scottishpig (scottishpig) wrote,

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey - Part 2

The series is starting to take shape as a sort of supplement to the original Cosmos.

Episode 2 of Cosmos: A Personal Voyage was the evolution episode about the origins of life and species titled "One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue". His introduction to artificial selection involved Heike crabs where those crabs whose carapace looked like that of a samurai were preferentially selected by humans since fishermen simply cast them back into the sea. Carl revisited the cosmic calendar from the previous episode and pointed out important dates in which evolution happened. He visited the Royal Conservatory and showed us step-by-step how humans evolved from one-celled organisms. This episode also went to Jupiter in the Ship of the Imagination and discussed life forms that might exist there, and it went into a single blood-cell of Sagan's and showed us DNA. The episode used Carl's slow pacing and had a lot of spirit.

Tyson's version is called "Some of the Things That Molecules Do"— a non-subtle hint at the source material. Near the end of the episode, footage from the original Cosmos was used and Carl's voice used those words. Neil used dogs as the example for how humans shaped the selection of species. Angie pointed out that his portrayal of wolves was wildly inaccurate and, in my ignorance of the subject (this is to say, as the oblivious "average viewer"), it got a bit of a shrug. He made his point. He went into a bear and showed the divergence between polar bears and brown bears. I felt a bit frustrated that he was somehow missing the true essence of the material, but I think that's just me. It was well-done. It was the animated portion of the show, since it seems that each show needs an animated bit.

Tyson also visited the tree of life, pointing out the abundance of species. He said a few wonderful things about how many species we still haven't classified and how for each living species there are many, many that have gone extinct. Unfortunately, he also showed a very pretty tree with some hard-to-make-out species tacked on. It was visually stunning, and really piqued my curiosity, but it didn't tell me anything. Carl Sagan drew a morphy line-image of a single celled organism and traced it through its path to becoming us. I was really hoping Tyson's Cosmos would do this. Infuriatingly, he replayed only forty-second spin-through of Sagan's evolution story (even billing it as "the greatest story science has ever told") with no context or narration. It was as though he said, "The original series did this, so we don't have to. Watch that for the whole story."

Not cool.

Interestingly, Sagan's series also visited Jupiter where Carl imagined what sort of creatures could live there. He gave three sturdy examples of organisms that made a sort of ecosystem. Spun together with some really rich paintings, it was the usual sort of fare that sent watchers day-dreaming.

Tyson's Cosmos went to Titan— a moon of Saturn— and poked a bit at the surface. It was made with a lot of flashy CG that really holds the series together. He mentioned that some life might exist, but it seemed like a teaser for a future episode. I felt a bit bummed by this.

Tyson's take on DNA was also a bit different. I appreciated seeing how it was formed, which was handled a bit more elegantly than the CG available in Sagan's epoch, but Sagan showed a model that showed that each nucleotide was made of atoms. It gave me a better idea of the nature of things. Tyson didn't use the word nucleotide, and, for all I knew, DNA was made of the wavy lightning of science fiction. I felt a bit insulted.

To Tyson's credit, though, he did show us some stuff that Sagan didn't. The stuff about Titan was really well-made visually. While Sagan had a cool clay-model of the Martian surface that he used a few times in his series, visuals here were really spectacular. Also, he visited the "Hall of Extinction". There were a few brief seconds that really captured the sadness of what we've lost by species dying. He also took us to one of the extinction events and, like Sagan, showed us trilobites. Also in this series was a brief segment on tardigrades, water bears, which Angie positively adored, and even impressed me.

But, once again, he peered down a hallway and said that one of the corridors wasn't ready for visiting yet... another promo for a future show. This bugged me again because this wasn't something the original series did at all. While it did revisit things, it never used things as a sales-pitch for the future.

So, the show is beginning to gain shortcomings when put side-by-side with the original series, but it's still immensely enjoyable.

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