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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

The new Cosmos: Standing Up in the Milky Way

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

10-03-2014 23:55 CDT

Topics: about science writing, personal stories, Planetary Society People, Planetary Society

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey debuted on Fox and nine other affiliated networks yesterday, but it aired late enough that I couldn't watch it with my children, so I recorded it and watched it with them this evening. In brief: they liked it and want to watch next week; I thought it was a successful beginning for a long series, and I think it'll become a weekly viewing event for our family.

I seem to be coming at Neil Tyson's Cosmos from a different direction than most of my peers, space bloggers and scientists both. I really don't remember watching Carl Sagan's original series; I was only five years old when it aired in 1980. I understand how important it was in inspiring many of my friends in the space business; but other, later television series are what inspired me. These include David Attenborough's The Living Planet in 1984, James Burke's The Day the Universe Changed in 1985, Philip Morrison's The Ring of Truth in 1987, and Mr. Wizard's World throughout this time, from 1983 to 1991.

As such, I will not evaluate the new Cosmos in the context of the old one, nor will I compare Neil Tyson to Carl Sagan. Instead, I'd like to focus on the fact that we have a brand-new, expensively produced, 13-part series on the universe and our place and time within it, airing simultaneously on ten networks. In my view, this was something to be thrilled about even before a single episode aired. And I'm really excited to see Neil get an opportunity to have a vehicle for his obvious talent at engaging and exciting the public about science. (Full disclosure: Neil Tyson is on the Planetary Society's Board of Directors, and was President of our board for several years. While I'm at it: Carl Sagan was one of the three founders of The Planetary Society. I came to work at the Society after Carl's death. It feels weird for me to call him by his first name, because I never met him, but all the other, longer-term employees of the Society call him Carl, so I've fallen into the habit.)

Will people watch the new Cosmos? Will Neil Tyson inspire today's kids the way that I was inspired by Attenborough, Burke, Morrison, Herbert, and other television science personalities in the 1980s? Will Neil be allowed to be himself, or will he be overshadowed by the ghost of Carl?

The answer to the first question appears to be a cautious "yes," at least for the first episode. Cosmos did not win in its time slot, earning a 2.9 rating compared to a 3.6 for the series premiere of the ABC show Resurrection. That's a bit of a disappointment, given the amount of marketing devoted to it. But 8.5 million people watched it air across the 10 networks, and since it wasn't a live event there will be more viewers coming in via DVR and Hulu over the course of the next week. Plus, it has yet to debut overseas. But time will tell whether people consider it worth watching more of. Will the audience grow, or shrink?

Will viewers be inspired? That's what I wanted to know when I sat down to watch with my girls: Anahita, 7, in second grade, and Sanaya, 4, a preschooler. I thought they might be a little young, but I have recently introduced them to Star Trek: The Next Generation, and they love it, so I thought they could sit through Cosmos. More important for this post, though, is the fact that they are much closer to the target audience for Cosmos than I am.

The Ship of the Imagination


The Ship of the Imagination

The first of 13 episodes primarily sets the stage for the rest of the series. We are introduced to Tyson's shiny "Ship of the Imagination," a device that allows him to be physically present as he narrates computer-animated scenes. It is much more successful than the (in my opinion) kind of awful green-screen stuff he appeared on in NOVA ScienceNOW; he is given enough space in the Cosmos set to really walk and wander and gesticulate, which is how he talks in person, and I think it helps him engage with the viewers.

The first thing Tyson's ship of the imagination does is introduce us to our "cosmic address," beginning with a tour of the solar system. Everything is too close together in the Cosmos solar system, but at least it's consistent. Neil departs an Earth with tons of adjacent satellites, sees a Mercury practically engulfed by the Sun, passes through an asteroid belt as dense as the one near Hoth, and so on. The graphics are lovely, if you overlook everything's extreme proximity; I especially enjoyed the Red Spot on Jupiter, even though it represents the Red spot as a hole when it's actually 8 kilometers higher than the surrounding clouds. Finishing up the tour of the solar system, the ship matches pace with a convincing computer rendition of Voyager 1, which brought a lump to my throat.

When Neil's Ship departs the solar system, I realize with a shock that my daughters will have always known that the universe is full of planets other than those in our solar system. We're shown our galaxy ("I like the Milky Way," Sanaya commented here), and then the local group and clusters of galaxies and on to the boundaries of the observable universe and then he mentions bubble universes. This part went rather fast. Anahita wanted to know why there's a limit to the observable universe, but I didn't have time to unpack this for her.

The Ship returned to Earth. ("We live there, Mommy," Sanaya remarked.) The show moved into an animated segment focused on Giordano Bruno's martyrdom for the heresy of believing in worlds beyond Earth. I wasn't quite sure what the writers were getting at with this focus on one character in the long history of understanding our place in the cosmos, although the story did resonate with both the recent discoveries of thousands of exoplanets and with the bubble universe idea mentioned earlier. Perhaps the point was to encourage the viewer to experience the epiphany that our world is just one of an infinite number of worlds, that infinity possibly contained within an infinity of universes. I felt that epiphany in the moment, and I hope at least my older daughter did too. I did like the quality of the animation a great deal. But it seemed to go on for a long time, and to belabor the excommunication, imprisonment, and final suffering of Bruno without a clear message -- Neil remarks in narration at the end of it that Bruno wasn't even a scientist, he just "got lucky" in his ideas about multiple worlds. Other bloggers have remarked at greater length about the odd choice of Bruno here. But my daughters liked this segment; they liked the animation, and they liked the story even though I found they didn't understand why Bruno was being punished. I know that similar animation will be used throughout Cosmos to bring historical figures to life, and my girls are looking forward to that.

Having shown us the vastness of space, and talked about Bruno, Neil moved on to explain the depth of cosmic time with the familiar device of the "Cosmic Calendar," in which the 13-plus billion years of history of the universe is represented by the days and months of a 1-year calendar. This segment moved very rapidly through cosmic time, touching only briefly on each of the events that led toward our presence on Earth at this moment. It felt too fast, but I realize that if covered at a slower pace the viewers might lose track of the march of the calendar. My daughters were rapt. (Except when Neil mentioned an event in March -- I believe it was the formation of the Milky Way and other large galaxies -- and Sanaya remarked that also in March, the new Muppet movie is coming out. I don't think she followed the Calendar analogy; she doesn't quite understand the actual calendar itself yet.) There was some odd stuff in the Cosmic Calendar segment; in particular, it seems that Neil and/or the writers don't subscribe to the "great whack" theory of lunar formation. And it's a little frustrating that the illustration of the Big Bang has it exploding into a preexisting space that contains our narrator. The fact that the Big Bang was the universe itself expanding, that there is no "outside," is one of the most difficult things to try to explain about the scientific origin story, and Neil's presence in this animation told almost the opposite story.

Cosmos: Standing Up in the Milky Way


Cosmos: Standing Up in the Milky Way
Neil Tyson survives the Big Bang in the "Cosmic Calendar" segment of the premiere episode of the new Cosmos series.

I felt like Neil was most himself in the part toward the end of the Cosmic Calendar, when he was walking through old-growth forest, talking about the fate of the dinosaurs and the rise of the mammals. I'm curious to know when that segment was filmed with respect to some of the others, because it felt most like it feels to converse with Neil in person.

