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Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science

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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.


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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.

30 review for Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    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 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 incredible mind; One would be hard-pressed to argue the book doesn't start off strong. The next part, called "The Paradoxers", starts of well enough, explaining and refuting various pseudoscientific and paranormal beliefs. But in chapter 7 Sagan spends over 50 pages refuting the claims made in a specific book called "Worlds in Collision" written by a specific author named Velikovsky. This would be fine if I were reading Broca's brain 30 years ago when it was published, but as it is I have never heard anyone repeating the ridiculous claims spouted by Velikovsky so I wasn't very interested in their refutations. I ended up skimming through most of the chapter. This is just one of the ways the book suffers from how dated it is. After this, part two continues with a couple good chapters, the first on theological arguments and second on science fiction. The next two parts of Broca's Brain are both mostly concerned with astronomy, space exploration, and humanity's future. They continue to vary in quality from a great chapter on Robert H. Goddard's tireless work towards space exploration to a terribly boring chapter on choosing namesakes for features of other planets. The final part skeptically examines religion and does a pretty good job until it ends with a chapter concerning hypothesis that explains religious stories and experiences in terms of subconscious memories of birth that's almost Freudian in its level of wild speculation. Broca's Brain is magnificent at times, but at times it's dense enough to make up for it, and overall it just felt too muddled for me to give it a very good rating.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    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 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 like me, who struggles to understand the terms and imagine the actions, it's a step forward. but i am so passionate about this subject! i love learning about the outer space and if physics is a part of it, then so be it! there are few things out there that i consider to be more worthy of attention than the mechanics of our universe and i'm sure that, throughout the years, i'll be able to understand even more!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    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! 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!

  4. 5 out of 5

    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 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 science" were very nice to read. Other chapters that were interesting to read were related to The Solar System and the usage of Nomenclature within it; on life in our Solar System based on their atmospheres; a chapter based on the Surface and Atmosphere of Titan, the moon of Saturn; Climates of Earth and Mars; Asteroids and Meteorites; Planetary Exploration; Communication and Transportation Speeds; In defense of Robots and AI; the quest for Extraterrestrial Life; Views on God and Religion, our Galaxy and the Universe; and finally a chapter on the usage of psychedelic drugs and its usage to induce Perinatal Memories while relating it to understand the Origins and Nature of Religion and to Cosmology. If only Mr. Sagan have had lived today, I would have loved to read a revised edition of this book now after nearly four decades of its first publication in 1974.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hamid

    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 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 decision. Sagan wisely asserts that skepticism is not denialism or cynicism. It's just that you need to ask for sufficient evidence in case of extraordinary claims.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    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 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 me. In considering the opportunity to literally read a mind, Sagan posited, “It would be the ultimate breach of privacy.” I was a bit awed at Sagan’s willingness to troubleshoot the ethics of his own pipedream. After all, what if we could tap the intelligence of brilliant men and women, now deceased? It’s a fascinating thought, but also a troubling one. I admired Sagan for volunteering the questionable nature of his own desire for access. The above is just one of many intriguing reflections offered by Carl Sagan in Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science. This book is a collection of essays, many previously published in magazines. With a firm command of both science and humanity, Sagan explores a range of issues related to our existence. Especially engrossing, even haunting, are his ruminations on the process of dying. Sagan writes with candor about the issues facing our species. He does not patronize readers with comfort for comfort’s sake, but neither does he gravitate toward sensationalism. Sagan’s dialogue style is thoughtful and dignified, but with splashes of humor. He also throws some pointed jabs at absurd notions that regrettably retain traction in modern society. As our world becomes almost wholly dependent on scientific technology, works like this will be an essential frame of reference for laypersons. The more I read Sagan and others, the more I am convinced that being conversant in science is a matter of civic responsibility. With some technical exceptions, the content of this book is very accessible. For those who have already read other works by Carl Sagan, I highly recommend it. If you have not yet tried Sagan, I suggest starting with the novel Contact, or getting a hold of his groundbreaking work Cosmos. The latter is available on DVD and in book form.

