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Carl Sagan Day Chicago 2011 (Presented by Secular Student Alliance at Northwestern University)


In November 2011, NU SSA was able to host a Carl Sagan Day in collaboration with several other groups thanks to a Project GrantSagan imitation from the national SSA. This article summarizes the experiences of that event for the group.

Carl Sagan Day Chicago 2011 was an epic, inter-group collaboration held in honor of the birthday of the late and great astrophysicist and science popularizer, Carl Sagan. The cosponsoring groups involved with the event were Northwestern University’s Secular Student Alliance, the DePaul Alliance for Free Thought, Chicago Skeptics, the University of Chicago Secular Alliance, the Women Thinking Free Foundation, and of course, the national non-profit Secular Student Alliance. Funds were allocated equally among the cosponsoring groups, and the expenses covered venue rental and catering (which tongue-in-cheekily included apple pies and Cosmopolitans, in the spirit of Carl Sagan’s TV series, Cosmos, which memorably espoused the well-known quote: “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”).

The main purpose of this event was to provide an opportunity for all of the skeptics from the greater Chicagoland area to meet, form invaluable connections, and enjoy each other’s intellectually-stimulating company — and in that, we succeeded admirably. The attendees, which allotted to about 80-100 people in total, all benefited greatly from the expansion of their like-minded circles, and for this reason, we strive to cosponsor even more collaborative events such as this one in the future. Though we certainly attracted our targeted audience with this collaborative effort, we did not notably (nor did we directly intend to) attract new members to NU SSA, as again, we merely meant to host a fun-filled, festive evening with local skeptic groups and fellow Sagan-enthusiasts alike. girl

Aside from the social aspect of the event, we also had some of our eloquent group leaders — such as Dan Abramov of NU SSA and Jennifer Newport of Chicago Skeptics — give engaging, topical presentations like “Astronomy Since Sagan” and “Skepticism and Sagan’s Cosmos,” respectively. Later, we let Carl Sagan speak for himself when we screened an episode from his critically acclaimed series, Cosmos, reminding all of us how very relevant his messages still remain to this day. The evening ended with Carl Sagan-themed trivia (the prizes for which were whole apple pies and Flying Spaghetti Monster cupcakes). All in all, the only shortcoming of the event was that Carl Sagan himself was not alive to experience what turned out to be one of his most memorable birthday parties yet!

Because of Sagan’s continual contributions to the public’s understanding of science, skepticism, and the universe — as well as for the sake of maintaining meaningful connections between our friendly neighborhood Chicagoland skeptics  — we hope to make Carl Sagan Day Chicago an annual event, and we humbly thank those of you at the Secular Student Alliance for your generous project grant. You helped make this event a possibility and an ultimate success!

This article was written by the members of SSA @ Northwestern University.

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