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'Cosmos' a star-studded show

By Jason Wong
On March 9, 2014

"Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" premiered last night, and it was brilliant. The show is a documentary series done as a follow-up with much the same style as the wildly popular original 1980 series presented by astrophysicist Carl Sagan. This time around, Neil deGrasse Tyson, also an astrophysicist and well-known science popularizer and communicator, is the presenter.
In terms of style the first episode of the series, "Standing Up in the Milky Way," was very similar to the original series. Tyson leads the audience on a tour of the universe aboard a "ship of the imagination," much like Sagan did. Through it, Tyson shared the birth of Renaissance Italian Giordano Bruno's vision of the universe as an unlimited expanse of space and time and segued from there into an exploration of the Cosmic Calendar to demonstrate the immensity of the universe.
Tyson's telling of Giordano Bruno's story was done through 2-D animation reminiscent of classic Disney films and was dramatic without being exaggerated. And while his explanation of the Cosmic Calendar might make you feel small, it also makes you feel like you're a part of something amazing.
"We are made of star stuff," Tyson said.
As an English and economics major, I'm not big on studying science. But after watching this episode, I truly lamented that I had not chosen to study astronomy. Tyson had a way of exposing the grandeur of the universe without being pretentious that made the viewer believe they were part of something magnificent. Moreover, the visual effects, far more impressive than their 80s counterparts, complemented Tyson's narration perfectly. The musical score was fantastic also in that it complemented Tyson's narration without overshadowing it. I expect "Cosmos" to appeal to a wide audience, not just those who are already interested in science.
My only real complaint about the first episode is that the opening was a little slow, but the rest of the episode really made up for it. My only other minor point of contention is that Tyson's "ship of the imagination" looks like a Sith warship out of "Star Wars."
I have high hopes for this show. If every subsequent episode of "Cosmos" is as good as this first one was, I will be on the edge of my seat every Sunday night watching it.
We've all heard the numbers that American students' scientific literacy is falling behind that of other nations. Our own Committee on Science, Space, and Technology doesn't even require that its members be scientists. I have hopes that the show will spark generations of people's curiosity about science and improve their scientific literacy.
 


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