Free Download of : Carl Sagan – Billions and Billions – Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink (Ballantine, 1997)
I never said it. Honest. Oh, I said there are maybe 100 billion galaxies and 10 billion trillion stars. It’s hard to talk about the Cosmos without using big numbers. I said “billion” many times on the Cosmos television series, which was seen by a great many people. But I never said “billions and billions.” For one thing, it’s too imprecise. How many billions are “billions and billions”? A few billion? Twenty billion? A
hundred billion? “Billions and billions” is pretty vague. When we reconfigured and updated the series, I
checked—and sure enough, I never said it.
But Johnny Carson—on whose Tonight Show I’d appeared almost thirty times over the years—said it.
He’d dress up in a corduroy jacket, a turtleneck sweater, and something like a mop for a wig. He had created a rough imitation of me, a kind of Doppelganger, that went around saying “billions and billions” on late-night television. It used to bother me a littleto have some simulacrum of my persona wandering off on its own, saying things that friends and colleagues would report to me the next morning. (Despite
the disguise, Carson—a serious amateur astronomer—would often make my imitation talk real science.)
Astonishingly, “billions and billions” stuck. People liked the sound of it. Even today, I’m stopped on the street or on an airplane or at a party and asked, a little shyly, if I wouldn’t—-just for them—say “billions and billions.” …..