  7. 4 out of 5

    William

    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 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 of his hopes have been achieved, and he would have been awed by the discoveries made by the Cassini and Huygens probes, making this book bittersweet knowing that he will never have the opportunity to comment on today's discovery. A suggestion for future readers would be just to skip the vivisection of Dr. Velikovsky, unless you want an example of what would happen to the likes of homeopathy or astrology if scientists truly decided to turn their attention to those false disciplines.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    This should be a school textbook. The world would be a better place.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rita

    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. 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.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anuraag Sharma

    The Earth is the cradle of mankind. But one does not live in the cradle forever. Tsiolkovsky

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    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. 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.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Foncho

    Classic Sagan, making me regret not pursuing an astronomy degree. Great book, though be aware that this it is not like Cosmos or Pale Blue Dot, but a collection of essays that he wrote and published in various magazines. The only thing keeping this book from 5 stars, imo, is the chapter spawning 70 pages where Sagan disproves the arguments of a book that I'm quite certain that no one has even heard of. It was a gruelling experience reading that part. As with all his books, it will make you feel d Classic Sagan, making me regret not pursuing an astronomy degree. Great book, though be aware that this it is not like Cosmos or Pale Blue Dot, but a collection of essays that he wrote and published in various magazines. The only thing keeping this book from 5 stars, imo, is the chapter spawning 70 pages where Sagan disproves the arguments of a book that I'm quite certain that no one has even heard of. It was a gruelling experience reading that part. As with all his books, it will make you feel dumb, yet it will leave you just a little bit smarter and a little less lost on this weird planet. Loved it, just as much as I love Sagan. Dude's awesome.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Thom

    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. 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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Arun Divakar

    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 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 toast to this scientific mindset for he is an outspoken advocate of believing only after something is being proved beyond reasonable doubt. His writings in this book are reflections on varied topics including the lives of scientific greats, planetary wonders, the dangers of pseudo-science et al. Sagan as a writer does not disappoint with his style. He is never a high-brow scientist writer who mumbles away just for the benefit of his computer and to no one else. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I did begin to feel a lot more affinity to Science as a discipline after reading him and Feynman. That’s right folks ! School was the best way to discard Science in the badlands of my mind. He does cover a wide variety of topics in his writing and this did arouse curiosity in my mind. Sadly, this strength of Sagan is also the biggest undoing of this little book. The book suffers a serious problem in terms of its content (both in terms of being logically connected and also in terms of quality). After a couple of chapters I was left to wonder if Sagan ever meant this to be a book or whether the publishers cashed in on his popularity and swept in quite a few of his writings and hammered it into a shape that resembled a book. Earlier works of his that I have been acquainted with ( read Cosmos, Dragons Of Eden) have been logical and lucid in terms of their approach to the subjects. In here however, Sagan wanders all over the place. We jump right from Albert Einstein to circus freak-shows from one essay to the next. From the number of reviews in the site, it appears that there are quite a few folks who had no issues with such a style but for me it was a jumbled mass. Attention wanders as a result of this and I left the book much disappointed. Not one of his best !

  15. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Gonçalves

    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. 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.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dan Debono

    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! 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!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Z

    "...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 "...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, the exploration of Mars, using a solar sail to travel to Halley's Comet, for example). In totality, though, this collection of essays is timeless, reminding us of the vastness and magic of the universe and allowing us for a brief while to escape the mundanity of daily life. What would Sagan have to say about what we now know of Mars, and the Cassini-Huygens mission of 2004 to Titan, a moon close to his heart? About SARS-CoV-4? About the current crop of national leaders? One can only imagine... Thanks for the cosmic journey, Carl. The earth misses you! P.S. my answer to those "which dead person would you invite to dinner" sort of questions is always you.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Neeraj Adhikari

    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 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 absurd and nonsensical. It is understandable why Sagan had to dissect it carefully and in great detail, but including it in this book wasn't a great decision. And the bit on the last chapter about cosmological models coming straight from perinatal experiences, what was that? Too reminiscent of the crazy pseudoscientific stuff debunked in the first part of the book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    J Crossley

    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 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 ultimate invasion of privacy. I found it amazing that Sagan could look at the ethics involved in his theory. A portion of the book refutes current ideas and authors. By current i mean the early 70’s. This is the part of the book that is dated.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Prakash Holla

    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..

