(image credit scienceblogs.com)
This Sunday, March 9th, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series gets a remake, reboot, redo (whatever term you like), produced and co-written by Carl’s widow Ann Druyan, who was also a co-creator and writer of the original. It’s hosted by the inimitable Neil deGrasse Tyson, arguably the scientist who has most effectively picked up the torch from Sagan. Cosmos was, as of 2009, still the most widely watched PBS series in the world. Even compared against the larger body of television series (not just educational programs) it does very well to this day. This shows, I hope, that the love of knowledge and the thirst to learn is still alive and well.
As Neil says in the interview, the time is right to do this because we’ve learned such a huge amount since Cosmos was first made, even since the updated 10 year anniversary release. A universe that is not only expanding forever, but expanding faster over time. The decoding of the human genome. Finding the Higgs boson. Advances in and the warnings from climate science. An even clearer picture of the “tree of life” and the structure and history of Evolution. Detailed exploration of the planets Saturn and Mars. Hundreds of planets outside the solar system- just a few decades ago, we knew of none. Even more discoveries and experiments revealing the strange nature of quantum physics. A global information network linking us all in ways that were only imagined (if at all) when I was in school and watching the first airing of Cosmos. We could go on for a while here, and I hope that’s just what Neil does.
Huffington Post has an informative and candid interview with Tyson here, talking not just about the new Cosmos series, but also about his approach to teaching and engaging the public about science in a time when “culture wars”, anti-science movements, and elected leaders who praise their own willful ignorance, seem to have almost taken us backwards. The old Cosmos series still inspires and its continued popularity is a good sign. Let’s hope the new Cosmos inspires and ignites the minds of a generation the way the first one did.