And then we were transported to an African savanna as he talked about the appearance of human ancestors, on the last day of the calendar. I can't tell you how pleased I felt to be watching an African-American man narrate this part of the show. Ordinarily you have a white commentator (usually with a British accent) talking over animation or dramatization of dark-haired, swarthy-skinned savages on the African savanna and it feels more than a little colonial. With Neil narrating it, present and in person, I felt both an intimate connection and a wonder-inspiring distance between that distant, preliterate past and our modern, scientific present. Those distant, first humans are us, separated from us much more by technology and culture than they are by biology.

To belabor this point, I think it's incredibly important for my kids to see a major, multi-episode science show hosted by a guy who looks like Neil. It pains me that all of the inspirational figures from my youth, listed in the second paragraph of this post, are white men. I want my children to see all kinds of people in all kinds of roles. Not only so that they can learn that they can aspire to be anything; it's just as important for them to learn that everyone else, even the people who don't look like them, can aspire to be anything, too. They didn't know who Neil Tyson was before they watched Cosmos, beyond (in Anahita's words) "that guy who was in the picture with Mommy's boss and Barack Obama." Now they know him, and he'll be one of the people who'll inform their prejudices about what scientists look and sound like, and that's great.

At the end of the show is a scene that -- judging from the response on Twitter last night -- was loved by everyone who remembers the original Cosmos. Standing on the seaside cliff on which Carl launched the original Cosmos series, Neil briefly tells a story of an invitation to Ithaca, New York to meet the eminent astronomer Carl Sagan, and how Sagan inspired him: "I already knew I wanted to be a scientist, but that afternoon, I learned from Carl the kind of person I wanted to become....He reached out to me and to countless others, inspiring so many of us to study, teach and do science. Science is a cooperative enterprise spanning the generations." I think it was a necessary -- and effective -- segment to reach out to those people who were watching out of fandom of the original series, but it was at that moment in the show that Sanaya (the 4-year-old) totally lost interest.

Neil receives the Cosmos baton?


Neil receives the Cosmos baton?

The show opened with Carl's actual voice ("The cosmos is all that ever was, and all that ever will be") and ended with Neil talking about Carl. So I still don't have the answer to my question of whether Cosmos is going to allow Neil to be Neil, without the specter of Carl hanging over him. I hope that this final segment in the premiere episode is kind of like DeForest Kelley showing up in the pilot episode of Star Trek: TNG; that it represents the passing of the baton to Neil, and that from here on out the show will be his, and that the new Cosmos can be great on its own merits, separate and different from the original.

There was the briefest of previews of next week's show: something about life, and pictures of water bears and polar bears. Anahita wants to know what that's about, and booed when the show was over, and wants to tune in next week.

And that's really what I wanted to hear. I (and other bloggers) can pick nits about too-close asteroids, and the problem of an animated Big Bang that expanded into preexisting space, and of the cherry-picking of history of the Bruno segment. And people should pick nits in any television show in which Neil is involved, because Neil himself is one of science communication's worst nitpickers; I can't tell you how many times I've heard him tell the story of how Titanic had the wrong night sky and James Cameron should've got that right since he was focused on so many other details and Neil complained to Cameron and Cameron fixed it in the DVD release.

Ultimately, this show will succeed or not based on how many people watch and on what kinds of questions they ask when they're done watching, and whether they seek answers to those questions, and how they feel when they answer them. The inaccuracies in the show won't generally lead people too far astray; in fact-checking some of the scenes I myself have learned a few things. I realize now that it's way too early to tell whether my daughters will, eventually, count this series as something that influenced them. But they want to keep watching, and we will keep watching, and that's good.

I don't plan on posting episode-by-episode reviews. I may just post one more blog entry about this show, after we're done watching the series. I hope we make it through all 13 weeks, because I think that would really be a big deal to my daughters. We'll see.

See other posts from March 2014


Or read more blog entries about: about science writing, personal stories, Planetary Society People, Planetary Society


Emily Lakdawalla: 03/09/2014 10:14 CDT

I'm looking forward to comments here! Just to make it clear: the initial comments below will have been posted *before* I post my actual review. When I have updated this post with my review of the show, I'll comment again to show where the comments came in after I posted my review.

BrGL: 03/09/2014 10:57 CDT

I enjoyed it, tremendous demonstration of what humans have learned about science. But some question all of that praise for Giordino Bruno. NASA science writer, Francis Reddy, links to a blog post saying Bruno wasn't the greatest of people. Quodlibeta blog: says there is no evidence his support for Copernicanism came up during trial. Some say he shouldn't a martyr for science. He helped with moving the ideas along, but maybe there are questions of his character. But then again maybe we can say that about some other influential people that built the foundations of science.

Ted Judah: 03/10/2014 01:35 CDT

Two things came to mind as I watched. One: it seemed REALLY basic. I guess I have learned a lot about the cosmos since I first watched it in 1980. Perhaps that is what the general viewing audience needs. Two: It felt rushed on commercial TV. I'll have to go back and watch the 1980 Cosmos but it seemed Sagan had the luxury to pause and gave the viewer time to digest the last point before moving on. Overall I'm very pleased and look forward to the rest of the series.

ketolman: 03/10/2014 04:28 CDT

I'm watching from abroad on my day off. I'm a first grade teacher at an international school in Cairo, Egypt. I wish I could show this to my little scientists. It might be a bit much for them. I sure hope other science teachers at my school make time to show this to their students. Shows like this give me hope! I thought it was perfect. I'm not a brilliant woman by any means, but I will seek out anything that expands my knowledge.

Patrick Noonan: 03/10/2014 06:37 CDT

A good start. I agree with the comment that it was "very basic. But it established the enormous scale of space and time, as its debut needed to, and it put our human senses into both spatial and temporal perspective. Our galactic address, and our human existence packed into the final minutes of the universe's calendars are where it needed to start. It also established some other key points: the Bruno story was about the courage to challenge orthodoxy, the emergence of life clearly threw down a pro-evolution marker, and DeGrasse's personal story established his credibility (via connection with Sagan) and motivation (to inspire the next generation of dreamers - and scientists). Hungry for more, but a strong launch.

deSitter: 03/10/2014 09:06 CDT

Well, it seemed to endorse to stupidity of the multiverse idea, which I suppose can be forgiven - but it got the facts of Bruno completely wrong. Bruno died in 1600. The Church - none of them - had any official position on heliocentrism as put forward by Copernicus, and so holding such beliefs could not possibly be heretical. Bruno died for being a garden variety heretic, and was quite likely mentally ill and strange, something that exacerbated his dangerous position. He had neither any actual knowledge of medieval science, nor any stake in defending it. To set him up as a hero of science is patently ridiculous. Should he have suffered the purifying fire? Of course not - it was a barbaric act. But he had at least a decade to rein in his heresy. You just did not go around shouting that all religion - and not just Catholicism - was wrong in those days.

deSitter: 03/10/2014 09:08 CDT

..I should clarify - the Catholic Church had no position on heliocentrism in 1600, when Bruno died. Of course it later did enjoin the teaching of such things.

deSitter: 03/10/2014 09:16 CDT

One more comment - the first "Cosmos" was riddled with errors and personal opinions, and was frankly an embarrassment when compared to the scholarly and sober "Ascent of Man". This reboot is sure to be infinitely worse. The hallucinogenic graphics and obsession with quasi-religious questions that are outside the realm of science proper show the extent to which the teaching of science has declined, and continues to decline.

