Last night I watched something extraordinary. The new Cosmos hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson premiered on FOX. I rarely watch TV these day, let alone live TV, but I was eager to watch this new show, knowing how rare it is for a good science program to appear on network television. And I wasn’t disappointed.
I was impressed from the start, when President Obama provided a brief introduction, stressing the importance of science in our lives. I was further impressed when I saw just who was involved in the show during the opening credits. And the show itself was nothing short of spectacular. Neil deGrasse Tyson did a fantastic job at making science accessible to a popular audience.
From the very beginning of the show, he delineated the scientific method and its tenets, creating a framework for how we learn about the universe. He then took viewers on a tour of the cosmos, working outward from earth to each line in our “cosmic address.” With some history mixed in, the show then transitioned to Sagan’s famous “cosmic calendar” in which Tyson tried to give a sense of the enormous amounts of time that have passed.
Despite have read Sagan’s original book and seen the original series; despite growing up with a passion for science, and astronomy in particular, I found myself glued to the show, utterly engrossed in it. I felt the same sense of wonder that I felt when I was a kid in kindergarten, repeatedly checking out The Nine Planets from the library, and looking at Saturn’s rings through the Tasco telescope that my parents got for me. If my reaction is any reflection of the general reaction to the show, then I think Ann Druyan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brannon Braga, Seth Macfarlane, and others involved have done an amazing thing for popular science.
For me, the most poignant moment of the show came toward the end, when, after describing many of Carl Sagan’s scientific achievements, Tyson described a personal one, in which Sagan invited a then-seventeen-year-old Tyson up to Cornell and gave him a personal tour of the school.
The show reminded me how wonderful the sense of discovery is. I can’t wait to show it to the Little Man and get sense of what he thinks of it. And, of course, I can hardly wait for next Sunday, when I can watch the next installment of Cosmos.