Saturday, March 8, 2014

The return of Cosmos


I couldn't be more excited. Finally, after years of teasing and hype, Cosmos, Carl Sagan's mind-expanding love letter to wonder, is returning in a new form, with Neil deGrasse Tyson, the closest thing to a modern Carl, hosting. The show is co-written by Sagan's co-writer, his widow Ann Druyan, and will have animated sequences directed by Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy. Along with Tyson, these two will give it a connection to the honest and childlike style of the previous incarnation of the series, as well as a fresh look and a new voice. Oh, and I should mention: We've learned a hell of a lot about the cosmos in the last 34 years.

I've seen the whole series (thank you, Netflix), but when I undertook to watch it all together, I realized I already had heard and seen so much of it from other sources. I had heard voice clips of Sagan's poetic narration over video images of terrific beauty, pleading for me, the viewer, to simply look about at the magnificence of all that there is, or ever was, or will ever be; I'd seen video clips from the series with the great demonstrations of the experiments that taught us about who and what we all are; I'd heard phrases and ideas that originated on Cosmos from other scientists, who would often credit Carl as an inspiration to them, as they described the wonder and beauty in scientific investigation. Cosmos truly made an impact.

Sagan and others that have taken his message and carried it like a nobler Olympic flame through the decades have found something amazing and they'd love nothing more than to share it with the whole world. The poetry and the honesty of the original Cosmos has surely touched every person with a love of discovery; anyone who has ever been awed at the immensity of the Universe and then, holding that in mind, tried to comprehend the complexity of a single cell in a drop of water, collected from a puddle of rainwater that at any other moment could be passed by unthinkingly. Carl felt the way we all do when we really ponder these things, he just put it into words for us.

There is beauty and music, in our understanding of the natural world. To give you an idea of what to expect-- What makes me what I am and fills me with excitement, joy, and the drive to go further, learn more, and wonder more deeply-- consider this image of Earth, taken by Voyager 1 as it began to leave our solar system:

Yes, that's us in the center-right. The tiny speck with a blush of blue. Now watch this short video, with audio from the original Cosmos, as Carl tells us what we can all see in this Pale Blue Dot:
This series will impress you with its visual magic, but I hope that some of you can also be amazed and enriched, that you may feel something like the knot that tightens in my chest when I look at this picture with the knowledge of what it is and what it means.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey premiers the evening of March 9th on your local Fox network.