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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index S > Carl Sagan Quotes > Nuclear

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Carl Sagan
(9 Nov 1934 - 20 Dec 1996)

American astronomer, exobiologist and writer remembered for popularizing astronomy and science, especially with his public television series Cosmos. Its accompanying book spent seventy weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. He was an adviser to NASA for the Mariner, Voyager, and Viking unmanned space missions.



If the greenhouse effect is a blanket in which we wrap ourselves to keep warm, nuclear winter kicks the blanket off.
[co-author with American atmospheric chemist Richard P. Turco (1943- )]
— Carl Sagan
A Path Where No Man Thought: Nuclear Winter and the End of the Arms Race (1990), 24.
Science quotes on:  |  Blanket (9)  |  Effect (157)  |  Greenhouse (2)  |  Kick (8)  |  Nuclear (26)  |  Nuclear Winter (3)  |  Warmth (10)  |  Winter (28)  |  Wrap (7)

Imagine a room awash in gasoline, and there are two implacable enemies in that room. One of them has nine thousand matches. The other has seven thousand matches. Each of them is concerned about who's ahead, who's stronger. Well that's the kind of situation we are actually in. The amount of weapons that are available to the United States and the Soviet Union are so bloated, so grossly in excess of what's needed to dissuade the other, that if it weren't so tragic, it would be laughable. What is necessary is to reduce the matches and to clean up the gasoline.
— Carl Sagan
From Sagan's analogy about the nuclear arms race and the need for disarmament, during a panel discussion in ABC News Viewpoint following the TV movie The Day After (20 Nov 1983). Transcribed by Webmaster from a video recording. It is seen misquoted in summary form as “The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.”
Science quotes on:  |  Ahead (18)  |  Arms Race (2)  |  Atomic Bomb (107)  |  Clean Up (4)  |  Concern (99)  |  Enemy (59)  |  Excess (9)  |  Gasoline (4)  |  Implacable (3)  |  Match (16)  |  Necessity (138)  |  Need (261)  |  Nuclear (26)  |  Reduce (42)  |  Soviet Union (4)  |  Stronger (5)  |  Thousand (143)  |  Tragedy (22)  |  United States (31)  |  Weapon (64)

The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.
[A summary version; not verbatim.]
— Carl Sagan
A summary version, as written by Kristen Ghodsee in Lost in Transition: Ethnographies of Everyday Life After Communism (2011), 2-3. Note the author states it as “I remember,” and the wording is not verbatim from Sagan's original remark made during a panel discussion in ABC News Viewpoint following the TV movie The Day After (20 Nov 1983). The verbatim quote is also on this page. It begins, “Imagine a room…”
Science quotes on:  |  Arms Race (2)  |  Atomic Bomb (107)  |  Enemy (59)  |  Gasoline (4)  |  Match (16)  |  Nuclear (26)  |  Standing (11)  |  Two (13)

The prediction of nuclear winter is drawn not, of course, from any direct experience with the consequences of global nuclear war, but rather from an investigation of the governing physics. (The problem does not lend itself to full experimental verification—at least not more than once.)[co-author with American atmospheric chemist Richard P. Turco (1943- )]
— Carl Sagan
A Path Where No Man Thought: Nuclear Winter and the End of the Arms Race (1990), 26.
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (107)  |  Consequence (97)  |  Experience (322)  |  Experiment (580)  |  Global (15)  |  Investigation (157)  |  Nuclear (26)  |  Nuclear Winter (3)  |  Physics (329)  |  Problem (451)  |  Verification (24)  |  War (157)  |  Winter (28)

Carl Sagan quote Advances in medicine and agriculture
A bean farmer checks her crop in Congo. Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT). CC2.0 (source)

See also:
  • 9 Nov - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Sagan's birth.
  • Carl Sagan - context of quote A Subject Called Chemistry - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Carl Sagan - context of quote A Subject Called Chemistry - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Carl Sagan - context of quote “Advances in medicine and agriculture” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Carl Sagan - context of quote “Advances in medicine and agriculture” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Carl Sagan: A Life in the Cosmos, by William Poundstone. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Carl Sagan.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (more topics)
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Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
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Euclid
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Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
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Bible
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- 70 -
Samuel Morse
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Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
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Avicenna
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- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
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Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
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- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
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Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
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- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
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Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
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Isaac Newton



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