First look: Cosmos rebooted with Neil deGrasse Tyson

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2014-03-05

Taken from slightly left of center in the theater of the Hayden Planetarium.
John Timmer

The original Cosmos, hosted by Carl Sagan, was a significant influence on me in my youth. I'd always had an interest in science, but it was scattershot. I loved fossils and dinosaurs, but I had no idea how the organisms of the Cambrian related to those of the Jurassic. I followed the Voyager probes' progress through the Solar System and stared into the night sky with wonder, but I didn't have any framework to fit any of it into.

And then my parents—neither of whom had any science background to speak of—sat me down to watch Cosmos. And night after night, things were put into context: the Big Bang, deep time, the evolution of life from microbes to modern humans—I don't remember many details (or even how much I really understood as a young teenager) but I do remember it as a giant dose of perspective. And I clearly wasn't alone; the airing of Cosmos was a major event, and Sagan made his way into popular culture, even ending up the target of gentle ribbing in the Bloom County comic strip.

An early Bloom County strip with Carl Sagan.
Washington Post Writers Group

As brilliant as the original was, I agree with the writers and producers who felt that we were due for a new incarnation. Planets outside our Solar System, only a hypothetical at the time of the original show, have been found in amazing abundance. The Higgs boson exists, neutrinos have mass, and we've completed the human genome, along with those of hundreds of other organisms. Science has moved at an incredible pace, and I'm not about to let nostalgia cause me to view a revamped Cosmos as a form of sacrilege... provided the reboot is actually any good, at least. Last night, I got a chance to judge for myself at the Hayden Planetarium, the home institution of Cosmos host Neil deGrasse Tyson. Although I've only seen the first episode, I'm feeling pretty optimistic about the new series.

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