The New Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

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One of America’s best known scientists, Neil deGrasse Tyson, is reviving the late Carl Sagan’s popular television series Cosmos, which aired on PBS in 1980. Starting this spring, Tyson will host Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, premiering Sunday, March 9, 2014 on Fox and airing the following night on the National Geographic Channel.

Tyson, an astrophysicist with a gift of explaining complicated ideas simply, told Bill in a recent Moyers & Company episode that the new Cosmos will continue Sagan’s “epic exploration of our place in the universe,” and examine new discoveries of the past four decades.

“We have other stories to tell beyond the ones that went on back then …  At the time of the original series, there were no known planets outside of those orbiting the sun.  Right now, we’re rising through 1,000 planets happily orbiting stars that are not the sun.  So that’s not simply new science.  It’s new vistas of thought and imagination,” said Tyson.

According to the Fox website the new show, will “re-invent celebrated elements of the legendary original series, including the Cosmic Calendar and the Ship of the Imagination. The most profound scientific concepts will be presented with stunning clarity, uniting skepticism and wonder, and weaving rigorous science with the emotional and spiritual into a transcendent experience.”

And here’s a fun fact showing there may be order in the universe: Tyson met Carl Sagan while in high school and applying to colleges. Unbeknownst to Tyson, his application to Cornell was forwarded to Sagan, who was a professor of astronomy at the university. Sagan sent Tyson a letter inviting him for a personal tour of Cornell, which he accepted.  ”One of my favorite memories is he reaches back, pulled out one of the books that he wrote and signed it to me, and I said to myself, ‘That is awesome. If I ever am in a position of influence the way he is, then I will surely interact with students the way he has interacted with me,’” Tyson told Bill.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is co-produced by Seth Macfarlane, of Family Guy and Ted fame, and Ann Druyan, the widow of Carl Sagan and one of the coproducers of the original Cosmos. As with the original series, there will be 13 episodes.

Here’s the trailer for the original Cosmos.

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  • BillW

    A hard science show on Fox? Well, I guess it’s not Fox News.

    It’s great to see Tyson doing this. I watched the original Cosmos as a child, and I’ve long felt Tyson was this era’s Sagan.

  • BillW

    And now I’ve watched the trailer. It looks very heavy on modern sci-fi movie special effects. So, we’re going to use physically impossible flying ships to teach people about the reality of the universe? Seems wrong to me.

  • fogel

    Does it count as a “reality show”?

  • Anonymous

    Intelligent design. Fair and balanced. Teach the controversy. Godless evolution. Tee hee hee.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed. As much as I love the original and like deGrasse Tyson, this looks disappointingly bad actually. Tyson is too self-consciously cool while Carl Sagen was just unpretentious brilliance. I’ve seen Tyson ham it up on various shows, which is fine, he’s a great spokes person for “science”, but I simply adore Sagen’s dry humanity and seriousness. His method of delivery was almost consoling. There is a kind of quiet cerebral quality to the original Cosmos, and Sagen’s personality never injected itself into the message. Already in the Cosmos re-cast trailer, it seems disingenuous, and like everything on Fox, is over the top and seems to position its host as the subject.

  • http://rickladd.com Rick Ladd

    If we’re really lucky, this could make Fox explode. Now THAT would be a big bang!

  • http://rickladd.com Rick Ladd

    Apparently, you never saw the original show, where Carl stood on the bridge of a “spaceship of the imagination” to take us places we could not (and still can’t, other than through far more powerful telescopes than were available in the late 70s) possibly go to. I’m pretty certain he would have used those kinds of effects had they been available.

    PS – If Isaac Asimov were alive he’d slap you for using the term “sci-fi”, which he thought was dismissive of the genre.

  • BillW

    I saw it, back when it first aired, which was a long time ago. Standing on the bridge of a “ship of imagination” and going places is rather different, it seems to me, from showing a ship going to those places. It makes it look a whole lot less like imagination and more like fact. I hope the show makes it a lot clearer than the trailer does.

    BTW, I’ve read a lot of sci-fi in my time, including Mr. Asimov’s work, and I don’t consider the term derogatory.

  • Darvel Lloyd

    As much as I hate Fox TV, I’m looking forward to this series!

  • Anonymous

    Fox TV != Fox News. Sheesh. Un -clutch the pearls, folks.

  • Daniela G. Rubin

    Tyson’s COSMOS trailer is too hooky and full of cartoons and meaningless visuals. The Sagan one is MUCH BETTER. Tyson is working with FOX??? That network denies climate crisis too often. I find Tyson’s COSMOS trailer meaningless compared to the Sagan one. Tyson has allowed a messy, hooky, half cartoon trailer without real meaning. Zooming in and out and saying NOTHING. The cartoon elements are terrible. The only meaningful visual was the short image of The Father of Science: Galileo. Terrible trailer with Tyson. Who made that stilly mess?!