Leila Belkora: 03/10/2014 09:32 CDT

I thought N deG Tyson made a good host--he seemed quite warm and approachable, spoke clearly, and was serious without being dull or pedantic. Some of the graphics and special effects were nice. Aside from that I didn't care for Cosmos very much. I very much disliked the Giordano Bruno bit for reasons others have already mentioned. And the whole thing seemed a bit clunky in the way it moved from topic to topic. My 13-yeard old daughter liked it OK.

Laura Mortensen: 03/10/2014 10:55 CDT

As with the first Cosmos, I will have to see five or six episodes to judge. So far, it seems pretty good.

Laurel Kornfeld: 03/10/2014 10:56 CDT

@deSitter Are you saying that Bruno should have kept his opinions to himself, cowering behind fear of church authorities? Thank goodness he and enough other Renaissance scientists didn't do this. For 1600, Bruno's view that all the stars are suns that could have planets orbiting them was a stunning concept, something still not fully accepted until the first exoplanets were discovered in the 1990s. I, for one, am glad Bruno "went around shouting" his truth and didn't give in to bullying.

Online Astronomer: 03/10/2014 11:27 CDT

I was generally pleased. Some good criticisms above, and the Bruno case is certainly a complex one and indeed, maybe not the best case to bring in, though it served a powerful rhetorical service. As others have noted in reviews, using Bruno allowed the writers to both set up the conflict of religion and science, but also offer a way through it (infinite universe by an infinite god). Interesting. I can't forgive the "sound in space" fallacy, especially since Firefly showed you didn't need it for tension or excitement. I think the musical score was a big of things that set the original Cosmos apart was its excellent, evocative score, which set an introspective tone. The new Cosmos is more whiz-bang, and is definitely drawing its aesthetics from "sci-fi" blockbusters. The first episode felt a little rushed and a little light on content, but I feel that way about most modern TV documentaries...there seems to be some connecting tissue missing between not-fully-developed muscles. I'm super glad they made this program and I consider it a good step...we'll see what the future episodes hold. Oh, we do have some ideas about how life might have emerged, but I see the point in conceding that fact to make the point that science accepts unknowns.

Steven Jones: 03/10/2014 12:29 CDT

B- effort, and the power of Fox networks should give it large audience. The musical score in the original was far superior while Sagan was a more compelling speaker. The only part of the new series (first episode) that moved me, was Tyson's account of meeting Carl Sagan. The CGI is state of the art, but I was disappointed to see the asteroid and Kuiper belts depicted as "Star Wars" like swarms with objects nearly touching. Please. Is I feared, the series plays to the current obsession with creationist Christians while giving a pass to the anti GMO - vaccination - technology - astrology reading - blame every weather event on global warming - pseudo science of the political left. Maybe future episodes?

Bernard Isker: 03/10/2014 12:57 CDT

Not impressed with the first show. The old Cosmos aired on PBS which did not have commercials. Commercials interrupt the flow of the Program and your thought process.. And what's up with use of cartoons? This is supposed to be a high budget show. Use of actors would have been better. The imagery and animations of space related items are as expected in the year 2014.

Arbitrary: 03/10/2014 01:27 CDT

Scientific outreach is much about fighting religous prejudice. Bruno is a good symbol for doing this. The origin of science was unfounded criticism of authority! It is said in the show that in year X "- Everyone knew that the Sun and planets revolved around the motionless Earth". The intelligent counter question is: "- So, how would it look like, if the Earth revolved around the Sun?" Which it does, and which is how it actually looks like! It was only the idea which lacked. Data was there, but theory failed. But since then, astronomy has rather suffered from having more theory than data! Again this tide seems to change now with the great survey telescopes, and of course the great planetary orbiters and landers/rovers.

David Frankis: 03/10/2014 01:48 CDT

I struggled a bit with the Bruno segment: I felt it reinforced stereotypes rather than challenging them. In the end I don't really understand what it's doing there in a series about the cosmos. If you want the history of how we understand this stuff then Bruno is a marginal figure (or they really need to do a lot more to show he wasn't); if you want a sort of mythic contest of science challenging anti-science (or religion) it fails because Bruno wasn't standing up for scientifically established fact but just for his own essentially religious ideas (as Tyson admitted). We'll see if there's a developing theme in the historical segments as it goes, I guess.

Wyn : 03/10/2014 02:27 CDT

Problems: (1) commercials; (2) music lacks depth of original series; (3) Tyson lacks Sagan's depth of pace, expression, and inflection; he talks too fast with a kind of forced sense of wonder that doesn't sound felt; (4) cartoons cheap, feel superficial; (5) writing lacks depth and imagery of original series. But STILL BETTER THAN 99.9% OF TV FARE!!

Wyn: 03/10/2014 02:33 CDT

Should add that in spite of dire need to cleanse the world of ignorant superstition, the Bruno bit, partly due to cartoons, has a fundamentalist flavor of its own, sounding like it's aimed at 3rd graders.

Roseave: 03/10/2014 02:42 CDT

The Bruno segment was key to having "something new" to engage those that know most of the facts, and to illustrate both the emotion and on-going difficulties that scientists face among the ignorant and intolerant, even if Bruno's "science" was simply conjecture. I am among those that knew pretty much everything else and was thrilled to be introduced to Bruno. - as well as to know of Tyson's teen-age connection to Sagan. The rest of the show was beautifully done, with many new-to-the-media images, presented within a well structured context. Much of the time, I watched while wondering how this might be seen by both the young and the uneducated ... because this is where this show MUST succeed, if we are to turn the tide on the anti-science mode of much of our current civilization. This is a large burden for this show to carry, but I think it is one the creators of Cosmos take seriously. It's one of our few chances to have a blockbuster, or "apathy-buster", just as the original was. My personal view is that the first episode succeeded at this task. How do you fit a 5000-year-old universe into this overwhelming evidence and beautiful presentation. So the questions is really, will it be seen? Is the audience there? It IS a bit tragic that it is interrupted with commercials. Does it hold an audiences attention with these breaks? Tonight it is on National Geographic ("with additional material"). Hopefully, COSMOS will eventually be shown without advertising, on public television. Too bad public television couldn't have afforded to produce this. I would have given up - or delayed- a couple of Downton Abbey seasons to have had this on PBS. Does anyone know what the on-going and international distribution plan is? Thanks for asking, Emily. I look forward to your views.

