Unless you were hiding under a rock, you probably heard about the relaunch on Fox Television of the famed science based television program Cosmos. Originally the vehicle of science icon Carl Sagan, the new show is produced in cooperation with his wife Ann Druyan and helmed by astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson. This review includes spoilers below.
In the first episode, deGrasse Tyson leads off the show with a call to viewers to join the heros of the past and “do science”; a worthy description of the scientific method that may make some subset of Fox Television viewers uncomfortable. This show is going to include discussion of the conventional scientific view of the origins of the universe and biological evolution for example.
“Earth” our home address.
If the opener, Standing Up In The Milky Way, is any example, Cosmos is not going to be much of an intellectual challenge to many readers of H+. The opening episode explores the familiar theme of our humble place in the vast universe made famous in the Eames film Powers of Ten.
While it explores territory we are familiar with, the update is fresh and includes ideas such as the multiverse and crisply shows the real scale of human lives and our world. For those who are not familiar with these ideas, this show will open their eyes at least if they are ready to watch and learn. Cosmos will I expect inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers. And it is fun to watch.
Starting from Earth, Tyson leads us out into the solar system, to the Milky Way galaxy, to the local group and beyond to the “Virgo supercluster” and even beyond this, to the furthest edge of the known universe and a network of 100 billion galaxies.
The show is not going to shy away from controversy it seems. The first episode follows with the story of a revolution in human ideas at the dawn of the scientific method which is known as the Copernican Revolution. The trial by the Catholic Church of Giordano Bruno is retold in the form of an animation; Seth MacFarlane creator of Fox’s hit Family Guy is the executive producer of Cosmos and it shows right here.
This sequence was unexpectedly emotional and depicts the conflict between Bruno’s vision of the universe and the existing geocentric and “finite universe” dogma of the Catholic Church at that time. The segment ends with Bruno being burned alive while being menaced with a cross. Wow.
Following a presentation about the age of the universe in comparison to human evolution, the show ends with a very personal homage to Carl Sagan from Tyson himself. Some may find the science content a bit too light for their tastes, but Neil deGrasse Tyson performs admirably and confirms himself as the heir to Sagan’s large legacy in this first show. I’m looking forward to watching and sharing the rest.