When Carl Sagan died in 1996 at the age of 62, the world lost a very special person, a teacher who had so much, much, more to say to us. For the last four years, there have been annual get-togethers – all over the United States – of those who want to see official recognition of Carl’s efforts, and I’m privileged to not only have attended and participated in those meetings, but also to personally know Jeanette Madea, the one who heads up the South Florida group and beats the drum for the creation of a Carl Sagan Day.
It all started in November of 2009, with speakers Phil Plait, D.J. Grothe, Russell Romanella from NASA, myself, and an interactive video discussion with David Morrison from NASA, a former student of Dr. Sagan's. Every year since, the program has grown to include not only a set of distinguished scientists and skeptics, but workshops for local K-12 teachers, displays, poster contests for school kids, rocket launches, planetarium shows, event t-shirts and more. Last year, students had a chance to visit "Carl's Garage" where they were encouraged to use skeptical thinking in addressing the provocative claim of the invisible dragon alleged to live there.
This year, November 10, 2012, is the 4th annual Sagan Day event. The celebration started with the idea in our south Florida skeptic and secular community that just as Charles Darwin is celebrated because of the great impact his contributions have had on modern biology, Sagan should be recognized – not just for his contributions to astronomy – but for the way in which he made real science accessible to so many by his lectures, books, television appearances, and his impassioned leadership and influence in the skeptical community.
This south Florida (Broward County) event has now led to dozens of other similar events being held around the country. Our events have been held at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and have involved science faculty, the Science Club, the Broward College Center For Inquiry club, and many student volunteers. The Broward School district has also been very supportive. The sponsors of the event are the Center for Inquiry Fort Lauderdale branch, FLASH (Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists), CASE (Coalition for the Advancement of Science Educations) and of course the James Randi Educational Foundation. We are very grateful to Ann Druyan, Carl’s widow and beloved partner with whom he worked on COSMOS and so many other important projects, for her endorsement of the event.
Prior to the full day of science-related activities, a fund-raising "Dinner with the Stars" is held to give those who attend a chance to dine and converse with the distinguished speakers.
This year 's event will feature "Starts with a Bang" blogger Ethan Siegel, our good friend Jeff Wagg, a representative from NASA, and some other surprises. I’ll try to recollect some of the exchanges that Carl and I had, hoping that I’m not repeating myself from previous years…!
The date is Saturday, November 10, noon to 9:00pm at Broward College North Campus in Coconut Creek, Florida. The “Dinner with the Stars" will be Friday evening, November 9 – which would have been Carl’s 78th birthday.
Yes, this is a highly localized event, but if you'll be in the area, please consider being part of it.
This event is free to everyone, and we hope to see you there!
James Randi is the founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation.