LISA KALTENEGGER: It is my honor to introduce our first speaker. And I mentioned before that Ann Druyan is an incredibly impressive and inspiring person. You all know she has Emmy awards, Peabody awards. She's a co-writer, director, producer. She was on the original Cosmos series that I think still takes my breath away when I actually rewatch them and inspires this fascination with the universe. And she is also the co-director and writer and co-producer of the new version of Cosmos that is now out there inspiring, with the new knowledge, the new generations.
But what you might not know is she was the creative director of NASA's interstellar message. So she is a writer, a producer, a director, but she also shaped the message that we send out in the universe to maybe say hello. Hard to say. It's interesting here on Earth. Maybe you want to come and have a look.
And one of the other things that I love about this piece of history is that she and her late husband, Carl Sagan, have an asteroid, and that asteroid is in a perpetual wedding ring orbit around the sun. And with this beautiful poetic line, I give you Ann Druyan.
ANN DRUYAN: Great. Now can you hear me? Much better. Wow.
Well, first of all, thank you to Gretchen for her very gracious introduction. I'm so deeply honored by it. And my thanks to Lisa are many fold. And I hope to be able to talk about them during my talk, without whom none of this would have been possible.
Gretchen and Lisa spoke of Carl and the extraordinary person he was. For me, he was the most developed human being I've ever met in my life, the most fully realized, most fully alive. And I'd like to talk a bit today about how he became the scientist he was and who his mentors were. In Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey, we tell the story of how Carl reached out to Neil deGrasse Tyson when he was quite young. And of course, Carl did the same for Jonathan Lunine, one of our distinguished speakers today when he was quite young, and now Jonathan Lunine holds Carl's Cornell chair today.
So this is a story of how impactful it is when we're open hearted, as Lisa is, to the future and we reach out to the young. And this is exactly what happened to Carl. He mentored so many, but he too was mentored. And I'd like to talk about his three extraordinary mentors and how they helped him become the interdisciplinary and rounded person he was. And then at the end of my talk, I'd like to make a confession, one I've never made before. We'll get to that in a little bit.
So when Carl was a teenager in Rahway, New Jersey, he decided to set down his ideas about the origin of life. He wrote a little paper. And he didn't know any scientists. So what did he do? He gave the paper to a distant cousin named Seymour who was the closest thing he knew to a scientist. He was actually a grad student in biology at the University of Indiana.
Seymour was so impressed, he took the paper to a scientist named HJ Muller, a geneticist who had received the Nobel Prize some years earlier for being the first person to know that x-rays can cause mutations. And Muller read this paper, the ruminations of a teenager, and he wrote to Carl. And he said come spend the summer in my laboratory. And so Muller was Carl's first mentor.
His second mentor was the great chemist Harold Urey at the University of Chicago. And while Muller had been incredibly kind and understanding for the kinds of rookie mistakes that Carl would make, Urey was in to tough love, and he gave Carl a very hard time. But as Carl wrote in Urey's obituary decades later, he valued so deeply the rigorous mentoring that Urey had given him.
Now, Carl's third mentor was a man named Gerard Kuiper. And to give you some idea-- I can't even catalog all of his many contributions to astronomy in this talk. It would take too long. But before 1949, if you were to ask any of the scientists who dared think about extrasolar planets, they would have told you that the speculation was they were exceedingly rare. Perhaps one in a trillion stars had a solar system with other planets.
And in 1949, Kuiper astonished the scientific world by announcing that he believed that one in every 1,000 stars had solar systems. The following year, he got even crazier. And he said no, he believed there were twice as many solar systems, the ratio of solar systems to stars. And a few years later, he said that he believed that every other star had worlds bound to it.
And he was a very good predictor, a great speculator. Because he also speculated that there was such a thing called a belt surrounding the sun outside the orbit of Neptune. And of course, that has been given his name, the Kuiper Belt. And now there's a spacecraft that just awakened a few months ago after a 10-year sleep while it traveled from Earth to the Kuiper Belt. And this summer, in July, it will give us our first close-up pictures of some of the worlds of the Kuiper Belt, including a former planet named Pluto.
