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Posts Tagged ‘Carl Sagan’

There are many hypotheses in science that are wrong.  That’s perfectly alright; it’s the aperture to finding out what’s right.  Science is a self-correcting process.  To be accepted, new ideas must survive the most rigorous standards of evidence and scrutiny.  The worst aspect of the Velikovsky affair is not that many of his ideas were wrong or silly or in gross contradiction to the facts; rather, the worst aspect is that some scientists attempted to suppress Velikovsky’s ideas.  The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge and there is no place for it in the endeavor of science.  We do not know beforehand where fundamental insights will arise from about our mysterious and lovely solar system, and the history of our study of the solar system shows clearly that accepted and conventional ideas are often wrong and that fundamental insights can arise from the most unexpected sources.
   —   Carl Sagan
[Accidents happen…  As the saying goes:  “Even the blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut.”  And, so it appears President Trump has (purely by stupid chance) stated a truth…
A few days ago, while visiting California to view the destruction being caused by wildfires, the President was advised one of the reasons for the massive fires is “Climate Change”.  Trump replied:  “It’ll start getting cooler.  You just watch.
I wish science agreed with you,” Crowfoot (Wade Crowfoot is California’s secretary for natural resources) countered.
Well, I don’t think science knows, actually,” Trump said.
As bizarre as it sounds, President Trump is correct (for all the wrong reasons).  To start off, in less than a week Autumn starts.  Followed by Winter!  So, yes, the daily temperature will start getting cooler.  The second part is the “squirrel finding the nut“.  No, “science” doesn’t KNOW if the climate will stay hot or get hotter.  Just as science doesn’t KNOW the sun will rise in the East tomorrow.  Science does, however, have a pretty good certainty that IF the sun does rise tomorrow, it will be in the East.  President Trump’s BASELESS claims “Climate Change” is a “hoax” and / or invented by the Chinese to cripple our economy are both as unscientific as they are silly, but that doesn’t make his “uncomfortable idea” wrong (from a scientific perspective).  His claim also erroneously conflates two issues:  1) is climate change real; and, 2) if it is real, what is causing it?
And, this is the problem (for science and all rational humanity):  we have overwhelming data supporting the theory of climate change; we don’t have overwhelming evidence of causation – just a LOT of data of correlation.  Our little blind squirrel is denying both the substantial data of change AND the substantial data of correlation.
True science requires that we admit the possibility “Climate Change” is not happening – despite the multiple decades of data which support the scientific conclusion “Climate Change” 1) is real, 2) has already happened, and 3) is getting worse.  More precisely, we must admit the possibility that our current understanding of why “Climate Change” appears to be happening is not valid, i.e., it’s not being caused by human production of CO2 in the atmosphere.
The policy question is:  What if our little squirrel is correct?   Well, if he is correct and there is no climate change, then “eventually” the consistent rise in temperature which the planet has been experiencing with revert back to the norm.  If humanity is lucky, this will happen soon (and quickly) and life will go on pretty much as it has for the last 10,000 years (or at least since the last major ice age).  Policy decision:  do nothing and hope for the best.
Alternatively, if he is correct the climate change (which has been accelerating for the last 50 years) is not caused by humans, what IS the cause and how do we slow, stop or reverse it?  If we don’t discover the “real” cause, humanity (and most of life as we know it) on Earth will become extinct.  Unfortunately, because the data has been so one sided (climate change is real and is happening NOW), we don’t have any good / reasonable alternative theories to human caused CO2 emissions.  Policy decision: we need to pore tons of money into research to come up with an alternative root cause which we can then pore TONS more money into correcting / fixing.   (All the while hoping and praying we’re not too late to fix the problem.)
And if our little squirrel is wrong about Climate Change and its cause?  Well, despite what we’ve seen over the last 20 years (droughts and wildfires / hurricanes and typhoons), you ain’t seen nothing yet!  Forty(40%) percent of humanity lives within 60 miles of an ocean.  What happens when the ocean levels rise and large swathes of that coastal area becomes uninhabitable due to flooding, storm surges and salination of coastal water supplies?  What happens to sea life when the salination in the oceans changes due to the increased ice melts dumping fresh water into their environment?  What happens to the rest of the life on Earth when there is a vast die-off of life in the world’s oceans?  Policy decision:  we better get busy because our window of opportunity to save the habitable planet we’ve known for the last 10,000 years is closing fast!!!
Our little squirrel is in his 70’s and probably won’t live to experience the full results of his blindness.  Somehow, I don’t find that comforting.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2019 Future Tools
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2018 Four Loves
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2017 Faith In Science
2016 What The World Calls
2015 Say What?
2014 Start Today
2013 Fly!!
2012 Greater Love
2011 Before

