Asks science blogger Chad Orzel:
My read of this is that most of the wistful longing for a “next Carl Sagan” doesn’t actually have much to do with Carl Sagan the person or writer, but “Carl Sagan” the cultural phenomenon. That is, at the time that Cosmos aired, he was everywhere– the cover of Time, the Tonight Show, etc. He wasn’t just a science popularizer, he was a pop-culture phenomenon, nd everybody loved him in a way that really hasn’t happened since.
And the mistake everyone makes about this is thinking that that success was a result of his personal qualities. But it wasn’t. At least, it wasn’t exclusively about his personal qualities– to be sure, he had a good deal of charisma in a late-1970’s sort of way, and Cosmos was, at the time, a rather impressive achievement (it’s kind of slow and rambling to modern tastes, alas).
Asking for a “next Carl Sagan” isn’t, to my mind, specifically about a desire for a white dude in a turtleneck talking about astronomy, it’s nostalgia for a time when a guy talking about science was one of the most recognizable figures in pop culture. I don’t think it really matters what science it is, or what the person looks like, people just want to see a science communicator on the cover of Time again.
But maybe what popular culture thinks of as science has changed too. Stephen Hawking is the buzz now, as the universe gives way to the multiverse.
Anyway, Sagan made the mistake of fronting nuclear winter when the compadres (now even the Darwin-in-the-schools lobby) were all fronting global warming, not global freezing.
So who guessed that so many people were still wondering who the next Carl Sagan would be?
Not sure “disvesting” Hayden Planetarium astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson, as Orzel suggests, would change much. Agree that Tyson should lose the vest. Thing is, the population has aged since 1996. – O’Leary for News