You’ve Never Heard Carl Sagan Say “Billions” Like This Before

Nobody likes the way an entire human life can get reduced to a sound bite, but even if you know absolute­ly noth­ing else about Carl Sagan, you know that he said the words “bil­lions and bil­lions.” Or rather, you think you know it; in real­i­ty (and in accor­dance with the “Play it again, Sam” prin­ci­ple), the famous astronomer and sci­ence pop­u­lar­iz­er nev­er actu­al­ly said quite those words on tele­vi­sion. A posthu­mous essay col­lec­tion used them as its title, but the pub­lic only latched on to the catch­phrase — or catch half-phrase, any­way — in 1980, when John­ny Car­son used it in a Tonight Show par­o­dy of Sagan’s broad­cast per­sona. But if you want to hear the real Sagan invok­ing very large num­bers in his char­ac­ter­is­tic into­na­tion, have we got the video for you.

At the top of the post, you’ll find a super­cut of each and every one of his uses of “mil­lion,” “bil­lion,” “tril­lion,” and even “quadrillion” dur­ing the entire­ty of his acclaimed tele­vi­sion series Cos­mos — to a beat. Alter­na­tive­ly, using sim­i­lar source mate­r­i­al to an entire­ly dif­fer­ent aes­thet­ic end, the sound clip above con­tains just one instance of Sagan say­ing “bil­lion” — but stretched out to an hour in length, which turns it into a sort of drone­like ambi­ent music. A not just out­ward- but for­ward-think­ing sci­en­tif­ic vision­ary like Sagan sure­ly under­stood more about what lies ahead for human­i­ty than the rest of us do, but could he pos­si­bly have fore­seen us using our tech­nol­o­gy for stuff like this? Still, he prob­a­bly would’ve dug it.

via Kot­tke/io9

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Carl Sagan’s Orig­i­nal Cos­mos Series on YouTube: The 1980 Show That Inspired a Gen­er­a­tion of Sci­en­tists

Carl Sagan Presents Six Lec­tures on Earth, Mars & Our Solar Sys­tem … For Kids (1977)

Carl Sagan Explains Evo­lu­tion in an Eight-Minute Ani­ma­tion

Carl Sagan’s Under­grad Read­ing List: 40 Essen­tial Texts for a Well-Round­ed Thinker

Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawk­ing & Arthur C. Clarke Dis­cuss God, the Uni­verse, and Every­thing Else

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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