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Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate.  How will we use this power?  Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family?  Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth?  Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet?  The Earth is a tiny and fragile world.  It needs to be cherished.
Human beings have a demonstrated talent for self-deception when their emotions are stirred.
  —   Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 Day 1: Done
#IncompetentDonald Fails On All Three
2018 I Put It Down To Bad Teachers
Day 34: In And Out
2017 And The Future Is Now
2016 I Am
2015 Positively Aiming Higher
2014 Suspicious Minds
2013 We Are Not Alone
2012 Lawyer, n.
2011 Each Day Remember…
2010 Impossible Dreams of Camelot

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When we consider the founders of our nation: Jefferson, Washington, Samuel and John Adams, Madison and Monroe, Benjamin Franklin, Tom Paine and many others; we have before us a list of at least ten and maybe even dozens of great political leaders.  They were well educated.  Products of the European Enlightenment, they were students of history.  They knew human fallibility and weakness and corruptibility.  They were fluent in the English language.  They wrote their own speeches.  They were realistic and practical, and at the same time motivated by high principles.  They were not checking the pollsters on what to think this week.  They knew what to think.  They were comfortable with long-term thinking, planning even further ahead than the next election.  They were self-sufficient, not requiring careers as politicians or lobbyists to make a living.  They were able to bring out the best in us.  They were interested in and, at least two of them, fluent in science.  They attempted to set a course for the United States into the far future — not so much by establishing laws as by setting limits on what kinds of laws could be passed.  The Constitution and its Bill of Rights have done remarkably well, constituting, despite human weaknesses, a machine able, more often than not, to correct its own trajectory.  At that time, there were only about two and a half million citizens of the United States.  Today there are about a hundred times more.  So if there were ten people of the caliber of Thomas Jefferson then, there ought to be 10 x 100 = 1,000 Thomas Jefferson’s today.  Where are they?
  —   Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 My Last Must Be My Best
2018 Making Friends
Day 28: A Normal Loss And A Headache
2017 Sea Worthy
2016 Rising Integration
2015 No Worries
2014 Devouring The Present
2013 But So Far…
Twice Moved
2012 Just Like Bubbles
2011 Caring and Driving
Achieve Greatly
2010 Unwise To Trust
Attitude
If The Mind Is Not Tired
Irrationally Crazy
2nd Pair – Shoe Review
Ahnu – Gesundheit!
2009 As for me…
Health Care Reform Now!!

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Scientists, like other human beings, have their hopes and fears, their passions and despondencies — and their strong emotions may sometimes interrupt the course of clear thinking and sound practice.  But science is also self-correcting.  The most fundamental axioms and conclusions may be challenged.  The prevailing hypotheses must survive confrontation with observation.  Appeals to authority are impermissible.  The steps in a reasoned argument must be set out for all to see.  Experiments must be reproducible.
The history of science is full of cases where previously accepted theories and hypotheses have been entirely overthrown, to be replaced by new ideas that more adequately explain the data.  While there is an understandable psychological inertia — usually lasting about one generation — such revolutions in scientific thought are widely accepted as a necessary and desirable element of scientific progress.  Indeed, the reasoned criticism of a prevailing belief is a service to the proponents of that belief; if they are incapable of defending it, they are well advised to abandon it.  This self-questioning and error-correcting aspect of the scientific method is its most striking property, and sets it off from many other areas of human endeavor where credulity is the rule.
   —   Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 The Far Side
2018 Hold On
Day 11: Just Plain Tired
2017 Why Don’t You Tell Us What You Really Think?
2016 Discontent
2015 Do You Know Me?
Appetite For Life Update
2014 Tough Journalism
2013 Things I’ve Learned
2012 Abstainer, n.
2011 Rain, Rain, Rain
Test Your Strength
2009 End the mistakes…

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The major religions on the Earth contradict each other left and right.  You can’t all be correct.  And what if all of you are wrong?  It’s a possibility, you know.  You must care about the truth, right?  Well, the way to winnow through all the differing contentions is to be skeptical.  I’m not any more skeptical about your religious beliefs than I am about every new scientific idea I hear about.  But in my line of work, they’re called hypotheses, not inspiration and not revelation.
  —   Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 We’re Eating Faster And Enjoying It Less
2018 Great Views
Day 8: One At A Time
2017 Trump Supporters Will Always Find An Excuse
2016 More Posts
2015 A Last Request
2014 It Matters
2013 And You Are?
2012 Not Too Late
2011 Persistence
2009 Health Care?

