Doctor Carl

As computers get better and better, therapists are beginning to see their work outsourced to algorithms that can offer an unending ear and compassionate advice. This isn’t one of those. It’s actually a chatbot that channels the late Carl Sagan. Meet Doctor Carl.

It’s worth simply playing with the thing to see what it’s like—but the little bot offers advice and suggestions based entirely on the corpus of Sagan’s long career as a science communicator.

Doctor Carl

Just in time for his birthday, you can now ask Sagan for advice about your breakup. What he might tell you: “As a comet gets close to the sun, it loses some of its mass due to the sublimation. If a comet goes around enough times, it will eventually break up. Comets also break up if they come too close to the sun. Relationships are hard, Rose.” Or your work situation: “Some asteroids have moons of their own, does that mean anything to you, Rose?” Or the meaning of life: “Our preferences do not determine what is true. Have you asked anyone else, Rose?”

This project was built in less than 24 hours by Brian Fountain and Andrew Pinzler as part of the American Museum of Natural History’s first ever hackathon. Doctor Carl won “People’s Choice” at the hackathon, winning Fountain and Pinzler tiny 3-D printed busts of Teddy Roosevelt.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to