Monday, March 10, 2014


Just watched the first episode of the new Cosmos: A Space Odyssey TV series. It is a reboot of the 1980 PBS science series Cosmos hosted by Astronomer, and much more, Carl Sagan. That was a groundbreaking, popular and extremely informative series. It exposed us to things most of us didn't know or had even thought about. Remember, that was back in the days (billions and billions of years ago) before the internet and hundreds of TV channels. The series also used the then relatively primitive TV special effects in new ways. Carl Sagan was a brilliant and engaging host. He became sort of a science rock star of the time. I remember seeing him often on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show and other talk shows. Unfortunately, Carl died of cancer in 1996 when barely 62. 
Carl Sagan

The new Cosmos is hosted by current Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson. He has a direct connection to Carl Sagan. Those of you who watch any science on TV should be familiar with Neil. He is a frequent guest on several shows, both science programs and general interest network shows and news programs. He's one of those expert guys they ask to comment when something "sciency" is in the news. He too is an engaging host. The advances in science since the 1980's are exponential. Likewise, the advances in TV and movie special effects and CGI are amazing. This gives the new Cosmos the ability to depict science and the cosmos in new and more graphical ways. This is not detailed nerdy mathematical astrophysics but it is more information than most of us know. It is also presented in a way that is much more entertaining than any school text or lecture. There is a nice piece on Carl Sagan at the end of the hour. 
Neil deGrasse Tyson

I do have one gripe about this episode. The part about Giordano Bruno was overdone, not the science or his contribution but the depiction. It was strange that in a usually visually rich program they used primitive cartoons to tell Bruno's story. The show certainly made the Catholic church the villains, using several visual tricks to go along with the overly dramatic narrative. I am certainly no defender of or apologist for the church. It deserves criticism still to this day in many areas. We all know in hindsight that the church of the 16th century and the Inquisition were oppressive, but civilization and humanity change over time. Remember way back when Blacks (Negroes, Colored) couldn't go to white schools or eat in white restaurants or ride in the front of the bus? I do. That was less than 50 years ago, not 500. Awareness of Gay rights is maybe 5 years old. So, 500 years ago the uneducated (churches and governments) suppressed science, 50 years ago racists (churches & governments) suppressed Blacks, 5 years ago homophobes (churches & governments) suppressed Gays. There are still remnants of all these around today. All wrong but we're getting better.

Love the science and discovery of Cosmos, I can do without the editorials and righteous indignation. Don't ignore the politics of science, but don't make it the main focus. This is a 13 episode series. It airs Sunday nights on Fox and is rerun Monday nights on National Geographic Channel. Give it a look, you'll learn something. I especially encourage those of you with kids to tune in. Maybe Neil deGrasse Tyson will inspire a new scientist in your family just like Carl Sagan inspired him. We need all the science and math majors we can get. This is worthwhile TV. 

I guess in hindsight of the last hour, I got in my own editorial and indignation about tolerance and history. That's OK, this is my blog. An opinion piece, not a nationally televised science program. I assure you, none of my indignation was righteous.

As always I encourage you to express your opinions in the comments section.  


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