On a recent episode of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, renowned astronomer and professor, Dr. Carl Sagan, made a thought-provoking appearance. As always, Dr. Sagan captivated the audience with his deep understanding of astronomy and space sciences.

During the interview, host Johnny Carson discussed the recently released films, “Star Wars” and “Close Encounters,” and asked Dr. Sagan for his opinion on the scientific accuracy of these movies. Dr. Sagan, while finding them entertaining, believed that these films could have made a better effort to incorporate scientific facts.

One of the issues Dr. Sagan pointed out was that “Star Wars” begins by stating that it takes place in another galaxy, yet portrays characters that resemble human beings. He explained that human beings are the result of a unique evolutionary sequence on Earth, and it would be extremely unlikely for such similar creatures to exist in a different environment.

Another aspect that Dr. Sagan commented on was the lack of diversity in the human characters in “Star Wars.” He noted that all the humans in the film had white skin, with no representation of other races or even unique colors such as green, blue, or purple. He also humorously mentioned that he felt bad for Chewbacca, the Wookie, who didn’t receive a medal at the end of the movie, showcasing his disapproval of what he perceived as anti-wookie discrimination.

Dr. Sagan emphasized that while he found these movies enjoyable, he believed that a little more effort to ensure scientific accuracy would have greatly enhanced the overall experience. For instance, he mentioned a mistake in “Star Wars” where the characters referred to speed in units of distance instead of time.

The conversation then shifted to the concept of exceeding the speed of light, with Carson asking Dr. Sagan and his previous guest, Ray Bradbury, about the implications such a discovery would have on our understanding of the universe. Dr. Sagan explained that if it were possible to travel faster than the speed of light, it could result in effects preceding causes, which would fundamentally challenge our comprehension of the world.

Carson also took the opportunity to inquire about Dr. Sagan’s work in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Dr. Sagan revealed that efforts were being made to detect potential signals from advanced civilizations. The idea was to listen for messages that demonstrate signs of intelligence, such as the intentional sequences of prime numbers. By analyzing these signals further, researchers hoped to uncover comprehensive messages or new knowledge that could provide a fresh perspective on humanity and our place in the cosmos.

However, as fascinating as the search for extraterrestrial intelligence may be, Carson raised the concern of the significant time delays in receiving responses. Dr. Sagan acknowledged this issue but emphasized that even if it took years or centuries to receive a response, the potential benefits of such contact were immense. He contended that the knowledge of other civilizations successfully navigating challenges similar to our own could offer crucial insights into the survival and progress of humankind.

In conclusion, Dr. Carl Sagan‘s appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was both enlightening and entertaining. His expertise in astronomy and space sciences provided a unique perspective on popular science fiction movies and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, leaving viewers with much to ponder.

Originally aired on March 2, 1978