So what an astonishing array of mentors, each one of them creating the basis for what we are doing here today for an institute to search for new worlds. It's an astonishing feat. And Carl took so much from this early experience and became the scientist that Gretchen described, the conscientious citizen of the planet who wanted to share everything that he learned with the broadest possible public, because it matters.
He said so many times, and I have said so many times since his passing, we're a society, a civilization completely dependent on science and high technology, and yet we've arranged matters so that so few of us feel included in the world of science and high technology. We are as mystified by the workings of our civilization as our ancestors were mystified about the magic of their shamans.
This is a recipe for disaster. And the only way to really change that is to do as Carl did, to tear down those walls between science and the rest of us, and to tear down those walls between the disciplines, which is emblematic of what the people who have joined together here today aspire to do.
Now, we're talking about the Pale Blue Dot. And I thought it would be nice to show the Pale Blue Dot sequence Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey to feel, first of all, the full power of what Carl was saying about what we have to get right about, but also to hear that gorgeous voice. Because I think no one can really do justice to this passage as Carl did. So if we can dim the lights, I'd like to show you this one brief segment and then to make a few remarks afterwards. Thanks.
CARL SAGAN: That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-- on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great, enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate-- visit, yes, settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
ANN DRUYAN: My pride in Carl is boundless-- that one man could play such an important role in the science of the Voyager mission, the first great reconnaissance of the outer solar system, that he could have the perspective to understand how badly we needed to see our planet as it truly is, not the geocentric delusion, the Apollo frame-filling world, but in its reality, its fragility, its tininess in the cosmic context.
He lobbied for years to get NASA to take that picture, to have Voyager turn her camera for one last look at the solar system before departing for a voyage of perhaps 100 million years. And he was also the person who wrote that, who spoke that with so much feeling. It's wonderful to have the knowledge of science, but what does it mean unless we use it to preserve the continuity of life of which we are a part?
Part of my happiness today is that three of Carl's five children are with us. I want to give a shout out to Jeremy Sagan, Nick Sagan, and Sam Sagan. And I also want to recognize a cherished friend who I hope is here today, Frank Rhodes. Are you with us today? Please stand up. Because I want to talk about-- for those of you who don't know--
Frank was a dear friend of Carl's. And in the years after Carl's death, Frank and I dreamed of starting an institute here which would do the things that I hope this institute will do. And Frank worked tirelessly for us to get it started. But 17 or 18 years ago, it was not to be.
In walks Lisa Kalteneger, whose force of personality, whose scientific brilliance, whose ambition to be as inclusive and as open to the future as Carl was gathers together brilliant board, esteemed faculty, and promising students to create and lead the institute that we are inaugurating today. It is very much a fulfillment of that dream that Frank and I shared so long ago.
My hope is that you and your colleagues, Lisa, will see far and see wonders yet undreamt of in our time, and you will be as welcoming as Muller and Urey and Kuiper was to Carl and Carl was to countless other young minds. Because you will be seeing for them. That's what science is, this continuity of minds, this community of thought that goes back to the days when we first became human and can possibly take us to the worlds envisioned by the scientists of this institute.
Now I'd like to come to the confessional part of my talk, which is that we may have-- we've gathered you her under something of a pretext. And I would like to unveil the actual name of this institute. May we have the lights one more time? And let's see what the real name of the institute that is being founded right here and now will be.
LISA KALTENEGGER: Ann, can we have you back up here for one second?
ANN DRUYAN: Wow. Well, I treasure this. Thank you.
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Emmy and Peabody award-winning writer/producer Ann Druyan speaks at the inauguration of the Carl Sagan Institute, May 9, 2015.
Sagan and Druyan collaborated on numerous books, articles and speeches during their 20 years together; they co-created and produced the motion picture "Contact." Druyan was co-writer of the original "Cosmos" TV series starring her late husband, as well as lead executive producer, co-writer and a director of "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey." She served as creative director of NASA's legendary Voyager Interstellar Message Project, which Sagan chaired, and as program director on humanity's first two solar sailing spacecraft missions.
The inauguration event, "(un)Discovered Worlds," featured a day of public talks given by leading scientists and renowned astronomy pioneers.