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The whole idea of what happens when you read a book, I find absolutely stunning.  Here’s some product of a tree, little black squiggles on it, you open it up, an inside your head is the voice of someone speaking, who may have been dead 3000 years, and there he is talking directly to you, what a magical thing that is.
  —   Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 And I’m Not Letting Go
2018 The Continuing Failure Of Speaker Paul Ryan
Day 3: Approaching The Half Way Point
2017 Orange Comb-Overs Unite!
2016 Speaking Of Which
2015 Complexity Has A Strict Architecture
2014 Just Support
2013 Wandering Free
2012 Contribute = Paying Taxes
2011 How Will You Be Judged?

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There is a myth about such highs: the user has an illusion of great insight, but it does not survive scrutiny in the morning.  I am convinced that this is an error, and that the devastating insights achieved when high are real insights; the main problem is putting these insights in a form acceptable to the quite different self that we are when we’re down the next day.
I had become friendly with a group of people who occasionally smoked cannabis, irregularly, but with evident pleasure.  Initially I was unwilling to partake, but the apparent euphoria that cannabis produced and the fact that there was no physiological addiction to the plant eventually persuaded me to try.  My initial experiences were entirely disappointing; there was no effect at all, and I began to entertain a variety of hypotheses about cannabis being a placebo which worked by expectation and hyperventilation rather than by chemistry.  After about five or six unsuccessful attempts, however, it happened.
There’s a part of me making, creating the perceptions which in everyday life would be bizarre; there’s another part of me which is a kind of observer.  About half of the pleasure comes from the observer-part appreciating the work of the creator-part. I smile, or sometimes even laugh out loud at the pictures on the insides of my eyelids. In this sense, I suppose cannabis is psychotomimetic, but I find none of the panic or terror that accompanies some psychoses.  Possibly this is because I know it’s my own trip, and that I can come down rapidly any time I want to.
The cannabis experience has greatly improved my appreciation for art, a subject which I had never much appreciated before.  The understanding of the intent of the artist which I can achieve when high sometimes carries over to when I’m down.  This is one of many human frontiers which cannabis has helped me traverse.  There also have been some art-related insights — I don’t know whether they are true or false, but they were fun to formulate.
Cannabis also enhances the enjoyment of sex — on the one hand it gives an exquisite sensitivity, but on the other hand it postpones orgasm: in part by distracting me with the profusion of image passing before my eyes.  The actual duration of orgasm seems to lengthen greatly, but this may be the usual experience of time expansion which comes with cannabis smoking.
I do not consider myself a religious person in the usual sense, but there is a religious aspect to some highs.  The heightened sensitivity in all areas gives me a feeling of communion with my surroundings, both animate and inanimate.  Sometimes a kind of existential perception of the absurd comes over me and I see with awful certainty the hypocrisies and posturing of myself and my fellow men.  And at other times, there is a different sense of the absurd, a playful and whimsical awareness.  Both of these senses of the absurd can be communicated, and some of the most rewarding highs I’ve had have been in sharing talk and perceptions and humor.  Cannabis brings us an awareness that we spend a lifetime being trained to overlook and forget and put out of our minds.  A sense of what the world is really like can be maddening; cannabis has brought me some feelings for what it is like to be crazy, and how we use that word “crazy” to avoid thinking about things that are too painful for us. In the Soviet Union political dissidents are routinely placed in insane asylums.  The same kind of thing, a little more subtle perhaps, occurs here: “did you hear what Lenny Bruce said yesterday?  He must be crazy.”
When I’m high I can penetrate into the past, recall childhood memories, friends, relatives, playthings, streets, smells, sounds, and tastes from a vanished era.  I can reconstruct the actual occurrences in childhood events only half understood at the time.  Many but not all my cannabis trips have somewhere in them a symbolism significant to me which I won’t attempt to describe here, a kind of mandala embossed on the high.  Free-associating to this mandala, both visually and as plays on words, has produced a very rich array of insights.
There is a myth about such highs: the user has an illusion of great insight, but it does not survive scrutiny in the morning.  I am convinced that this is an error, and that the devastating insights achieved when high are real insights; the main problem is putting these insights in a form acceptable to the quite different self that we are when we’re down the next day.
Incidentally, I find that reasonably good insights can be remembered the next day, but only if some effort has been made to set them down another way.  If I write the insight down or tell it to someone, then I can remember it with no assistance the following morning; but if I merely say to myself that I must make an effort to remember, I never do.
I find that most of the insights I achieve when high are into social issues, an area of creative scholarship very different from the one I am generally known for.
I can remember the night that I suddenly realized what it was like to be crazy, or nights when my feelings and perceptions were of a religious nature.  I had a very accurate sense that these feelings and perceptions, written down casually, would not stand the usual critical scrutiny that is my stock in trade as a scientist.  If I find in the morning a message from myself the night before informing me that there is a world around us which we barely sense, or that we can become one with the universe, or even that certain politicians are desperately frightened men, I may tend to disbelieve; but when I’m high I know about this disbelief.  And so I have a tape in which I exhort myself to take such remarks seriously.  I say “Listen closely, you sonofabitch of the morning!  This stuff is real!”  I try to show that my mind is working clearly; I recall the name of a high school acquaintance I have not thought of in thirty years; I describe the color, typography, and format of a book in another room and these memories do pass critical scrutiny in the morning.  I am convinced that there are genuine and valid levels of perception available with cannabis (and probably with other drugs) which are, through the defects of our society and our educational system, unavailable to us without such drugs.  Such a remark applies not only to self-awareness and to intellectual pursuits, but also to perceptions of real people, a vastly enhanced sensitivity to facial expression, intonations, and choice of words which sometimes yields a rapport so close it’s as if two people are reading each other’s minds.
My high is always reflective, peaceable, intellectually exciting, and sociable, unlike most alcohol highs, and there is never a hangover.  Through the years I find that slightly smaller amounts of cannabis suffice to produce the same degree of high, and in one movie theater recently I found I could get high just by inhaling the cannabis smoke which permeated the theater.
There is a very nice self-titering aspect to cannabis.  Each puff is a very small dose; the time lag between inhaling a puff and sensing its effect is small; and there is no desire for more after the high is there.
I think the ratio, R, of the time to sense the dose taken to the time required to take an excessive dose is an important quantity.  R is very large for LSD (which I’ve never taken) and reasonably short for cannabis.  Small values of R should be one measure of the safety of psychedelic drugs.  When cannabis is legalized, I hope to see this ratio as one of the parameters printed on the pack.  I hope that time isn’t too distant; the illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.
  —    Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 Kingslanding
2018 I’d Bet On Taxes
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2017 A Cautionary Wish
2016 Slogging
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2015 Memorial Day – 2015
Content People Love To Share
2014 I Resemble That Remark
2013 Long Range Exploration
2012 UBI
2011 Opportunity

