‘Cosmos’ TV Show Could Come Back For A Second Season

This spring, space fans had a virtual campfire to flock to: the new Cosmos series, which aired on Fox and National Geographic for 13 science-filled episodes.

The series attracted at least three million viewers a week, generated discussions (positive and negative) on social media, brought host Neil deGrasse Tyson to even higher heights of fame, and once again, showed the general public how neat space is.

Well, guess what. According to producer Seth MacFarlane, Cosmos could come back for a second run — which would supercede the predecessor series from the 1980s, narrated by Carl Sagan!

“Early, preliminary discussions for a 2nd season of #Cosmos– If you want to see more of the great @neiltyson, tweet him your love!” MacFarlane wrote on Twitter yesterday (Dec. 3).

His comments follow a posting on Reddit that surfaced in a couple of news reports yesterday, one from a reported viewer of a deGrasse Tyson talk in New York City:

“I just attended a presentation by Tyson at NJPAC in Newark, NJ,” the posting read. “During the Q&A portion, he told the audience that he’s meeting with producers tomorrow in NYC to discuss the next “season” (for lack of better term) of COSMOS. He didn’t go into further detail, but thought this was interesting since up until this point the updated show was just considered a one-off series (ie 13 episodes).”

We’ll keep you posted as more news arises.

Giordano Bruno in Cosmos. Image courtesy of Fox.
Giordano Bruno in Cosmos. Image courtesy of Fox.

 

Watch Neil deGrasse Tyson Host ‘Selling Space’ Panel Tonight

Hot off of the popularity of the Cosmos reboot, host Neil deGrasse Tyson is going to host a panel at 7:30 p.m. EDT (11:30 p.m. UTC) tonight about “selling space.” Check it out in the livestream above. Here is the description from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, which is hosting the event:

From serving NASA’s cargo needs to sending tourists on space vacations to mining asteroids for profit, aerospace engineers could transform space into our backyard. The sold-out 2014 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate at the American Museum of Natural History will explore the idea of “selling space” with a panel of six entrepreneurs and space historians. 

Besides Tyson (who is director of the museum’s Hayden Planetarium), here is who else is participating:

  • Wanda M. Austin, President and CEO, The Aerospace Corportation
  • Michael Gold, Director of DC Operations and Business Growth, Bigelow Aerospace
  • John Logsdon, Professor Emeritus, Space Policy and International Affairs, George Washington University
  • Elliot Pulham, Chief Executive Officer, Space Foundation
  • Tom Shelley, President, Space Adventures, Ltd.
  • Robert Walker, Executive Chairman, Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates

There are no tickets left for the event, but you can watch it in the livestream above and interact with the hashtag #AsimovDebate.

For more information on Tyson, visit his website. The 13-part Cosmos series is airing every Sunday or Monday in many jurisdictions; check your local listings for more information.

‘Cosmos’ Reboot Starts With a (Big) Bang

With much anticipation from the astronomy and science community, the opening episode of the new and updated version of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” series premiered to the masses on television in North America last night. This reboot – this time hosted by astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson — did a wonderful job of paying homage to Sagan while showcasing the grandeur of space, as well as portraying the infinitesimally small amount of time that humanity has existed. Like its original counterpart, the first episode of the series takes viewers on a quick tour of the Solar System and Universe, showing our cosmic “address” as it were, going back to the Big Bang, but also touching on multiverses and a potentially infinite Universe.

As de Grasse Tyson said at the beginning, “from the infinitesimal to the infinite; from the dawn of time to the distant future.”

There were also – seemingly – an infinite number of commercial interruptions. You can watch the episode in its entirety below, without commercials, thankfully. Watching it on television last night was disappointing because of those commercial interruptions – sometimes only a couple of minutes apart — making one wish for the PBS-commercial-free version of the original Cosmos with Sagan.

And I wasn’t the only one feeling those sentiments:

(Yes, I watched the show while keeping an eye on what the Twitterverse had to say about it.)

But airing the series on the Fox Network and its affiliated channels (I watched it on the National Geographic Channel) was a calculated move by the series’ producer Seth MacFarlane to showcase the series and the science to a population that may not otherwise be exposed to science at this “popular” level. And clearly, science and the scientific method gets top billing in this series:

“This adventure is made possible by generations of searchers strictly adhering to a general set of rules: test ideas by experiment and observation … follow the evidence where it leads and question everything,” said Tyson.

