I just finished watching the first episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. By the way, they have full episodes available online, and if you haven’t seen it yet you should definitely go check it out. So what are my thoughts about this new program? I’m glad you asked. (Note: I know you didn’t really ask, but I’m going to tell you anyway, so strap in.)
I never got to watch the original Cosmos: A Personal Voyage hosted by Carl Sagan on PBS. I’m aware of its position as a classic cultural phenomenon, but I wasn’t a part of it. I’m a little sad I missed out on it, but that just makes me all the more grateful that I’m able to take part in its current incarnation.
For those of you unaware of Cosmos in either or both forms, it’s a television program designed to introduce people to the science of, you guessed it, the cosmos! and humanity’s place in the universe. This post will focus on the new program, which comes to us due to the efforts of Ann Druyan, a writer/producer and Carl Sagan’s widow; Seth McFarlane of Family Guy fame; and host Neil deGrasse Tyson who spends his days running the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
In the first episode of the new series, Dr. Tyson takes us on a journey with him in his spaceship of the imagination. We visit all the planets of the solar system, the sun and travel back to the origins of the universe and all of these celestial bodies: the big bang. The episode is meant to introduce us to our place in the history and place of the universe, which is relatively insignificant. However, the show doesn’t intend to make us feel small. Rather, it shows us that we are part of something bigger. I can’t think of a better way to state it than Dr. Tyson already has many times over:
That clip is not from the show, but it is one of the most articulate and enlightening versions of the concept around.
Dr. Tyson brings his signature, and I would say poetic, love and enthusiasm for science to this role, and he infects viewers with it as well. As I was watching, I considered changing my life goals from writing to astronomy. The real strength of the show, however, is that it doesn’t require such extreme fanaticism. I can be a writer, or a security guard, or a cashier, or an SEO content creator and still be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about science. The great strength of this type of program is that it is accessible and eager to engage viewers who don’t have a strong science background. After all, we’re all star stuff. We should all know where we come from and how we fit in the universe, even if we aren’t professional scientists.
Other (better) reviews of this program can be read here:
Additionally, if you’re looking for more awesome science education, I can’t recommend Joe Hanson’s blog and YouTube channel enough, as well as the Science Is Not Scary YouTube channel and the I Fucking Love Science Facebook page. There are many more science education sources out there, but these are good ones to start with.
Finally, I just want to say that it is so freaking amazing that this is a program on primetime American television, FOX no less, and I can’t help but wonder how much we could accomplish as a society and a species if we keep heading in this direction. It truly is a great time to be alive.