JW: 03/10/2014 03:09 CDT

I thought it was pretty good. I agree a bit of a slow start. I was also a bit annoyed at the asteroid field- also the speed of the solar flare and the darned rotating storm on Jupiter- unless he was in super fast time acceleration mode, those motions would not be nearly that fast when viewed from space. I remember the same thing happened in Contact's opening sequence. This wouldn't bother me quite as much if NGT didn't keep correcting things like the Titanic starscape and Daily Show planetary rotation... :)

JW: 03/10/2014 03:17 CDT

Sorry- typo- NDT

raven: 03/10/2014 03:42 CDT

I was very disappointed with (at least the first episode of) Cosmos. I knew I wasn't going to like the cartoon depiction of what used to be live action dramas (using real actors) in the scenarios. It brings down the quality of the show, IMHO. I feel like they dumbed down the show to make it palatable for "the masses" who have been fed shows like "Family Guy" and "The Simpsons," and like that sort of crappy, awful, cartoonish animation. The only part that stood out so far was the "tribute" to Carl Sagan, showing clips of him in the original show and in interviews, with Tyson telling the story of how kind Carl was to him when he met him as a young man. Tyson as host can never replace the impact Carl Sagan, with his inimitable style, had on the original show. Carl had a way of conveying the awesome wonder of the universe, in the way that he used and emphasized words, that was inimitable and very special and irreplaceable. Maybe the show will get better; it is still early to judge it, but I will never like the cartoonish animations that are set to replace the live action sequences.

TimR: 03/10/2014 04:27 CDT

Tyson's Cosmos should be reviewed for its worth to inspire young generations- grade school children, to present them scientific method, what this has revealed, how both the methods and the discoveries impact us personally and its impact on society. It is meant to seed the minds of young people. For the rest of us, we can critique it, find holes in the substance or just enjoy the journey. Tyson highlights one writing of antiquity - Lucretius', The Nature of Things based on the ideas of Democritus and Epicurus. It is one of my beloved readings. I take some issue with one statement by Tyson. After presenting the story of Bruno, he finishes by stating that Bruno's "vision of the Universe was a lucky guess". I take some issue with this because Bruno was a learned man and had read many works from ancient Greece plus that written by the Roman Lucretius on Epicureanism, and the work of Copernicus. So his concepts were based on the ideas of several before him. His was not a "lucky guess" but rather was thoughtful, based on others' works that involved deductive reasoning and some empirical evidence. Part 2 and 3 will discuss Bruno further and segue into Galileo which surely will discuss the Dialogue concerning the two Chief World Systems. It is hard to under estimate the importance of Galileo.

Fred_N245_N239: 03/10/2014 04:41 CDT

The original Cosmos seemed intended to inspire young people / children with the wonders of the Universe which included the Evolution of life and some human history. It pushed the awe and incredible buttons in your brain which normally take a super view from a mountain or out a bus window trekking around some part of the world for the first time. It was and organized trip through various subjects with our guide, Carl Sagan, not rushing but allowing us to absorb the material. The original music which had a lot of Vangelis fit the show very well and contributed to a spiritual journey discovering the Cosmos. The first episode of the new one seemed less focused. Too much material. Too much trying to impress with special effects which aren't what the show should be about and aren't important. I wasn't sure what tone they were trying to set. The music also didn't talk to me or take me anywhere. The first Cosmos seemed like Carl Sagan telling about his life's journey including what he noticed about the foibles of human psychology. the new one seemed like ideas coming from many people. I guess the first one was a personal journey. Hopefully new series will have practical information focused and elementary and hish school students aka if you want to be a physicist or engineer or some kind of scientist this is what you have to do and this is what you have to watch out for and there are opportunities you may not know about such as internships and astronomy or other clubs. Now is the time "wait till the University or Normal people don't do that" is what I heard a-lot when I was a kid. That is something the original series lacked and hopefully the current one doesn't but probably it will too.

Dorothy Bowe: 03/10/2014 07:02 CDT

As an educated amateur, I'm not surprised I learned little from this initial episode. I was frankly delighted to learn anything from a show on Fox, and that explains much regarding my opinion of the episode. I watched more because I want this to succeed, to inspire more people to pay attention to space and science and to combat the discouraging ignorance. I watched with half an eye on the twitter #cosmos hashtag and was delighted that there was a significantly positive reaction. I look forward to the remaining episodes to decide how I personally feel about the series.

George Hastings: 03/10/2014 07:19 CDT

I hope the next episode is better. Although the introductory episode had its high spots, I was frankly disappointed at the pandering to visual effect and the lack of scientific accuracy in the depiction of the 1950's SF style dodging densely packed asteroids and again passing through the Oort Cloud. It looked like an updated version of the video game. The Saturday-morning-cartoon characters in the Giordano Bruno segment were cheesy, especially the stereotypical "evil-guys-with-squinty-eyes" depiction of the members of the Spanish Inquisition. I expected more from Neil.

David Craig: 03/10/2014 08:28 CDT

It is of course way too early to judge the series, but I think it's a good start. Of course it could be more "scholarly and sober", but I don't really think that's the intent. Recall that the original was subtitled "A Personal Voyage". That was no accident, and I think this new series has a good chance of living up to the original. "Cosmos" (the original as well as the companion book) isn't just a documentary or a history, although it has much to teach us. It is about more than just facts, but about how we have learned and changed. About how we've come to know ourselves, and our greater reality better. It's not a scholarly tome. It's not a dusty table of figures, or a chart to analyze. Cosmos is a poem. And they've got the tone right.

Jim McGarvey: 03/10/2014 08:39 CDT

Overall, I think the graphics were great. The content dumbed down. Tyson's enthusiasm - nothing to say -as I saw none. The Bruno cartoon - one got the impression that the director could not wait to get that piece in - the director could have at least got it right. I guess I was spoiled by Sagan's delivery and great enthusiasm for the subject. I do not think this show will be remembered in 5 years - let alone 35. Now where is my latest edition of Sky and Telescope...?

alien: 03/10/2014 08:52 CDT

We were expecting not less excitement than what we felt every time we watched the original Cosmos with Carl Sagan. Neil deGrasse Tyson certainly has an exhilarating personality and natural eloquence but in this first program we were disappointed with his explanations of the material. We couldn’t figure out what was his target audience. The concepts were flying too fast … the graphics more distracting than explanatory. The music had no depth but it felt like one more of those action movies made for TV. The calendar got really boring fast. The cartoons were childish, yet sinister and overly used. The space ship thingy was unimpressive and unnecessary. We were tempted to turn it off and go back to watch Carl Sagan’s again but resisted and stayed until the end. This Cosmos, version 2.0, should have begun with Neil explaining his connections to and admiration for Carl Sagan, and the purpose of recreating the series. It would have made the perfect transition whereas the actual introduction, a launch into Earth’s history via graphics in lieu of more impressive, REAL photographs and renderings felt like an amateur animator’s portfolio. Watching the program on National Geographic and being interrupted every few minutes with a bombardment of commercials made the whole experience almost unbearable.

Magmatic: 03/10/2014 09:21 CDT

I found the show very engaging. Imaginatively done. The music was beautiful. A great choice over the new-age of the original. Dr. Tyson is a masterful presenter, and I admire that; but he doesn’t have the “approachableness” of Carl Sagan. Sorrowfully, I felt the episode perpetuated some common myths. Even at the start. Question everything? Not if our philosophical worldview is at stake. Scientists have it no easier there than anyone else. Medievals believed they were at the center of the universe? Not quite. They believed the Earth was the “bottom” of the universe, and that was not a good place to be. Too much time was spent on Giordano Bruno. But I liked the stylized animation. They had the Moon form in the same way as the Earth. But didn’t it form from a planet impacting the Earth? It’s shocking they slipped that one by. We saw the Earth about 250 million years in the future, lit up with a great civilization. But the Earth will have lost its ability to support advanced life long before then. We watched Dr. Tyson watch Tiktaalik crawl out of the ancient sea. But, given evolution as I understand it, Tiktaalik didn’t leave the water, the water left Tiktaalik. Isn’t that the way evolution is supposed to work? Tyson admitted ignorance on how life got started, but he scoops water out of a tidal pool, implying a primordial soup. But there is no evidence a primordial soup ever existed. Did Tyson say the multiverse is infinite? If so, that would be incorrect. The multiverse, IF it exists, doesn’t get around the idea of a beginning. Yes, the show just breezed through things (except for Bruno.) I wonder if the intent was to introduce ideas that will be developed further in later episodes. We will see.