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A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism.
  —  Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 I Struggle With One At A Time
2018 An Infectious Political Cancer
Site Update / Poems Page Evolution
2017 Our Thirst
2016 History Favors The Victor
2015 This We’ll Leave Them
2014 Sounds Like Faux News To Me
2013 Reasons
2012 American Libertarianism
2011 The Goal

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For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
  —  Carl Sagan
[Or, as opposed to listening to #LyingDonald in ANY of his rallies or pandemic briefings.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2019 I Don’t Know Truth, Either
2018 An Approaching Disgrace
2017 Liberty, Collusion, History And The Republican Majority
2016 But I Have Too Many Questions
2015 A New Friend
2014 Do I Have To Fall In Love?
2013 More Democracy, Please
2012 Speaking Of Love
2011 Limits

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Our global civilization is clearly on the edge of failure and the most important task it faces, preserving the lives and well-being of its citizens and the future habitability of the planet.  But if we’re willing to live with the growing likelihood of nuclear war shouldn’t we also been willing to explore vigorously every possible means to prevent nuclear war.  Shouldn’t we consider in every nation major changes in the traditional ways of doing things, a fundamental restructuring of economic political social and religious institutions.  We’ve reached a point where there can be no more special interests or special cases, nuclear arms threaten every person on the Earth.  Fundamental changes in society are sometimes labelled impractical or contrary to human nature, as if nuclear war were practical or as if there’s only one human nature.  But fundamental changes can clearly be made, we’re surrounded by them.  In the last two centuries abject slavery which was with us for thousands of years has almost entirely been eliminated in a stirring worldwide revolution.  Women, systematically mistreated for millennia are gradually gaining the political and economic power traditionally denied them and some wars of aggression have recently been stopped or curtailed because of a revulsion felt by the people in the aggressor nations.  The old appeals to racial, sexual, and religious chauvinism and to rabid nationalist fervor are beginning not to work.  A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed.  We are one planet.  One of the great revelations of the age of space exploration is the image of the earth finite and lonely, somehow vulnerable, bearing the entire human species through the oceans of space and time.
  —  Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 The Ones Worth Remembering, Anyway
Boot Edge Edge (My New T)
2018 To Reach The Next Threshold
2017 Streaking Tales
2016 Singular Reality
2015 He Says It’s Hard To Get There From Here
2014 Question From A Founding Father
2013 Make Heroes
2012 See And Hold
2011 Am Not, Are So