  • Daniela G. Rubin

    If intelligent design were true, God in whose image we’re created must be having backaches and cancer, too. If intelligent design were so,how could there be so much stupidity among the Tea Party idiots, and how could Ayn Rand exist at all?

  • Daniela G. Rubin

    Yes, the trailer is terrible. Hooky, full of cartoons, silliness and no good narration like the Sagan one! Tyson better do a better job with the series. The trailer is a silly, meaningless cartoon that teaches NOTHING!

  • Daniela G. Rubin

    So correct. I like Tyson also, but this trailer is TERRIBLE and MEANINGLESS. Sagan’s narration was so much better than Tyson’s trailer which says nothing of value in the long run. I hope the series is better and that he ends with concern for CLIMATE CRISIS. Will he, with FOX sponsorship? FOX the anti-science network?

  • Anonymous

    Really? I’d not seen (nor heard of) those criticisms. I was quite young though, so I’d have not been paying attention to those things. Sagan did seem awfully comfortable in front of the camera, but I guess to me, I thought of his demeanor as having more of a Dick Cavett-like quality: packaging and selling erudition without overt sensationalism. I guess contemporary views of sensationalism might differ from mine.

  • Anonymous

    “…in whose image we are ‘allegedly’ created…” Life is brief. All is random. Evolution favors the offspring of the most adaptable. Being healthy means that you treat others as you would have them treat you.

  • Daniela G. Rubin

    You missed my sardonic, satiric meaning. I’m a Darwin believer and a scientific Humanist. I was mocking the idea that if we are created in “God’s image” as scriptures say, he must have a backache like many of us! It’s joke on the idea of “Intelligent Design” –a bogus spin. I believe in Darwinian science.I agree that life is brief and evolution favors the offspring of the most adaptable. Whether all is random is another matter. There’s where my agnostism creeps in. We cannot yet prove it’s all random! There does seem to be a wondrous design to eco-systems that boggles the mind. Anyway, if Tyson does’t mention Climate Crisis in his Cosmos series, I will suspect Fox muzzled him. Bill Moyers is the best of PBS and should be an hour long, not a half hour!

  • Daniela G. Rubin

    Yes, when FOX minds the chicken coup of science, will all the truth be devoured?

  • Anonymous

    One does not ‘believe in’ Darwin. The fact of evolution is indisputable; only the supporting details remain to be worked out. You ought to put any agnosticism regarding random selection to rest, regardless of the boggleness of your mind.

  • Edward Moriarty

    Can’t wait, but then again what else can one do. Fox, Smox???? Judge on content- not trailers or network. We shall see.

  • Daniela G. Rubin

    I simply meant to assure you that I am not religious nor a believer in “Intelligent Design.” Actually, my author friend is the editor of the definitive volume of The Origin of Species and I know that evolution in indisputable! No one knows what is making the universe expland so rapidly or what is beyond it if anything. Astrophysics is an endless study, as endless perhaps as the dark enegy or matter out there. That is where my agnosticism lies, in the endless quality of a gigantic beyond imagination rapidly expanding universe full of an indefinable, still unknown darkness… If that doesn’t boggle your mind, there is something wrong with your awe of it. I have published several books that contain awe of the unknown under a different name.

  • Anonymous

    When I was a boy, my parents sent me to camp on a bus. On the way, we sang all the songs – 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, The Bear Went Over the Mountain, The Wheels on the Bus, etc. But when we arrived, we sang:

    We’re here
    Because we’re here
    Because we’re here
    Because we’re here

    We’re here
    Because we’re here
    Because we’re here
    Because we’re here

    I only recently realized that we were singing about the Anthropic Principle – We’re here. In this place. At this time. In this 11- dimension multiverse spacetime continuum. In conclusion:

    All you need is love.

  • Dean Libey

    Make it so, dude! Obviously like totally cool. A re-immersion in the cosmos. An escape from the mundane to tread upon the ancient elements of my origin. To once again reaffirm my connection with that which extends past the beginning of time, to dwell for a moment among that which has no name. I think of the picture Voyager took at Sagan’s urging; turned and looked upon this speck of light from the outer reaches of the Solar System. Insignificance comes to mind. so too does the proclamations of Ozymandias. The billions of what possessed?