Magmatic: 03/10/2014 10:06 CDT

I just watched part of the episode again, and I have to say I was wrong in my earlier post about how they characterized the creation of the moon. I see now they do show a big asteroid hitting the earth and then talk about the moon forming from orbital debris. It was subtle, but it was there.

vinnief: 03/10/2014 10:30 CDT

Re: Cosmos Episode 1. The Earth is a water planet. There is no agreed upon scientific explanation of how this came to be. Instead of acknowledging this, the writers had Tyson just say "the earth became covered with oceans." The series "Wonders of the Universe" and Wonders of the Solar System", I think, are superior shows.

Barry Dowd: 03/11/2014 12:25 CDT

I agree with Steven Jones about the asteroid and Kuiper belts. There should have been some comment about the actual distances between the bodies in these areas, like they did for the Oort cloud. Otherwise it was a good setup for the rest of the series.

Emily Lakdawalla: 03/11/2014 12:37 CDT

I'm delighted to see so much conversation about the show! I have just now posted my actual review of the show after watching it on Monday March 10 with my daughters.

Mike Harris: 03/11/2014 12:43 CDT

Watching it was like listening to Hello Nasty the first time - interesting, but in the end turned out to be not so good.

Wyn Wachhorst: 03/11/2014 01:03 CDT

I watched a second time and see that Neil feigns feeling in the manner of a high school student who knows his oral report must not sound read but doesn't really have a feel for the content. Certainly Neil has great feeling for the content, so the problem must lie in his inability as an actor--or maybe a failure to be himself in front of the camera. Much better would be the unpretentious style in which he talks about Carl at the end. Far more problematic is the early disproportionate--even incongruous--insertion of the two-dimensional Bruno segment. I have always admired and sometimes been awed by Ann Druyan's eloquent defense of science and critique of religion, but it's as if she or someone else had a momentary loss of perspective given a growing anti-science mentality and the opportunity to make a statement in the new series. But it actually diminishes what the introductory episode is trying valiantly to accomplish. I feel badly critiquing this well-meant and so much needed attempt to reinstate scientific wonder. But I had such hopes. Given Carl's inimitable gift, that was probably unfair. But I can't seem to help feeling sad.

Raul Alva: 03/11/2014 01:09 CDT

From Carl Sagan's Cosmos: "It [a crater on the Moon] is called Giordano Bruno after the sixteenth-century Roman Catholic scholar who held that there are an infinity of worlds and that many are inhabited. For this and other crimes he was burned at the stake in the year 1600"

Raul Alva: 03/11/2014 01:15 CDT

Two more quotes on Bruno from Sagan's Cosmos: 1. "In Italy, Galileo had announced other worlds, and Giordano Bruno had speculated on other lifeforms. For this they had been made to suffer brutally." 2. "The first person to make explicit the idea of a large - indeed, an infinite - number of other worlds in orbit about other suns seems to have been Giordano Bruno." So, I think Druyan & Sotter went one step forward on the recognition of Bruno's contribution, not being a scientist (modern science itself was being born in those years) to our present view of the cosmos.

Kevin West: 03/11/2014 04:06 CDT

I really loved this first episode. This series is made for teaching the young and/or inexperienced in science and astronomy. They did a great job. It was scientifically interesting and there were several moments that paid tribute to Carl. I am excited for next week.

ioconnor: 03/11/2014 08:40 CDT

First I should say I do not like Neil ever since he disparaged SpaceX. Secondly I'm a huge Carl Sagan fan having his videos on my hard disk and his cosmos book. Watched it countless times in my life for inspiration. Neil has not attained the Carl ability to lead with his voice. Carl could carry you with voice alone. Neil fidgets and his voice level is not doing it. Perhaps Morgan Freeman could give him voice lessons. I do not like all the cgi video morphing. Or the spaceship. More story and less distraction please. Though I've always been an atheist my entire life I did not like the Bruno references. Hit pieces on religion are too easy to come by. Instead take a level or two back and do the hit pieces on herd mentality, which religion is, and show how it has hurt science and how to overcome it. On a side not I could not help but listen to Bruno behind the lectern being told by the audience the same things being told to people who do not believe in global warming. Same arguments. My critique could go on for pages...

Redditor: 03/11/2014 09:18 CDT

To those who are concerned that the series is airing on Fox and not public television, NDgT had the following to say: "The people who say with disdain and disgust: "It's appearing on Fox? Their viewers don't know any science!" And I simply reply, "If true, that makes Fox the best network of them all on which to air this series." "

astefan66: 03/11/2014 09:26 CDT

I have a question. During the portion of the show where Neil is standing by the ocean explaining how life came to be on Earth, he says that its still one of the great mysteries of science. Maybe I'm to skeptical of Fox being the airer of this Series, but I thought science had a solid grasp on how life evolved from the primordial soup. Neil appears to leave open a god requirement.

Bob Ware: 03/11/2014 11:33 CDT

The first episode is always the hardest to produce. You need to find the niches of your intent for your ideas to grow and expand in as a series for your target audience. Science is hard to produce in a general media, like television which is profit driven only, which must appeal to the masses or it will fail. COSMOS is an all topic encompassing subject with time constraints limited to the targeted viewers attention span. All of the needed science explanations and theories cannot be covered or even mentioned in the viewers attention span time frame. The show will fail if they try that. If you do try that, then all you have is a university science lecture series being broadcast on television and lost income leading to the series cancellation. To succeed with this concept the entertainment factor must be in the production as well. Since we live in a society of instant gratification and punch line jokes we reap what we have sown. Thus COSMOS and other shows similar to it have to be produced as they are. Neil Tyson is not an actor however he is very capable of holding an audience. The man does know what he is talking about and I'm sure he does understand that he as to follow 'hollywood-ism' to make COSMOS work. Neil Tyson did a superb job on the pilot episode of this version of COSMOS and I am going to watch it as long as it is on the air. Taking approximately 5 billions years of known existence and compressing it all into a 1 hour window is not something that's easy to do. Congratulations to the production crew and producers for making this showcase of science work! Thank you Neil for stepping up and doing it well!