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I think people in power have a vested interest to oppose critical thinking.
  —  Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 Impeach #45 – (#TraitorInTheWhiteHouse)
Time For Loving
2018 No Pride There
London To The Hague
2017 At Least Twenty To Go
2016 A Sweet Smelling Blog Post
Pre-Reacher
2015 Getting The Story Right
2014 Like Shells On The Shore
2013 More And Why
2012 How To Gain Effective Fire
2011 Patriot Act

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If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth.
  —  Carl Sagan
[We’ve already seen #LyingDonald get his personal doctor to write a bogus physical prior to the election.  We’ve already seen #LyingDonald get his White House physician to lie about his health, weight and diet.  Now we get to see if #LyingDonald can get the heads of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) to stand behind him and lie to the American public about a pandemic and national health emergency in the making.  Lying will not save lives.
I asked someone I know what his company is doing to prepare for a possible pandemic…  He replied they’ve adapted the GOP response to the epidemic of mass gun violence:  “thoughts and prayers” for those affected.  I’m sure it will be every bit as effective as putting Vice-President Pence in charge of the Federal Government’s response to the Corona Virus.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2019 Hearts Torn In Every Way
2018 Recently Seen On A T-shirt:
2017 Rhythmical Creation
2016 In The Beginning
2015 False Gods
2014 But Sometimes Careers Choose People
2013 Pretty Sure Of Uncertainty
2012 Face Reality
2011 Intelligent Luck

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I was applying to colleges in high school and I already knew I wanted to study the universe at age seventeen because I knew at age nine.  So my applications were dripping with the universe.  I was accepted at Cornell, and it’s time to decide what school you go to, and a set of other schools as well.  The admissions office, unknown to me, sent my application to Carl Sagan.  He was already famous.  He was already on Johnny Carson, Tonight Show.  To get him to just comment on it.  Carl Sagan then sent me a letter, hand signed, saying, ‘I understand you’re considering Cornell.  If you come by and visit I’d be happy to show you the lab.’  And I said, ‘Is this Carl Sagan?’  I showed it to mom, dad, I said, ‘Could this be?’  And it was.  I wrote back and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll go up in two weekends.’  He met me on a Saturday morning in the snow, gave me a tour of his lab.  I’m in his office, he reaches back, pulls out one of his books, signs it to me.  It’s time for me to leave, he drives me to the bus station, snowing a little heavier.  He writes his home phone on a sheet of paper, says, ‘If the bus can’t get through, call me, spend the night at our place.’  And I thought to myself, who am I?  I’m just some high school kid.  And to this day, to this day, I have this duty to respond to students who are inquiring about the universe as a career path, to respond to them in the way that Carl Sagan had responded to me.
  —  Neil deGrasse Tyson
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On This Day In:
2019 From My Sullied Prison
2018 In My Room (2)
2017 Pretending
2016 And Songs Too…
2015 On The Road To Failure
2014 Each Moment
2013 Conversation
2012 4 Down, 11 Done (At Last)
I’m Not Afraid
2011 Who’s Risk Is It, Anyway?

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We’re in very bad trouble if we don’t understand the planet we’re trying to save.
We’ve arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology.
We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.
  —  Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 The Deep Center
2018 Oh, Heaven (Too)
2017 Now Pausing Makes Sense
2016 Just Spicy
Only One Part
2015 Positive Acts Of Creation
2014 One Thing Is Clear
2013 Corrections
See Greatness
2012 Gemutlichkeit
2011 Back On The Asphalt

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Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious.  If a human disagrees with you, let him live.  In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.
  —  Carl Sagan
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On This Day In:
2019 Nothing Is Too Difficult For Me
Patterns Of Caring
2018 And May Never Be
2017 Don’t Forget
2016 I Was A Percentage Man
2015 It Waits Patiently
2014 Unknown
2013 Explaining Love?
2012 Echoes of 1%
2011 Salaam, Egypt!!
Where Do You Learn?

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