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Mar. 28th, 2014 @ 12:12 am Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey - Part 3
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Spiketail Hatchling
I had an engagement on Sunday, so I missed watching the original Cosmos before the new one aired, but I caught up tonight, and, with the old Cosmos fresh in my head, I finally get to this.

So, the third episode is the first really biographical one. In Tyson's Cosmos, we're open with the credits screen— which is, I think, the first time the series does this. Both series attempt to explain the difference between scientific fact and faith, but the new series kinda falls short. By now, I grow a little weary of the animation (since it seems so rigid and-- I hate to say it-- lazy). Neil Tyson... he may be a great guy, a good father-figure, but he's no Sagan, and the series really suffers from his delivery and writing.

Perhaps it's because I just watched Carl and now my memory of Tyson is a little faded, but it's so inferior.

Presentation aside, the content is pretty good. He mentions Jan Oort, which I thought was pretty fantastic. While the original Cosmos begins with basic talks about astronomy vs. astrology. Carl makes a bunch of compelling arguments about why one is pretty much superior in every way, and how the other is inferior... in just about every way. He shows us (in that sorta National Geographic from the 1980s film style) worldwide ancient structures of astronomical importance. As I watched, I realized that this is probably the biggest differentiator between series: Carl goes for live-action reenactments, physical models, things that folks can see, mentally touch and imagine where Neil goes for flashier, more Hollywood kinds of awe. Both are aimed at invoking curiosity and a sense of awe, and maybe it's personal preference, but Carl stabs me in the heart every time.

After his basic introductions to astronomy, Carl follows the life of Kepler. He explains his life as a simple narrative, and thus chronologically explains the three laws of planetary motion, and the bumps that Kepler had on his way to discovery. Along the way, it introduces Tycho Brahe, a data collector of scientific importance. It also mentions the horrors that befell him and his family in the rough times of the 1600s.

The new series follows down the same path. It introduces Jan Oort, and, for once, the series doesn't portray him as a cartoon, but, rather a live-action dude standing in the Spaceship of the Imagination. I'd like to point out that Sagan's Cosmos had no Spaceship scenes in it this episode. That aside, Tyson's Cosmos introduces a few concepts in astronomy and astrology echoing in a few cases Sagan's own words and ideas.

Tyson's presentation follows a narrative of Robert Hooke, Edmond Halley, and Isaac Newton, focusing mainly on Halley. It hits on a bunch of events. Being familiar with the film Longitude, I was a pretty dag interested in this one. I was a little miffed by the animation, of course, but I liked their visual portrayal of Hooke. Also, Tyson's Cosmos introduces Kepler and briefly mentions the his first two laws-- but lacking the third, he didn't really hit Kepler home... which woulda been cool.

Anyway, the new series also briefly but interestingly covers how machines escape Earth's gravity. Also, it gets back to Halley's obsessive means of identifying and predicting the next coming of the comet that would bear his name. He further points out how mysticism could never give such a measurable, specific prediction. The series has some really whizz-bang graphics around comets. I really can't diss 'em. It's good.

The episode ends by sorta making its own little prediction about the merger of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies several billions of years from now. It was a pretty stunning simulation.

Anyway, I may have unfairly bashed the new Cosmos a little bit. I also, in reviewing this episode, realized that the original episodes on DVD (as I'm watching them) are a full hour where the new series have episodes close to 45 minutes. Despite any harshness, I'm already excited about the DVD release of this series.