Chizmad: 03/11/2014 12:11 CDT

@deSitter Bruno died over the fact that he believed and tried to push the idea that there were other worlds created other than our own not over heliocentric theory....

chrissmithatwork: 03/11/2014 12:21 CDT

I don't have much to add that hasn't already been said, but I will say this: having seen and enjoyed the original Cosmos series (I was 6yo when it first aired and I watched it with my mom), don't discount the ability of children to absorb knowledge. Even if they don't understand it at the time, those images and words are burned in at that age. I specifically remember Sagan's segment about the speed of light, and redshifting, and while I didn't fully grasp the concept at the time, it stuck with me, and as I learned more at a later age, those images were right there to assist me with understanding. I believe your children should watch these types of shows, even if you think the content is too mature for them, they'll remember it when the time comes. Knowledge is power!

amangupta: 03/11/2014 12:30 CDT

I agree with some of your nitpicks like the asteroids and the Big bang sequence - and I know Neil would have definitely objected but he had to let some things slide for making the show more visually appealing. Basically, to answer your first question, I think the show will let him have his way on most things but there will be some minor details which they are willing to let slide for some dramatic effect. Some of the sequences I really like were the ones with Neil talking while walking us through the events as they happen on screen. The red spot in such great detail and up close (I honestly didn't know about the 8 kilometer difference between layers when I watched it!). Oh yeah, the Bubble universes... well, they could have gone on and on about that particular topic but I suppose they would have lost interest of the younger audience since they are more interested in our own history. That's not saying I wouldn't have loved some more visuals and details about it. The last sequence was a bit too dragged out but I could really feel Neil struggling put up his best face for the camera. That one event had such a profound impact on his life - hell, it would have had a profound effect on anyone! And that answers your second question. Sure Neil is such a great presenter himself but he himself feels overwhelmed on walking in the shoes of his mentor. I hope he gets better at being himself in the later episodes. Ty for the Review Em :)

Joe Shuster: 03/11/2014 12:53 CDT

The two things I love about Emily's reporting is that she's totally undaunted -- by anything or anyone -- and she takes no shortcuts. It was a wonderfully uncensored review. (I think we know who should do Cosmos -- The 3rd Generation.) But I would disagree about Neil and nitpicking. I think Neil is one of the BEST nitpickers. Either way it does leave him open to nits. Even before the 1950's asteroid belt there were a few things I think he missed. First there IS a sky on the Moon, just not a blue, cloudy one. And the Moon does have role in tides, not just the Sun. Later, the rings of Uranus were deceptively dramatic, and the TNO density was excessive. We're clearly going to be fed a lot of "dramatically enhanced" images and lines in the series at the expense of accuracy. Let's hope it doesn't descend into "Gravity". The Bruno veneration was misplaced and disproportional. The premier should be about laying groundwork, not grinding axes. Bruno is a weak hero at best. And generally too much astronomy history relies on modern mythology and over simplification. (But, if Emily's kids don't understand why he was killed, maybe the producers got their personal point across to the audience they targeted.) BTW, if I was with the RCC, I'd have a giant count-up sign saying "151,223 Days Since Last Scientist Burned". I give the show a B+ and Neil an A-. (And Emily an A++++++++)

Jboudreau77: 03/11/2014 01:07 CDT

I'm curious about your being bothered by the "Big Bang that expanded into preexisting space" piece. If the theory of multi-verses is true, then there could potentially be preexisting space, could there not? If ours is one of many universes they must be contained within a preexisting space shouldn't they? I have a very base knowledge of science, so I ask these questions in earnest and thank you if you have time to educate me with a response.

Mike: 03/11/2014 01:33 CDT

I had to think about this new Cosmos for a while before I could comment on it. I REALLY wanted this to be good...with nearly forty years of scientific discoveries and orders of magnitude better special effect technology, this should have been awe-inspiring...even to those who basically know the science and who watched the original. Unfortunately, it wasn't. I have always liked Tyson...I don't know him, but he gives the impression of a brilliant, well thought, well spoken scientist. And, he came across as OK, not the impassioned Carl Sagan that the original series had, but still better than competent. The problem with the new series is that it is spite of what we know and the options to make it understandable to a new generation. It should be magnificent and it is simply good. Will people watch it? Yes, but they won't be inspired by it. In the final analysis, that is what the original Cosmos was about: inspiration. This one isn't and that's unfortunate.

jboudreau77: 03/11/2014 01:56 CDT

Wow, I couldn't disagree more. I think the only way that this Cosmos comes off as pedestrian is perhaps to those who already have a strong education or understanding of space and science and that is absolutely not the audience that this is targeting. If you already have a thorough knowledge or above average understanding of space, then yes, you will probably be disappointed but guess what, this is NOT intended for you! This is intended for the young people and general masses who's typical day includes watching the Family Guy and have very little understanding of space and science. This is meant to reel those people in and get them excited and wanting to know more. If you were disappointed, you clearly didn't understand the point of this version of Cosmos.

Bill Campbell: 03/11/2014 02:11 CDT

I note the comment above, "to combat the discouraging ignorance". Does the writer refer to faith? No reason why it and science can't be compatible. Both series will be remembered as good, irregardless of either approach.

Mike: 03/11/2014 02:23 CDT

I am afraid I must stand by the "pedestrian" comment. When an episode of Star Trek TNG evokes more wonder than the real thing, then something is wrong with the presentation. And, to the point that this program is aimed at a different audience than those who are likely to be up late enough to watch it, that is damning praise at best. I am sorry, but this series did not impress in the first should have, but it didn't. It will likely survive and carry an audience, but it will never rise to the level of the original.

Andru A.: 03/11/2014 02:26 CDT

It seems to me that in regards to the Bruno sequence (separate from issues of accuracy), people's reaction can be divided into two groups: Those who accept the view of non-overlapping magisteria and those who don't. As a side note: I'm completely bewildered that someone with such a significant role of science communication as Mrs. Lackdawalla in an organization co-founded by Carl Sagan, apparently has never even watched his original Cosmos series.

jboudreau77: 03/11/2014 02:40 CDT

Um, Mike, this show was led into by Family Guy. It aired between 8 and 9pm depending on where you lived. This show was clearly designed for the teen - middle aged crowd, the generation which likely missed the original Cosmos. And yes, those people are awake and watching TV at 9pm. And to disagree with you, yet again, I found as much wonder in this version of Cosmos as I do watching Star Trek, perhaps even more so, and I count myself as a pretty major Star Trek fan. If you didn't like it because it just wasn't to your taste, no problem. But holding it to an unreasonable standard or failing to recognize that you just didn't like it because it wasn't designed for you or your level of scientific understanding, is something different entirely. I think the general masses would beg to differ.

Emily Lakdawalla: 03/11/2014 02:57 CDT

Andru: No, I have seen most of the original Cosmos series; I am sure I watched it when it first aired (I just don't remember it), and I watched several episodes when they updated the SFX more recently. But I don't count it among the things that inspired me to science communication, unlike so many of my peers. And I think there's too much energy being focused on comparing the update to the original, because the real audience for the new one is the people who did *not* watch the original one. Which is why I am determined not to make those comparisons, but rather to evaluate the show on its own merits. Also, folks: you know lots of smart people enjoy watching Family Guy, right? Just because they are not space enthusiasts doesn't make people idiots. People have lots of interests. One interesting outreach challenge these days is that there's this huge groundswell of geek pride and interest in sci-fi and so on, but that interest does not obviously seem to translate into an interest in actual space exploration. I think that's one of the (many) targets of this show, and may be one explanation for the lengthy Bruno graphic-novel-style segment. I hope that the channels on which Cosmos is airing, and the company it keeps, will swell the group of people who are interested in space, even if they don't self-identify as space fans.

