Cosmos is Worth Watching

Cosmos-Tyson_at_TAM6

Tyson, with his famous sun and moon vest peeking out of his jacket

Are you watching Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s remake of Carl Sagan’s iconic mini-series Cosmos?  You should.

The theme of the first episode was that space-time is really, really big.  The episode received excellent reviews and I agree: the special effects and cinematography were stunning (“faster, brighter, and more explosive” as Wired says), though the use of cartoon animation to present a historical story struck me as less compelling than live action would have been.  There seem to be high hopes that the new Cosmos will rekindle America’s love affair with science, as anecdotes (if not rigorous studies) suggest the original Cosmos did.

The second episode tackled a fundamental principle that also has religious implications for some people: evolution.  Cosmos did not shy away, mentioning Darwin and our chimp relatives as well as a nicely done segment on the evolution of the mammal eye. Personally, I have never understood why some people want to limit god to an old book. As 16th-century philosopher Giordano Bruno said to his persecutors in the first episode, “your god is too small.”

The second episode covered some profound topics, like the five great extinctions on Earth, presented as displays in a solemn museum-like pyramid.  The episode also presented a fascinating small creature, the tardigrade, the only creature known that can survive, unprotected, in space. Maybe the producers won’t allow an entire episode to be set on Earth; there was a quick trip to the hydrocarbon seas of Saturn’s moon Titan.  Again, the animated cartoon (dogs becoming domesticated) seemed the weakest part of the show.

Cosmos courtesy Fox

Tyson confronts The Big Bang, courtesy Fox

Five years ago, Fox wouldn’t have made Cosmos, Tyson said in a recent interview. Today, we geeks are fashionable. “The geeks have found each other.” Hurray at last; it’s good to have friends who understand.

I like Tyson’s Cosmos and will watch the rest of the series.  I’m not sure what impact the original Cosmos had; we geeks also found inspiration in Star Trek. I plan to simply enjoy the new Cosmos and not burden it with expectations of inspiring a generation or solving America’s political problems.

Cosmos airs at 9 p.m. ET on Fox on Sundays. It will re-air on Mondays on the National Geographic Channel at 10 p.m. ET. Does anyone have information on international showings?

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