We Are Star Stuff

Hey, have you guys heard about the new Cosmos? The sequel to the original Carl Sagan PBS special, but this time hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson and airing on Fox of all places? No? Well then what are you doing reading random blog posts? Go watch it now! I’ll wait.

Now I’ll admit I never watched the original series, as it was a little bit before my time. But the idea was one I can totally get behind: making science and astronomy accessible for the masses. And who doesn’t love Carl Sagan?

In that sense, the new series is a worth successor. Tyson does a good job explaining the mind-boggling scale of space and time. Although I have to wonder if I’m the true target audience. After all, there hasn’t been much presented so far that I have not been exposed to some time in the past. But then again, I suppose I’m not the “typical” average TV viewer: I’ve had training in physics and astronomy, and it’s been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. One of my greatest regrets is that I never got to see a Space Shuttle launch.

So if I’m not learning anything new, am I watching the show for anything more than the pretty visuals? Yes, actually. I absolutely love how unapologetic they are about science. The second episode, “Some of the Things That Molecules Do,” touched on the role evolution has played in the history of our planet, both through natural and artificial selection. In this day and age, when creationism is still sadly being trotted out as “science,” it’s quite refreshing to hear someone on a major network say “The theory of evolution, like the theory of gravity, is a scientific fact.”

And it saddens me that science is still so misunderstood and denigrated, even in the 21st century. We’re seriously still debating this? Maybe the producers were on to something when they defended their choice to air the new Cosmos on Fox, saying that (for better or for worse) the kinds of people that needed to see Cosmos weren’t the kinds to watch PBS.

So why do I watch Cosmos? Because it gives me hope, promising a more rational and scientifically-minded world. It illustrates that learning can be fun and enjoyable. It reminds us that even though we may be extremely small and insignificant on the grand scale of things, we are still a way for the universe to know itself.

And that, in all senses of the word, is awesome.