  • Anonymous

    From Wikipedia:
    ‘In the United States, the National Geographic Channel, launched on January 12, 2001, is a joint venture of National Geographic Television & Film and Fox Cable Networks. National Geographic provides programming expertise and the Fox Networks Group provides its expertise on distribution, marketing, and advertising sales.’

    I agree with your evaluation of the Tyson Cosmos trailer and believe it’s aimed at young people whom are oriented toward visuals instead of language. Time will tell whether such a pitch is worthy of sharing the name Cosmos. Tyson isn’t Sagan, and personable as he is, may be a disappointing host because his style inadvertently dumbs down the material. I’m pessimistic, but hope I’m wrong.

  • Anonymous

    Fox is co-owner of the National Geographic Channel.

  • seekerG

    The trailer shows fragments from the series, as all trailers do. The animated visuals are obviously from a segment on religious dogma. These visuals will unfold their meaning when seen in full context in the series.
    I also asked myself: Why FOX?!? But watch Neil carefully: he’s a smart naughty boy, he wants to reach the FOX audience and nudge them into Knowledge & Reason, not just preach to the converted. I am positive he will discuss everything – evolution and all – or else he would not have signed the contract. I’m looking forward to this!

  • seekerG

    See answer to Daniela above.

  • Anonymous

    Fox isn’t anti-Science, it is pro-truth not: Billions and billions of years created man.

  • Anonymous

    Same ownership, unfortunately. I look forward to this new series – but I really have mixed feelings about giving Murdoch any kind of legitimacy, except for deportation or prison.

  • Terence

    I agree. It is a terrible trailer. Tiresome. The opening statement is wonderful – saying all there is to know about all that is here. Creationists, wake up.

  • Terence

    Oh dear, more sleepless nights for me!

  • Rick

    One hopes they are trying to avoid the equally tired method of putting all the good parts into the trailer and then disappointing with the final product?
    Tyson is highly effective in his role as an advocate of the sciences. I’ll trust that he (and Sagan’s widow, who is co-producing) have this in hand.

  • Anonymous

    As somebody who grew up very close to the astrophysics community, I find myself not only unimpressed, but disappointed, and DOWNRIGHT BORED by the new “Cosmos”.

    It is overproduced, over-animated, plodding, and nearly devoid of substance.

    It is like the difference between the California Academy of Sciences museum in SF, and the Smithsonian or Natural History museums in DC. The former is an expensive and uninformative waste of space. The latter have too much information to absorb in one pass.

    But I guess if it satisfies the scientific standards of (art school) RISD grad (did he even graduate?) Seth MacFarlane, then it must deserve all these accolades.

  • Anonymous

    It *is* possible to teach the undereducated, without making the show completely moronic. Sagan did this well.

    It’s the over-educated stupid people you have to worry about. They’re the ones who believe in Krugman economics, veganism, and beneficent government.

  • Anonymous

    Sagan had a concise take on God. Why not “save a step”. As soon as you reach a point where the current scientific understanding stops, why make the next step “God did it”? Save a step, and get to know better the boundaries of your own understanding.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps you should take Sagan’s own words, and apply them to the non-demonstrable climate crisis: ” If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth.”

    Empirical reality, thus far, has disagreed with every climate model, and every supposition of positive feedback to higher CO2 levels. Yet, the community so invested in promulgating the notions of a “crisis”, still have an agenda to flog. Even though their “crisis” has failed to materialize.

  • Anonymous

    Much depends on the personality and presentation of Tyson, who seems to have been counseled by producers to restrain his usual intense and overflowing persona. He comes across as pretentious and restrained while half-whispering the rather dumbed-down science here, as the cartoonish extravangances of visual display and backgrounds dominate. With new digital technology, we have the means to make science more visually rich, but this program just seems intent on spectacle with no heart. And the spectacle is mostly hokey and annoying instead of bringing ideas to life.

    I conclude that Tyson is the wrong person to do this new Cosmos and the producers are whiz kids who are better left to big-budget animation films for the young who think you have to compete with video games to be successful. Frustrating, cringe-worthy and often insulting to science in the process.

  • Antonio Gómez Abraham

    Back in the 80s, as many of you I´m sure, I waited all week to watch Dr. Sagan. His narrative, his comments, his personality, and an icredible cinematography, animations, history, everything. We all used our immagination, and his incredilbe series came through for all of us. what a show!!!

    What a way to waste an opportunity. Thirty four years later (and that´s a lot of thechnology) they come up with…. nothing less: Cartoons! (why maybe if they put the Coyote riding a rocket) that would be cool wouldn´t it?

    Annie, how could you let them !

    As people have told me often: no second parts are ever better … I always argue against it. But this time they are so right.

    My respect to all of you writing here.

    Antonio.