend it
Nov 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sagan fans
This is a collection of essays, all somehow related to science. I read it over the course of several months - not because it wasn't interesting, but because sometimes I just wasn't in the mood for it. The articles on skepticism and the history of science were fascinating, but the later descriptions of the "current" situation in astronomy and planetary science was more than a touch dated. (It was written in the 1970s.) All the same, it was still Sagan, and I do so enjoy reading Sagan. I look forw ...more
James Morrison
Sep 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read the reviews here and they seemed mixed. I loved the book and thought it was both informative and well written. By well written I mean he kept my interest and presented some technical subjects in a way that was easily understood by a novice. If you have an interest in science I think you will like this one.
Erik Graff
Oct 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sagan fans
Recommended to Erik by: James G. DeVoto
Shelves: sciences
This is simply a collection of essays written by Sagan over a number of years and published in a variety of popular magazines. There is no clear, overarching theme--except perhaps the personality of the author. As always, the writing is lively and accessible.
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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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