Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Billions and billions..."

All this week, I've been really looking forward to this weekend.  Not because it would be a break from work (well that to some extent of course), but mainly because tomorrow evening (March 9, 2014), the new version of Cosmos is going to air!

I realize that some people may think, "oh, how could it possibly live up to Carl Sagan's Cosmos??", which debuted in 1980 (I was at the ripe old age of negative two) and was, at the time, the most widely watched public television program in America.  My dad still watches it every year, and now that I am an astronomer, I think he enjoys the program even more.  

Carl Sagan was great!  No doubt about that.  Sagan was a wizard at making astronomy accessible and fascinating to the average American.  So, I don't think anything could ever replace the original Cosmos program.  And I am not even sure that we should think of this new Cosmos as an attempt to live up to the old program. 

I would like to think of the new series as something separate, but with a similar aim as the original - to explain the wonders of the universe to the common person.  The host, Neil deGrasse Tyson, will be great in his own way.  I am not sure we will hear him say "billions and billions" in the new program, but he will undoubtedly bring the beauty of the universe into the television sets of millions of Americans in his own way.  Also, we have answered some of the questions that were confounding to astronomers at the time of the original Cosmos, and in the mean time, we have stumbled across new mysteries, which are equally confounding.  In 1980, no one knew that the universe's expansion was accelerating, leading to the discovery of something astronomers refer to as "dark energy" for the lack of a better term.

So, things are different now.  The original Cosmos was great, and I remember reading the book version of the series as a kid.  But this will be a new series, with updated information and a brand new host.  

With that, I encourage all of you to tune in to watch the new Cosmos when it airs (or find it elsewhere if you are reading this after the series has aired).  My push for you to watch it is not because I think science funding should be increased or because I want you to understand what I do for a living.  But simply because the wonders of the universe are incredible and they will blow your mind.  That, and with the vastly improved graphical abilities that have emerged over the past 3 decades, the program promises to deliver visualizations that will be absolutely stunning.

I leave you now with a sort of "preview" of the program that I found from YouTube.  It sure as hell gave me goosebumps!

The Most Astounding Fact (Neil deGrasse Tyson)

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