For anyone not watching the new Cosmos
on Fox, you are missing out, and I say that sentence with none of my usual ironic bite or snarky superiority. I literally mean to say, you are missing out. I have nothing but praise for this series. I can't think of one thing wrong with it. I should probably just end my review here and leave it at that, but when have I ever been brief in my writing? (That was a rhetorical question, by the way.) Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
just premiered its fourth episode last Sunday on Fox, and it has yet to fail to disappoint. It is spectacular in all aspects: the visual effects, the mind-blowing facts, the animated historical portions, the magnificent musical score, and its all brought into crystal clear focus by the sonorous baritone voice of Neil deGrasse Tyson. It is like forty-four minutes of heaven, (with numerous commercial breaks,) an ironic comparison since Creationists would call it anything but.
Cosmos has been in development for years. Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan's widow, who helped bring the world the original Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, along with astrophysicist, Steven Soter, and Neil "Need's No Introduction" deGrasse Tyson, have been pushing the idea of rebooting and updating Sagan's dream for a while now. The goal was to inspire a new generation with the mysteries of the natural world in the way that so many people were inspired by Sagan's original vision. Unfortunately the project floundered for some years until helped along by the only person that has more power at the Fox network than Rupert Murdoch, Seth MacFarlane. To some he may seem an unlikely hero in this story, after all Family Guy isn't exactly quality educational programing, but the truth is that MacFarlane has always had an affinity for the science and space exploration. Anyone who was ever fans of Star Trek: Enterprise knows that much. (So myself and Scott Bakula.) MacFarlane was one of those small boys inspired by the first Cosmos series and he is a life-long Trekkie. Maybe then it was no coincidence that Brannon Braga of Star Trek: Next Generation fame signed on to direct, and Sir Patrick Stewart became available to lend his voice. After all Star Trek and Sagan have always existed as two sides of the same coin.
|You know what is amazing about this image of
the Pismis 24 star cluster? It's not CGI. It's real.
It actually friggin exists. Space is amazing.
Personally, I have been an enthusiast of quantum physics, astronomy, and astrophysics for years now. I even wrote a primer
on the subject. So even though none of the evidence and revelations presented by Cosmos
are particularly new to me, such fore knowledge has not served to dampen my reverence for the show and its science. For me it is almost a religious experience, seeing the wonder, the possibility, and the majesty of our world laid out in beautiful CGI HD brilliance, but there is a heart-break there as well. There is so much out there for the human race to know and explore. We belong among the stars, we deserve to be out there, and yet we are held back by the skeletons in our closets and the demons of our past. Reading the tweets of blind faith Creationists makes my head hurt. Unfortunately, Creationism still gets taught in some science classrooms, and we spend more money making rockets that kill people than rockets that put people on the moon. It makes me want to leave this planet behind and find a better one, out there among the stars, and then I get sad all over again because I don't have a spaceship that operates outside of Einstein's Laws, (or one that is little more than a soda bottle filled with Pepsi and Mentos.) In a lot of ways it feels like we have lost our old spirit, that boundless wonder that drove us farther and deeper into the path of the unknown. Now, when I look around at the human race all I see are people clinging to old dogmas and past glories, faded as gray as the hair of our elected officials.
Yet, I don't want to dwell on that. Cosmos is too good for me to cloud it with the pessimism of my fears. I anxiously anticipate the return of Game of Thrones and the opening of Captain America: Winter Soldier, but more than even that I find myself looking forward to the next episode of the Cosmos, because as cool as everything else is in my nerdtastic life is, they will never compare to the awe I feel (every time) I look up up at the stars. I can only imagine what else must be out there, worlds full of possibilities. Many Christians take it as a slight that we humans developed from animals, or that we are nothing more than small specks floating on a slightly larger speck, but I think it is wondrous. They think it makes us no less special than anything else out there. In my opinion, it means we are even more special than we previously thought. We may not be the center of the universe. We may only be animals, but we are also molecules and atoms, the exact same matter that once cooked in the heart of ancient stars. I don't know if God exists, but I do know that we are not separate from the cosmos around us, we are part of it.
We are the universe made manifest trying to figure itself out, and so maybe the answer you are looking for is: Yes, thinking about that makes me tear up, and I'm not even certain why. More importantly, why don't more people tear up? Get excited by this? Amazed by this? Moved to be a part of this? Hopefully, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Cosmos
will help change that.
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