Mike: 03/11/2014 03:01 CDT

jboudreau77 Well, we shall see...won't we. :-)

Amalthea: 03/11/2014 03:05 CDT

I watched the new "Cosmos" with a non-scientist adult friend, who is into star gazing and rock hounding. He loved the program and will be watching future episodes. I'll watch, too. I was a fan of the old Carl Sagan show--I'm 62 years old. Although I didn't learn anything new in the program, this show will reach and teach people like my friend. I was touched by the ending when Neil showed Sagan's appointment book, and the day he spent at Cornell, realizing he wanted to be an astrophysicist. Criticisms: the program obviously pandered to those of a religious persuasion. The Bruno story went on way too long; plus, it was irritating that the passage of human development was marked by religious figures rather than scientific achievements--that was the worse pandering. But, I have to applaud well-known scientist figureheads such as Bill Nye and Neil Tyson, who are reaching out to bring the religious, especially the literal bible folk, back into the fold of science and reason. Good luck, people! I haven't had a sensible conversation with a "creationist" yet!

LronP: 03/11/2014 04:33 CDT

In the 1930s and 40s the youth of our nation embraced science and it ushered in the exploration of space. That generation was responsible for 90% of this country's accomplishments in space exploration to date. My generation (the baby boomers) is responsible for piggybacking on those accomplishments to usher in a new era of technology in scientific discovery. BUT now we have a vocal group in our nation (supported to not small degree by NewsCorp) that is trying to dumb-down our country's youth when it comes to science. Neil, factually, stated that science is postulating a theory and then providing support by observation and experimentation. And if it can't be supported by observation and experimentation then the theory is false. He was not poking fun a religion, but rather, stating clearly what actually occurred because religion is threatened by science as it could prove religion has it 'wrong' in some regards. It will be the great minds of our young people needed to take our understanding of the universe to the next level. But they must be free-thinkers willing to challenge accepted norms. To confine our youth's thought processes because of a religious pretext will mean (sadly) that some other nation or group of nations will carry the banner of science and exploration. And if that occurs, how sad a day it will be for our nation.

David Frankis: 03/11/2014 04:35 CDT

I think, for people who remember being bowled over by the original, this one is bound to be a disappointment. It's not just a case of "the Golden Age of SF is 14": we also live in a different age. NASA and others regularly release videos about the latest space-related discoveries that anyone can watch when they want on the internet. In 1980, there was TV and that was it, and we really were reconnoitering the Solar System for the first time. The Universe and humanity have moved on, and a TV series can't bring them back. While we're on nitpicks, another: the rings of Saturn are so flat (~10m) that Tyson's spaceship would poke both above and below them. If you built a tallish house in them, you could go upstairs and see them spread out sunlit stretching away for tens of thousands of miles; go downstairs, and you'd see them in negative with the sunlight filtering through.

Michael Baumgardner: 03/11/2014 05:15 CDT

Have to say I found it disappointing (I didn't learn anything) and insipid (seemed a little "overproduced"). I think the problem was that the promos seemed a little more targeted at adults and perhaps as you point out the target is actually a younger audience of kids. Carl Sagan had a way of making you feel part of exploring a great mystery. I like Neil, but I didn't find the presentation inspiring.

Bob Ware: 03/11/2014 06:25 CDT

Mike et al: agreeing with Mikes' words: "...but this series did not impress in the first should have, but it didn't. It will likely survive and carry an audience, but it will never rise to the level of the original. ..." That is what was said about Star Trek TNG in it's first two seasons but it surpassed the original series. COSMOS 2 may do the same. Lets give it a chance. If we know more and encounter the opportunity, lets take a moment and enlighten or teach that person or group. Climb into the shoes of Carl, Bill, Neil, Emily and give it a great shot! We can do this!

Bob Ware: 03/11/2014 06:33 CDT

NDT - Maybe the show could end on a closing note along the line of: If we know more and encounter the opportunity, lets take a moment and enlighten or teach that person or group. Climb into the shoes of scientists and help out!

Alson Wong: 03/11/2014 08:50 CDT

astefan: The origin of life (abiogensis) really is one of the great mysteries of science. Although Urey and Miller demonstrated that amino acids can form from simple compounds, no one has shown how molecules can spontaneously form a living cell or be arranged into self-replicating DNA or RNA.

Bobby Cox: 03/12/2014 12:32 CDT

I saw the original cosmos for the first time only recently, and honestly, I felt the first episode of that was started off badly as well. In fact, first time I turned on the original, I got bored and turned it off, because I found Sagan to be monotone during that first segment. Few weeks later, I tried again and stomached through the first episode. After that, the remaining series made me fall in love. I am thinking, and hoping, that the same is happening with this new one. It's all very rushed in the first episode, and is more to set you up for an adventure than to convey knowledge. I do agree though that the Bruno segment was both overly long and would have been better with live acting. Also found the distances of things inaccurate as well as has been mentioned. Beyond that, I loved it for the first episode that it is, and look forward to future episodes.

Josh Fredman: 03/12/2014 01:00 CDT

I really enjoyed the show! My biggest complaint is that it all felt so fast, and, like Emily mentioned, everything was squished too close together. That's my biggest complaint about modern television in general. The networks are terrified of letting the camera linger on one shot and letting silence spill out across their airwaves. I really missed Vangelis. His music was right at the heart of the original. Alan Silvestri did a good job, but the music was more generic than it could have been. Trivia: He also scored "Contact." I loved the bit about rogue planets; Neil ended it with an ellipsis, which was one of Carl Sagan's signature moves. The graphics were maybe the best part of the show. We're so used in this culture to seeing graphics used as a cheap filler in lieu of real substance that I think sometimes we forget that graphics are the magic core of television. Good visuals can ~be~ the story, and that potential really rang true in this show. I wish Neil deGrasse Tyson had taken just a moment longer to explain that the "many universes" theory is far less certain than, say, the Big Bang theory, and that it remains an active question in science. There is a forlorn poetry to the possibility that there are no other universes, and that our own one is mortal. The animation took me a little getting used to, but after that initial shock of being exposed to a new animation style, I got onboard with it. The Bruno segment seems to be what most people are focusing on, which is too bad. The portrayal of Bruno as a creative numen and a victim of Christian rigidity isn't perfectly accurate in its details, but the narrative point it serves is what Tyson himself said: Before the legal guarantee of free speech, before the separation of church and state, there was a suffocating and artificial block on human creative inquiry and scientific exploration. Christianity wasn't the only such tyrant, but in the West it was the greatest of them. All in all: Great show!

Satish: 03/12/2014 02:34 CDT

Like Neil DeGrasse Tyson; like new special effects; like effort to continue Sagan's legacy. I loved the original Cosmos and Carl Sagan's delivery. Dislikes: politically-oriented beginning; 20 times too long segment on Bruno. I hope future episodes will be better in those regards.

kopykat: 03/12/2014 04:18 CDT

It saddens me that you would take a person and turn them into "I can't tell you how pleased I felt to be watching an African-American man narrate this part of the show. Ordinarily you have a white commentator (usually with a British accent) talking over animation or dramatization of dark-haired, swarthy-skinned savages on the African savanna and it feels more than a little colonial.", sorry but after that comment your whole article lost me. Tyson is a god(not literally), but if you have to explain some race thing in an article about science....You've lost me.

