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Nerdvana — Cosmos relaunches with Neil deGrasse Tyson

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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.

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To make this journey we’ll need imagination, but imagination alone is not enough because the reality of nature is far more wondrous than anything we can imagine. This adventure is made possible by generations of searchers strictly adhering to a simple set of rules. Test ideas by experiment and observation, build on those ideas that pass the test, reject the ones that fail. Follow the evidence wherever it leads and question everything. Accept these terms, and the cosmos is yours.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

Missed it? You can watch the first episode of Cosmos on Fox’s website here. And also check out the Q&A session at the Griffith Observatory.

 

3 Comments

  1. I loved the original and I am a fan of Neil DeGrasse Tyson – but the episode on Sunday night was so broken up by commercials (over 35 in 60 min.) that it was impossible to follow. I realize you have to pay for the series – but all in one night?????
    If the next one is 5 minutes of show and 3 minutes of commercials – I will not watch the rest of the series.

  2. Thanks for giving a link to the show. While I have not been under my rock lately I do not own a television and did not know about the show. i also am looking forward to watching it.

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