This planetary nebula's simple, graceful appearance is thought to be due to perspective: our view from Earth looking straight into what is actually a barrel-shaped cloud of gas shrugged off by a dying central star. Hot blue gas near the energizing central star gives way to progressively cooler green and yellow gas at greater distances with the coolest red gas along the outer boundary. Credit: NASA/Hubble Heritage Team
This planetary nebula’s simple, graceful appearance is thought to be due to perspective: our view from Earth looking straight into what is actually a barrel-shaped cloud of gas shrugged off by a dying central star. Hot blue gas near the energizing central star gives way to progressively cooler green and yellow gas at greater distances with the coolest red gas along the outer boundary. Credit: NASA/Hubble Heritage Team

With a combination of real images from telescopes and spacecraft, computer generated imagery and surprisingly watchable animations, most intriguing for me was the “cosmic calendar.” Those who have seen Sagan’s original series will remember his version of the cosmic calendar as a way to conceptualize the age of the Universe, compressing 13.9 billion years down to one year. Tyson’s flashier calendar also showed how January 1 would mark the Big Bang and December 31 would be the present – making each day represent about 40 million years. At this rate, humanity’s entire recorded history only occupies just the last 14 seconds of the year.

But as Tyson noted, science has provided unmatched discoveries during that short span of time: “The scientific method is so powerful that in a mere four centuries, it has taken us from Galileo’s’ first look through the telescope to knowing our place in the Universe.”

Giordano Bruno in Cosmos. Image courtesy of Fox.
Giordano Bruno in Cosmos. Image courtesy of Fox.

When I heard there were going to be animated sequences of historical events (the original series used actor portrayals) I was disappointed, but the animations in this series premiere surprised me by being quite engaging.

They told the story of Giordano Bruno, the 16th century Italian monk turned astronomer. He had theorized that other planets existed with other lifeforms like ours. In his 1584 book “On the Infinite Universe and Worlds,” Bruno wrote : “… there is a single general space, a single vast immensity which we may freely call Void; in it are innumerable globes like this one on which we live and grow. This space we declare to be infinite… In it are an infinity of worlds of the same kind as our own.”

This was controversial for his time, but even in a church-dominated society, it wasn’t grounds for being declared a heretic. But later Bruno followed his argument to its logical conclusion: if there are an infinity of worlds, and if some worlds have sentient beings created by God, then wouldn’t these planets also need to be saved by God? The notion other Jesuses was not viewed well, and the church convicted him of heresy, and burned him at the stake.

Phil Plait talked more about this today in his review of “Cosmos” and I agree with him that this wasn’t really about showing religion in a bad light, but about making “a bigger point about suppression of thought and the grandeur of freedom of exploration of ideas.”

Other fun moments were when a CGI (but quite realistic) dinosaur fish named a Tiktaalik crawled out of the sea right next to Tyson, depicting the evolution of life on Earth. Most endearing was perhaps Tyson’s claim that “we are ALL descended from astronomers;” how our ancestors depended on the stars to know the change of seasons.

While this series premier was a quick overview, one surprise is that it showed just one theory – and the oldest and perhaps outdated — of how our Moon was formed, by a conglomeration of the same debris that make up Earth. These days it seems the theory of a Mars-sized planetary collision is the most accepted theory.

The show began and ended with the voice and words of Carl Sagan, and Tyson shared his story about his own personal interactions with Sagan. This was a very authentic part of the show, and allowed the torch to be passed from Sagan to Tyson.

And then there was Tyson using Sagan’s famous “we are made star stuff” quote:

“They get so hot that the nuclei of the atoms fuse together deep within them to make the oxygen with breathe, the carbon in our muscles, the calcium in our bones, the iron in our blood,” Tyson said. “You, me, everyone: We are made of star stuff.”

This series premiere was a rousing tribute to science and I am definitely looking forward to more. Here’s hoping this series does what MacFarlane had in mind: get the general public to start talking about science again.

If you are feeling the need for more “Cosmos” you can watch the original series at Hulu Plus, and at the Carl Sagan website, learn more about the legend.

