In this time of active and ignorant science deniers who seem to make it their mission to want to screw over the earth and therefore our children's futures for short term political gain, what better gift to give the world than this 13-part documentary series aimed at cutting through the misinformation and lies that permeate out current climate, and maybe, you know, getting the truth out there to anyone still willing to believe in it? Neil deGrasse Tyson and producers Seth MacFarlane and Ann Druyan did just that with this comprehensive series called Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, the sequel series to the show that first aired in 1980 when it was hosted by Carl Sagan (then named Cosmos: A Personal Voyage). Now, it's time for a new generation to re-learn what should have been old and long-absorbed information about our universe, but has now, thanks to the idiotic rabble-rousers out there, become sadly new again.
Not to diminish the series itself, however. Neil deGrasse Tyson makes an amiable host for the new Cosmos, which took the Ship of Imagination through the various subjects that Sagan once covered himself- subjects such as the birth of our universe, evolution, the cosmic calendar, the galaxies and solar systems that we know of, the history of science and the progression of our scientific discoveries throughout the time that we've inhabited this planet. Each episode is infused with the wonder and passion that Tyson personally brings to his field, and fills the audience with the sense of importance and significance in discovering our place in the universe (which of course, is infinitesimal). Tyson's voice doesn't have the cadence of Sagan's classic professorial speaking style, but he's an engaging and warm presence that guides us through the areas of the cosmos so that we feel we're in steady hands.
There are some different approaches to Cosmos now- for one thing, instead of re-enactments for historical segments of the great scientific discoveries of people like Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday and Clair Patterson, there is now animated footage that draw out these parts of the story as something akin animated shorts. This kind of stunt may prove polarizing for some (perhaps if you're a person who can't accept animated storytelling as serious in any way), but I found it to be a more interesting method of communicating what could have been narrated as a dry history lesson, and it's also kind of fun to pick out the various celebrity voices recruited to be famous historical figures (I caught Patrick Stewart, Richard Gere and Seth MacFarlane himself). Also new of course is the mass improvement in graphic effects since 1980- this new Cosmos looks incredible (especially on an HD TV) and the glimpses of the planets we go to make you feel as if you're traveling in space yourself.
Another much appreciated factor in the series is Druyan (Sagan's widow) and Tyson's willingness to explain frankly, clearly and with a sense of urgency the dangers facing our planet now with regard to the rapidly increasing climate changes occurring every year. It's a running theme throughout the show and they are not afraid to condemn the voices attempting to halt any action whatsoever on the issue, and even use historical examples of corporations and business interests who did everything in their power to stop the progression of science when it interfered with profits, even with regard to public safety (the best example of this is the episode that explained the evolution of the public debate over the safety of lead, which ultimately led to government-mandated restrictions against the protests of oil companies).
The entire series is a public service and will likely be shown on channels like PBS and The Discovery Channel for years to come. I think it ought to be shown in schools as well, a part of every teenager's science class curriculum. The more we can do to educate and depart actual facts on the willfully unknowing public, the more this issue can be highlighted and not allowed to disappear from the public eye before it's too late. Anything that can be done in this area is of value and in the public's interest- and we need to shout it from the rooftops if necessary, so that eventually the voices of ignorance that insist on living in the dark ages will be drowned out by those who are enlightened and responsible enough to demand that we do better. This is a good start.