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Carl Sagan Day Conference: Celebrating a 'master teacher'

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Losing yourself in the fictions of space travel has been easy this television season. NBC's The Event explores the idea of revealing knowledge of extraterrestrials to the general public (the show premiered on the heels of the Vatican's announcement it would baptize aliens if they're found to exist), while ABC's V chronicles the story of an alien race conquering the earth while waving a white flag.

But before Captain Kirk first beamed aboard the starship Enterprise, scientific trailblazers were paving the way for real-world space exploration. A giant among these towering figures was Carl Sagan. The Center for Inquiry Indiana (CFI) will be honoring Sagan this month with Indianapolis' first Carl Sagan Day Conference on Nov. 20.

Sagan's credential could stretch out into the infinite cosmos. He was a consultant for NASA in the 50s, helped solve celestial mysteries like Venuses' high temperature (greenhouse effect) and Titan's red hew (complex organic molecules). He even has an asteroid named after him.

However, education was Sagan's greatest gift to the world. Sagan broke down complex knowledge into simple concepts anyone could understand.

"Carl Sagan is a master teacher, if you ever watch Cosmos," said Reba Boyd Wooden, Executive Director of CFI Indiana and organizer of the conference.

Sagan's Cosmos premiered on network television on Sept. 28, 1980. It continues to be one of Sagan's most lasting legacies.

Impressive credentials abound on the conference agenda. Physicist Leonard Tramiel will begin the conference with biographical information on Sagan. Tramiel is also the son of Jack Tramiel, found of Commodore Computers.

Brian Murphy, Director of Holcomb Observatory at Butler, will discuss the heart of the Milky Way Galaxy. Discussing Sagan's boloney detection kit – Sagan's insights into critical thinking – will be Sean O'Brien, a CFI member. Science teacher Anthony Nelson will talk about the state of science education today. Speakers will participate in a discussion before lunch and the observatory field trip.

"[Sagan] was a big supporter of science, science education and all the stuff [CFI] is about," said Wooden. In fact, CFI has been celebrating Sagan all month long with a birthday party for Sagan's Nov. 9 anniversary and screening of episodes of "Cosmos" on Sunday night at CFI.

More info:

The Carl Sagan Day Conference, on Nov. .20, will start at 8 a.m. with breakfast and registration at the CFI, 350 Canal Walk, Suite A, and end at 4 p.m. A box lunch will be served in the middle of the conference, and the group will have dinner at Sahm's Restaurant.

A tour of the Butler observatory will follow lunch. Registration for the conference is possible as long as there are seats, but registration for box lunch, dinner and tour is due by Nov. 15.

For more information, call (317) 423-0710 or see www.centerforinquiry.net/indy.

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