There is “The Seth MacFarlane collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan archive, 1860-2004” at the Library of Congress. MacFarlene supported this new Carl Sagan archive.

See more at the Cosmos Online website (there’s even an app for it.)

TV Show ‘Cosmos’ Gets An Epic Reboot This Sunday

Sunday is going to be a once-in-a-generation moment. For those of us who were too young to remember the original Cosmos (writer puts hand up) or those who are eager to see the classic 1980 Carl Sagan series updated with discoveries since then, we’re all in luck. A new series starring astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson is premiering on Fox.

NASA hosted a sneak preview of the series at several NASA centers, and the early reviews on Twitter indicated a heck of a lot of excited people in the audience. In the video above, you can watch the Q&A with the main players after the premiere concluded.

“Watching Cosmos, I saw a Brooklyn-born researcher pull back the curtain on a world of seemingly dense scientific concepts, which, with the flair of P.T. Barnum, he managed to present in ways that made them accessible to those of us lacking a degree in mathematics or physics,” Seth MacFarlane, the executive producer of Cosmos (who is best known for creating Family Guy), said in a statement.

“He was able to make a discussion of the most distant stellar objects suddenly become relevant to our small, day-to-day lives. And he did so with such obvious passion, enthusiasm, and love for the knowledge he imparted that even those who had little interest in science found it impossible not to want to go along for the ride.”

The original Cosmos series premiered in 1980 and won three primetime Emmys. Sagan — who was involved in NASA missions such as the Voyagers — combined his worktime experiences with more meditative thoughts on the cosmos, the role of intelligence and the future of the universe. It’s still easy to purchase the original series, despite its age, so we’re sure Fox is hoping for the same kind of longevity with the reboot.

deGrasse Tyson, for those who don’t know, is the engaging director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York. Like Sagan, he’s a New York City-based popularizer of science who appears regularly on shows that aren’t necessarily science focused — such as The Colbert Report, where he has spoken several times and is often cited as one of Colbert’s most-returning guests, if not the most returning one.

We’ll be eagerly watching the series as it comes out. For more information, you can check out Fox’s website.

Book Review: “Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier” by Neil de Grasse Tyson

For those fans of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot, there’s finally a successor volume to that.

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Space Chronicles: Facing The Ultimate Frontier, at times, reads like an updated version of Sagan’s classic book about the history of astronomy and our place in the universe. Like Sagan, Tyson talks about the human perception of astronomy over the years, starting from our belief that everything centered around us and then gradually graduating to the more nuanced perception of the universe that we have today.

Find out how you can win a copy of this book here!

The book is an anthology of interviews, magazine articles and other writings of Tyson, who is currently the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. His eloquence helps carry the reader through difficult concepts: “Engineering technology replaces muscle energy with machine energy”, he writes in part of the Industrial Revolution. In another part of the book, “Risks cancellations and failures are just part of the game” comes during an explanation of how some astronomical missions die before receiving funding from Congress.

Collecting his writings as an anthology, however, leads to some frustration for the reader who wants to read the book from the front to the back. Though Tyson awes with his knowledge of astronomy, popular culture and history, he sometimes uses the same anecdotes across different essays. There are at least three references concerning gas stations across the universe, for example, and he refers to the same John F. Kennedy speech (albeit different passages, for the most part) a few times as well.

The book is also aimed squarely at an American audience. The appendices are full of useful information on NASA, particularly its budget as it relates to government activities. Additionally, Space Chronicles opens with a new essay concerning NASA funding over the years and how it relates to American presidencies in a sort of echo of Spaceflight and the Myth of Presidential Leadership.

Tyson argues that space is non-partisan and that it takes more than a strong leader to move the program forward. Tyson criticizes NASA for de-emphasizing science in some of its past budgets. He refers to the controversy of Obama’s cancellation of George W. Bush’s 2004 vision for space exploration, and says one great weakness of NASA’s work is that it is continually handed mandates by new presidents with little follow-up on the grand ideas.

Through the book, Tyson talks about his ideas for NASA, mentioning initiatives such as asteroid tracking as high priorities. He also refers to the space committees he has been on and the people he has spoken to, and his efforts to bring space to children to encourage their participation in science, education, technology and mathematics.