Mike: 03/12/2014 09:30 CDT

kopykat is right. Tyson is a premier authority on things astronomical...race is irrelevant. It is a mark of how much we have polarized this country that everything has to be couched in terms of race. Perhaps we should judge a person by the content of their character and not the color of their skin?

Tony Berendsen: 03/12/2014 10:14 CDT

I was in my late 20's when Cosmos first aired. I had read the book and was completely inspired to embrace the science and vision so eloquently presented within its pages. I watched the original 13 part series on TV, and I was impressed with the consistent cadence of Sagan's voice and message in both media, which presented many difficult topics in an incredibly simple to understand fashion. Sagan's presentations were so poetic and passionate; filled with honesty, pride, and humility. This of course was Sagan. Tyson and the new Cosmos began the other day with the premise of continuing the story, updated, anew! Unfortunately, I did not feel inspired again, nor did the opening present anything newer than a shinny "ship of the imagination" that wasn't any newer than a paint job. I felt the opening was a shallow recreation, one that I hope will inspire, but think will far short of the mark. Tyson is a great communicator, but his style is so different from Sagan's, so why dress him as Sagan? Tyson should be as naked as Sagan was in his Cosmos. But, this was only the first episode, so possibly Tyson will become Tyson as the series unfolds. I hope that is where the series is going, I hope others will be inspired as I was before, I hope this is not just another sequel.

John W. Holmgren: 03/12/2014 10:39 CDT

Lakdawalla, I know Neil is the King of nit-picking, but I think you're being a bit hard on the guy. In an introductory episode there will be inaccuracies, such as planets and asteroids appearing to close to one another. As for the Big Bang, Neil isn't in the universe at that point in the show, he's standing on a calendar which represents the immensity of time. He is "outside" or on top of a 2D universe. I'm sure (pretty sure) that in later episodes the Big Bang will be portrayed as realistically as possible, with a full explanation of space being created. I didn't think this episode was the best it could have been, but I have high expectations for accurate depictions of the beauty of nature for the next twelve episodes. I'm coming at this show having been influenced highly by Carl. I think, to those of us who have been affected by the original Cosmos, calling him by his first name feels completely appropriate.

Alonso: 03/12/2014 09:30 CDT

"it's a little frustrating that the illustration of the Big Bang has it exploding into a preexisting space that contains our narrator. The fact that the Big Bang was the universe itself expanding, that there is no "outside," is one of the most difficult things to try to explain about the scientific origin story, and Neil's presence in this animation told almost the opposite story." I think, Lady Lakdawalla, that Mr. Tyson perspective is congruent with his believe that WE LIVE IN A MULTIVERSE, that our COSMOS is only one bubble ins a inmensity of other COSMOS as was said in the begining of the episode. That is a great change, a grand new perspective since the original series. We can now talk about these ideas from a scientific base. Also, I think that you MUST view the original series not to compare but to COMPLEMENT, ENRICH, OVERJOY and trace the roots of many ideas exposed by this new grand series. !! Thank you a lot !!

cali21: 03/13/2014 02:18 CDT

i was tagged by Mr. Pram Nguyen's FB as , " In Buddhism, the Sahalokadhatu (the name of our universe: Endurance) has 1 billion solar systems. Each solar system has 4 habitable Earth (Jambudvipa: our Earth name, and our solar system locates at the boundary of this universe is one of the 4 in this solar system); in turn, each habitable Earth has 2 continents and 500 smaller continents orbit around. Human eyes can only see the main Earths. (see The Ultimate Theory of The Universe, Pram Nguyen).

cali21: 03/13/2014 02:20 CDT

what do you think? any link between modern science and his book of The Ultimate Theory of the Universe ?

gneissguy: 03/13/2014 08:32 CDT

I had high hopes as I loved the original years ago...After the second or third time seeing the Ford commercial I was left wondering how they left the treaded tire mark on the floor or pavement -- when I burn rubber in my car it leaves a very dark and even streak! Please explain this mystery of science...

Joel: 03/13/2014 08:58 CDT

I have never left a blog post in my life, but watching this knucklehead on the DVR tonight tell my kids and I that burning coal was imperiling the human race was infuriating and made me embarrassed to be a human being. What an idiot; he knows nothing about coal, coal fired power generation, and the good that cheap electricity has done for the human race. I just stopped recording the series.

Dave Mitsky: 03/16/2014 03:58 CDT

Unfortunately, the new Cosmos chose to promulgate many of the same scientific errors and misconceptions shown in other astronomy programs and science fiction films, including the following: 1) the whooshing sounds made by the ship of the imagination as it traveled through airless space 2) as the ship of the imagination entered the main asteroid belt, the density of asteroids was all wrong, just as bad as in Star Wars or any other sci-fi production 3) the Great Red Spot was portrayed as a hollow in Jupiter's cloud tops 4) the density of the Kuiper Belt, which was never actually mentioned by name, was also ridiculously exaggerated 5) when the Local Group was mentioned, the Milky Way and a very strangely-colored M31 were shown to be about 3 Milky-Way-diameters apart, instead of 25 or so that they actually are - a disclaimer stating "not shown to scale" would have been nice 6) depicting the Big Bang as an "explosion" (Dr.Tyson even went so far as to put on a pair of sunglasses beforehand) and not as a simultaneous expansion of the quark-gluon plasma "soup" and space itself - astronomers can only "see" back to the time of the recombination era, the time 380,000 years after the Big Bang when the universe became transparent, via the cosmic microwave background radiation 7) the formation of the Moon was explained in a dubious manner that did not conform to the currently accepted variations of the Big Splat theory The poorly-realized Giordano Bruno cartoon segment took up far too much of the program and gave an historically-inaccurate account of those events. The part of the show that I enjoyed the most was the tribute to Carl Sagan.

Anonymous: 03/17/2014 09:25 CDT

Just finished watching episode 2. One of the comments above about Star Trek vs TNG and all caught my attention. TNG always triggered a gag reflex. It's awful. I liked the original Star Trek. So I went back to watch the original via Netflix and had the same problem. It was much worse than I remembered and certainly did not inspire me. The original Cosmos however is still good no matter how often I watch it. This new Cosmos though is just random noise I hope resonates with kids. Which got me pondering what the differences were. I'm thinking the original contained material that dazzled you regardless of your level of understanding. It hit at different levels to inspire and captivate. This new series needs inspire everybody no matter what their starting level is. Perhaps this can't be done by committee. Perhaps Neil needs to take ownership. To make Cosmos shine like the original he will probably need to do like Carl did. Own it totally. Like Carl, Like Steve Jobs, like Elon Musk. Anything less and I fear it will only be a footnote of the original.

Spaceart: 03/29/2014 07:52 CDT

I had real problems with all of the scientific inaccuracies in the opening much so that I've been hesitant about watching the rest. Yes, I am sure all the shiny special effects and sense of wonder will inspire many viewers...but that is absolutely no excuse. The worst science fiction movie might be equally inspiring. And while you may have learned something from fact-checking the should really question why that was even necessary---and ask how many viewers will bother to do that. Tyson owes it to both his audience and to his own profession to make this series as scientifically accurate as he possibly can...and evidently is not making very much of an effort, apparently in the belief that his personality is sufficient.

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