BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : JANUARY 22, 2001 ISSUE
BUSINESS WEEK E.BIZ -- PERSONALITIES

ONLINE EXTRA: Ann Druyan: "People Feel Excluded from Science"
Carl Sagan's widow is determined to carry on her husband's work of demystifying science and making it accessible

For the 20 years she was married to astronomer Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan was a full partner in his mission to make science understandable and exciting for everyone. Widowed in 1996, Druyan has now found a new partner to help her carry on their mission: Internet entrepreneur Joe Firmage. Though she doesn't agree with Firmage's unorthodox views on extraterrestrial life, Druyan is certain Firmage is the one to make their new company, OneCosmos, a success. Correspondent Arlene Weintraub caught up with Druyan at her TV production company, Cosmos Studios, in Los Angeles.

Q: How do you describe Carl Sagan's impact on science education?
A: He was pivotal in tearing down walls. People feel excluded from science because of the jargon and the elite nature of it. Scientists have been largely disinterested in engaging the rest of the world in what they were doing. Carl set out to change that.

Q: Did you have an interest in science before you met Sagan?
A: No. I believe my life in science was derailed at P.S. 216 in Queens, N.Y. During a lesson on pi, I raised my hand and asked if pi applied to every circle. The teacher told me not to ask stupid questions. I was so humiliated I never wanted to go back to math class again. I retold the story in the movie treatment for Contact, which I wrote with Carl.

Q: Your husband used television as a tool to teach science. How will the Internet help you continue the work he started?
A: The backbone of science is the ability to question. When you're sitting at the computer, interaction and interrogation come naturally. As the differences between TV and the Internet erode, people will be able to experience an even more perfect setting for learning about science.

Q: What are some of the projects you and Firmage are working on now?
A: We are sponsoring the development of a solar-powered spacecraft being produced under the auspices of the Planetary Society, which was co-founded by Carl. And Cosmos Studios has three television shows in development.

Q: Your husband believed strongly there wasn't enough evidence to prove extraterrestrial life exists. Firmage adamantly believes the opposite. What is your response to his theories?
A: Profound disagreement. Knowing how porous every bureaucracy is, the theory that the government is keeping a secret about UFOs is ridiculous to me. Until the scientific evidence is there, we cannot be persuaded by people with no evidence. Joe and I talked on the phone for hours and hours, and in the end we agreed to disagree on this issue. But what we agree on is fundamental: We will continue Carl's work toward tearing down the walls of what keeps children away from science.



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ONLINE EXTRA: Ann Druyan: "People Feel Excluded from Science"



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