Perhaps his most powerful essay comes at the end of the book. Tyson acknowledges the nature of his work sometimes makes him forget about Earthly problems: “When I pause and reflect on our expanding universe … sometimes I forget that uncounted people walk this Earth without food or shelter, and that children are disproportionately represented among them.”

That dilemma may never disappear, but Tyson’s book — at the least — provides powerful words for exploring the universe.

We Live in a Cosmic Shooting Gallery

In this new video from Big Think, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says he’s almost embarrassed for our species that it takes a warning shot across our bow before legislators take seriously the advice they’ve been receiving from astronomers about getting serious about asteroid detection and deflection; that it’s a matter of when not if Earth will get smacked by an asteroid. “But it took an actual meteor over Russia exploding with 25 times the power of the atom bomb in Hiroshima to convince people that maybe we should start doing something about it.”

The Secret of the Stars

“Say, do you like mystery stories? Well we have one for you. The concept: relativity.

Well look at that, it’s a new video from John D. Boswell — aka melodysheep — which goes into autotuned detail about one of the standard principles of astrophysics, Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Featuring clips from Michio Kaku, Brian Cox, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene and Lisa Randall, I’d say E=mc(awesome).

John has been entertaining science fans with his Symphony of Science mixes since 2009, when his first video in the series — “A Glorious Dawn” featuring Carl Sagan — was released. Now John’s videos are eagerly anticipated by fans (like me) who follow him on YouTube and on Twitter as @musicalscience.

E = mc2… that is the engine that lights up the stars.”

(What does Einstein’s famous mass-energy equivalence equation mean? For a brief and basic explanation, check out the American Museum of Natural History’s page here.)

Does the Universe Have a Purpose?

An intersection of two of my favorite entities (Minute Physics and Neil deGrasse Tyson) now covers a topic that has been on my mind lately: does the Universe — and therefore humanity — have a purpose?

deGrasse Tyson was asked by the Templeton Foundation to answer this question and poses here that if there is a purpose, the cosmic environment has a strange way of showing it.

What do you think?

Continue reading “Does the Universe Have a Purpose?”

Independent Filmmaker Wants to Kickstart America’s Space Program

“If Kennedy said ‘we will go to the Moon…some time before the century ends,’ what is… what is that? That’s not ambition. That’s pandering.”
– Neil deGrasse Tyson, Fight for Space

Here we are on the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, with no more shuttles flying, slashed space program budgets and no real targeted plan to get people off this world and onto another. American students score abysmally in science and math, and the general public thinks NASA is dead. What’s happened to America’s drive? What’s happened to the nation’s sense of wonder, its devotion to science, engineering, education and its man-on-the-Moon motivation?

Film producer Paul Hildebrandt wants to find out. But he needs your help.

Hildebrandt and his team from Eventide Visuals in Chico, CA, are creating an independent feature-length documentary about America’s space program, called “Fight for Space”. It’s not a collection of launch videos and CGI solar system shots, though; Hildebrandt is digging deeper into what originally made the U.S. space program great — and what has happened to it since then.

“We are producing a documentary that will examine the reasons why our space program is not all it can be. We are also going to show that space IS worth the time, money, and energy that it needs, not for only exploration and scientific reasons but for economic, planetary security, and cultural reasons as well,” writes Hildebrandt.

Hildebrandt has been attending space symposiums and traveling to interview key figures in science and space outreach, like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, Robert Zubrin and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. He’s talked with scientists, astronauts, educators and regular everyday Americans about the importance of the space program. But in order for the Fight to continue, he needs our help.

Fortunately, that’s what Kickstarter is here for. Fight for Space is looking to get a little backing from interested and like-minded space fans to keep the process moving, and hopefully see the film become a fully produced, publicized, and possibly broadcasted reality.

“With your help we can bring awareness to this issue and come closer to making our space program a priority for this country once again.”

You can pledge any amount, from $10 to $10,000 or more (and see the incremental rewards of doing so) on the Fight for Space Kickstarter page here, and visit the Fight for Space website here.

“Please, support our film by donating above and share this project with your friends, family, and anyone you know who cares about space exploration or cares about the future economic and national security of this country.”
– Paul Hildebrandt, Fight for Space producer