New freelance writings: sea level rise, searching for aliens, and the meaning of life

In case you missed them, here’s a few pieces I’ve recently written and published for Undark magazine, Hakai magazine, and Inside Science. Thanks as usual to my excellent editors! I’m only posting brief excerpts here, so if you’re interested, please check out the whole thing using the links below.

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View of Earth by the Cassini spacecraft near Saturn. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Searching for Meaning on Our Pale Blue Dot

In “For Small Creatures Such as We,” Sasha Sagan reflects on her upbringing and the power of secular faith.

Religion, and Christianity in particular, appear to be becoming less important among younger Americans, declining dramatically in the past two decades, according to a recent Wall Street Journal poll. So where can people turn to share a common culture and community?

For Sasha Sagan, the author of “For Small Creatures Such as We,” even a dinner party tradition or a shared song can generate the camaraderie people may be missing. Aimed primarily at atheist and agnostic readers, her book is both a memoir of growing up as the daughter of astronomer Carl Sagan and writer Ann Druyan in Ithaca, New York, where her father was a professor at Cornell University, as well as an exploration of connections and universal themes among religions, cultures, and secular communities around the world.

Her parents wrote and produced many acclaimed and popular science books and TV programs, including “Cosmos,’’ “Contact,” “Pale Blue Dot,’’ and “The Demon-Haunted World.’’ The movie version of “Contact,’’ which came only seven months after Sagan’s death in 1996, included the line that inspired his daughter’s title: “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”

Like her parents, Sagan has plenty of gifts as a writer and communicator. It’s her livelihood, in fact: She’s not a scientist but a TV producer, filmmaker, writer, editor, and speaker. In her book, she writes of the “immense brazen beauty of life” and argues that “from the genetic information in our blood to the movement of the Earth around the sun, our vast universe provides us with enough profound and beautiful truths to live a spiritually fulfilling life.”

[Read the entire piece in Undark magazine, published on 15 November.]

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