Science, TV 2014-03-07

It’s time for the masses to love science again

Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey is coming to Fox on Sundays. This is good news. It’s a continuation of the Cosmos series that was hosted by Carl Sagan back in the 80s and is even co-produced by Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan. The new show will be hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, who was influenced by Carl Sagan to be an ambassador of science to the rest of world (and I write that with as little exaggeration as possible). In point of fact, the Huffington Post just did an interview with Mr. Tyson and the following exchange should prove illuminating:

DF: You must get a lot of strange questions from your lecture audiences. Do you find yourself having to correct people’s misconceptions?

NT: That’s not my goal. As an educator, I try to get people to be fundamentally curious and to question ideas that they might have or that are shared by others. In that state of mind, they have earned a kind of inoculation against the fuzzy thinking of these weird ideas floating around out there. So rather than correct the weird ideas, I would rather them to know how to think in the first place. Then they can correct the weird idea themselves. I don’t just tell them no. That’s pontifical.

DF: What role do you play in what some have called a culture war between science and science deniers?

NT: People reach for me to have those fights, but I don’t engage in them. You’ve never seen me debate anybody. On anything. Ever. My investment of time, as an educator, in my judgment, is best served teaching people how to think about the world around them. Teach them how to pose a question. How to judge whether one thing is true versus another. What the laws of physics say. That’s an educational process. It’s not a debate and whoever argues best wins. I don’t do that. I’m not saying other people shouldn’t. I’m not saying it isn’t a great thing that they’re doing it.

This is important. This man is not trying to get us to learn facts, he’s trying to get us to think, which is something that we all need in general. Furthermore, Tyson shows us just how much further we have to go to understanding the Universe. Here’s another excellent quote:

DF: What things do you find most awesome?

NT: There are two. One relates to the formation of the heavy elements in the stars landing inside the human body and all life on Earth. In terms of the most astonishing fact about which we know nothing, there is dark matter and dark energy. We don’t know what either of them is. Everything we know and love about the universe and all the laws of physics as they apply, apply to four percent of the universe. That’s stunning. That’s as humbling a fact as there is.

To say that we only understand about 4% of the Universe is awe-inspiring in that it shows just how much of an adventure we have yet to complete in science. This is, of course why the new Cosmos mini-series is going to be so interesting. Here’s what you can expect:

DF: What’s one interesting thing viewers will learn from “Cosmos?”

NT: We tell the stories of scientists in different cultures and different eras whose life work was fought against by the culture or the governments that controlled their lives or by social mores that interfered with their exploration of the truth. Some gave their lives for having found truth and in that world you learn that there are science martyrs. They’re people who cared more about the truth than their own relationship to their homeland.

This is going to be great series and people should watch it. That is all.

Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey will premier on both Fox and the National Geographic Channel on March 9. You should watch it.

About the author

Erik Hentell: I started out in theater before moving to graphic design. I eventually moved into web design while trying to expand my knowledge on software development. I currently work for a media company helping with their digital assets such as source code archives and ebooks.