Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Carl Sagan and Albert Einstein. Relatively alike?

This is Carl Sagan. Charming looking fellow isn't he? But beholder beware, he's much more than a Mr. Roger's spin-off character. No, this man is one of the most influential, iconic, and inspirational physicists of the 20th century. Although like most great minds in history, say Einstein for popularity and professional relevancy's sake, he too has a fascinating rise to genius. Carl Sagan was born on November 9, 1934 in Brooklyn, New York to Sam Sagan and Rachel Molly Gruber. 

Similar to Einstein's upbringing Sagan's was also one that involved liberal Judaism. Also similarly both Einstein and Sagan's family were both socioeconomically less than well, especially since Sagan grew up during the Great Depression. Although, both geniuses did not want for intellectual stimulation. Einstein had family friend and medical student, Max Talmey, bring him books about on philosophy and physics. Sagan had experiences such as attending the World Fair which sparked his curiosity and his parents bought him gifts such as a chemistry set, as well as reading materials.

In terms of schooling both men were geniuses of self-schooling. Einstein rejected the rote learning methods of German schools and chose to tackle advanced geometry alone, eventually studying at the Polytechnic Institute of Technology in Switzerland. Sagan entered the University of Chicago at the age of 17 to earn a 4 year degree. Both men could not get not get enough of academia, Einstein was obsessed with theoretical physics and Sagan obsessed with exploring space.

Both Big-C creatives  had early intrinsic motivation and high IQ which placed them as likely candidates for this path of formal apprenticeship, to Pro-C, to greatness, and finally legend status. Considering both had to face hardship personal and professionally, it makes sense that these qualities are needed for great figures to attain their glory. Both Einstein and Sagan neglected their families in favor of their work which led to marital problems. Einstein had to disprove Lorentz's equations and Sagan had to combat the existing notion that Venus had a pleasant atmosphere. Both these tasks required incredible technical expertise as well as the tenacity to disagree with the existing greats of the time. 

Einstein's greatest achievements are well-known including his contribution to the construction of he unclear bomb and his development of the theory of relativity. Sagan left his mark by discovering the heat of Venus, the dust storms of Mars, and working with NASA on innumerable projects. One of these projects happened to be writing a radio message to send into space to alert extraterrestrial beings who stumble upon it to the existence of life on Earth. Sagan also authored a television series called "The Cosmos" using his talent for explaining complex physical phenomenon to average people. This show was geared to dazzle, inform, and inspire audiences. The show was produced after his death hosted by Neil Degrasse Tyson, another space enthusiast, and the awe of watching it on Netflix is what spurred me to write about Sagan.

Sagan and Einstein's strikingly similar histories, many years apart tell the same story of an unprivileged young man with a passion for science so strong that it isolated him from the rest of society, but whose intellect collected from years of labor carried him through to discovery and the admiration of future generations.   

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