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dan Robb

    A collection of essays and articles on widely varying topics, although some of them loosely connected. A lot of the content is firmly rooted in the late 70s, but they are fun to read in retrospect, especially his reflections on the "current" state of various fields of study at the time of writing. Some are more interesting and relevant than others, and I will probably return to re-read them in the future. A collection of essays and articles on widely varying topics, although some of them loosely connected. A lot of the content is firmly rooted in the late 70s, but they are fun to read in retrospect, especially his reflections on the "current" state of various fields of study at the time of writing. Some are more interesting and relevant than others, and I will probably return to re-read them in the future.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tyler

    Outdated and just not as well-written as Sagan's other works that I've read. Outdated and just not as well-written as Sagan's other works that I've read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Isaac Carrada

    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

  24. 4 out of 5

    Liam Moclair

    A great book that was varied and detailed but somewhat too detailed at times which made some parts difficult to read but apart from that, a greqt book

  25. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    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 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 can be understood by the common layperson. There several points which cover easily understandable subjects then awkwardly and unexpectedly transition into deeply technical speculations and mathematical proofs which are likely to be lost in translation by a reader who has insufficient background in astronomy or physics. There are several chapters that are dedicated entirely to the refutation of pseudo-scientific theories and there is an appendix at the end of the book which disproves a theory in even greater detail. Sagan reminds us, however, that ideas which seem incredulous should not be immediately repressed by the scientific community; many discoveries which we take for granted today, such as that the Earth is not the center of the universe, were considered blasphemous by the general consensus when they originated. Overall, there is a great deal of knowledge to be found in reading this book. Even for the common person, such as myself, who is not fully capable of keeping up with all of the technicalities Sagan presents, the majority of the material is presented in an accessible and often emotional manner which emphasizes the importance of scientific inquiry, skepticism, and humility.

  26. 4 out of 5

    S.Ach

    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 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 Brain is collection of his essays on myriad of subjects - from Einstein to Kabba, from views on science fiction to criticisms on his contemporaries. Each of the essays are independent of each other, and gives the flexibility to the reader to read the book in any sequence. Some of his essays, especially the ones where he criticized the views of some of his fellow scientists, are skippable though. My favoured ones are, obviously, where he discusses the position of science vis-à-vis the realm of religion. Clearly, he had the same position as I hold - that of an agnostic - "To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed. A wide range of intermediate positions seems admissible, and considering the enormous emotional energies with which the subject is invested, a questing, courageous, and open mind is, I think, the essential tool for narrowing the range of our collective ignorance on the subject of the existence of God."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    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 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 embarrassing due to his failure to predict the enormous advances in computing that were to occur within ten years of publication—but he wasn't alone in that regard: almost no one foresaw the emergence of Moore's Law. Alternatively, for readers wanting to access the more visible Sagan, I recommend Cosmos; for readers wanting the ultimate distillation of his beliefs and to experience his mind at its greatest, I cannot recommend too strongly The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. That, his penultimate book, is one of the great ones of philosophical science.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sagar Vibhute

    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 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 before faith, and facts before beliefs. A scientist might passionately pursue a question for ages and hypothesize an answer, but if confronted with a better solution will have to abandon his own in favor of the new one. It is this kind of brutal honesty that keeps science useful. But science is not only for the scientist, or the skeptics. It is for all of us! We all have a stake in understanding the world and having a chance to make the right choices and decisions in our everyday lives. We shouldn't be taking the word of a politician or a businessman on issues like global warming, pollution, deforestation and so many more, but be able to actually understand why we should take one side over the other. Science is not hard, in fact it is the only thing that is simple, because it doesn't bullshit to you. Please, please, please read this book to get an understanding of the beauty and romance of science!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    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 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 reading more than 50 pages I thought I was reading a different book. All of the other chapters are much briefer and much more compelling. They can be read separately and virtually in any order. They stand or fall on their own merits. The topics are varied, though connected to the theme of popularizing and understanding science and its applications to the cosmos and the world in which we live.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    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 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 and physics has put me at more of a disadvantage than I realized. I'll probably keep reading Sagan's books, because I really enjoyed Cosmos and have been interested in hearing more from him for a really long time. I definitely enjoyed reading his thoughts on planetary exploration and the nature of the universe. However many I read, though, Broca's Brain will probably never be my favorite.

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