Cosmos will hit the air once again!

By Phil Plait | August 5, 2011 1:37 pm

Carl Sagan revolutionized popular astronomy with his book and TV show "Cosmos", which had an audience of hundreds of millions of people. We’ve learned a lot about our Universe since then, and we’re overdue for a modern version of Sagan’s show. So I’m pleased to find out that Neil Tyson will be hosting a revamped and updated version of "Cosmos"!

He’s working with Ann Druyan (Sagan’s widow and herself a science popularizer), Steve Soter (who also worked on the original show), and Seth MacFarlane, creator of "Family Guy". I know, that may sound weird, but MacFarlane is a big science fan, a friend of Neil’s, and commonly puts a lot of science into his shows.

The new show is being created by National Geographic and Fox, and will air on the latter in prime time. To circumvent the expected comments on this, note that Fox News is separate from Fox TV, so the irony is there but perhaps not as strong as you might think.

I’m looking forward to this new show. "Cosmos" had a profound effect on hundreds of millions of people, but times have changed. I’ll be curious to see how they update the look and feel of the program for the modern audience.

Image credit: Wikipedia

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, TV/Movies

Comments (114)

  1. Scottynuke

    I know this is an inexact quote, but:

    “From those whom much is given, much is expected.”

    Druyan’s handing Tyson, Soter & McFarlane a priceless piece of TV and science education history.

    Here’s hoping they’re up to the challenge. :)

  2. You’re slipping, Phil. I first heard about this at a biology blog, namely Pharyngula.

  3. Hivemind

    I read it on Fark a few minutes ago.
    “Fox orders 13 episode prime-time sequel to Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos”, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and produced by Seth McFarlane. No, I am not making any of this up”

    I very nearly fell out of my chair.

  4. Zerodash

    This news is almost like a dream come true. Neil Tyson is an absolutely perfect fit. He is as likable and passionate as Mr. Sagan but with just enough edginess to resonate today.

  5. Sam H

    This is something I’ll tune in to – while Sagan says a lot of the same stuff I already know throughout his different books, his beautiful, humble eloquence and sweeping grandeur just never gets old. I’ll tune in to this not only because I’ve never seen Cosmos, but I know I’ll enjoy it and (very likely) may learn something new :)

  6. Sarah

    Exactly right, Sam H. Sagan’s awe in contemplating the Cosmos was palpable.. which is why the youtube “Symphony of Science” clips ring so true. I think Tyson will be great!

  7. OtherRob

    While I do occasionally watch Family Guy, with this:

    “We’re obsessed with angels and vampires and whatnot,” Mr. MacFarlane, 37, said in a telephone interview, “when there are many more exciting and very real and much more spectacular things to be excited about, that are right in our own planetary backyard.”

    My respect for Seth MacFarlane just went up a whole lot. :)

  8. o rly
  9. Ian

    Dunno. Watching “Wonders of the Universe” on Science and Cox is definitly channeling Sagan on that one. It’s a bit light on the science, but does a good job in conveying, well, the wonder and all.

  10. John P

    I can not wait to see this! I think it will be a super winner, and hopefully get millions interested in proper science again!

  11. Zapp Brannigan

    They can rope in other Fox TV personalities as well. For example, Gordon Ramsay will bake the apple pie from scratch.

  12. Brian Rose

    Awesome! I can’t wait to sit down on the couch with the kids and watch it. Although last time around I believe it was on public TV (no commercials!).

  13. Mike

    Arguably, Tyson will do a better job than Sagan. *Gasp*. Yeah, I said it.

    Don’t get me wrong, Sagan was great and I’m a big fan, but he put me to sleep more than once. Ditto for Brian Cox. I’m seriously thinking of deleting the “series record” on my DVR for Wonderful Universe because I just can’t stay awake through an episode. The photo sequences are self indulgent and Brian’s voice is melodically droning in the background–just like Sagan in Cosmos. Gimme Tyson, gimme Phil, or at least someone else that can make this series better than reading a textbook–an old textbook.

  14. My brain is feeling overwhelmed by nostalgia and an intense desire to have this on the air now!

  15. Carlos

    Fantastic news…but Seth McFarlane has worked on a new Cosmos show before: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hE_OehRLH3s

  16. Christopher

    Fox TV may not be a subsidiary of Fox News but both are subsidiaries of News Corporation. Of course, so is Vogue magazine, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and MySpace.com… Say what you will about Fox News but as Dr P pointed out. It’s a huge freaking company with many diverse components.

    Either way. Super excited about this! I can’t watch Sagan, it is so boring. Neil is a fantastic speaker. I cannot wait for this.

  17. Awesome. So incredibly awesome.

    For years I’ve been saying that Tyson and Cox are the worthy successors of Sagan’s legacy, and here I see that Tyson is being handed the mantle. As #1 says: truly, much is expected. I am SO looking forward to this. :)

  18. RJK

    Oh, this is exciting!

    So glad that Ms. Druyan is involved. To hear her speak about her late husband, it’s clear that she is still and likely will remain deeply devoted to him and the legacy they worked together to build. Plus, though she doesn’t possess the same public presence as Mr. Sagan, she’s quite exceptional and eloquent in her own right.

    I wonder what they’ll do about the music. The Vangelis score would probably be too dated to reuse in its totality, but it’d be a shame if they tossed it all.

  19. For those of us in the U.S., the original Cosmos is available on Hulu (with crappy commercial breaks, but at least it’s free) right here: http://www.hulu.com/cosmos

    It also used to be on Netflix Instant, but went away for some reason :(

  20. While there’s a bit that’s new, i have few quibbles about anything Sagan said. It has held up pretty darned well.

  21. Ohio Mike

    “To circumvent the expected comments on this, note that Fox News is separate from Fox TV…”

    Thanks for this, BA. It saves me a posting.

    Um, wait.

  22. A good friend of mine gave me the remastered “Cosmos” DVD collection for Christmas, and I can watch it over and over. The book is fantastic, too! Carl Sagan was one of my heroes (the other being Stanley Kubrick), so this DOES interest me. One cannot deny Neil deGrasse Tyson’s enthusiasm, and the fact that he’s collaborating with Ann Druyan does bode well for the series. I’d RATHER see the show on PBS or Discovery, but who knows? Maybe the prime time exposure it gets on Fox will stimulate an interest in astronomy in FAR MORE people. So much the better.

  23. Scot

    Cannot wait! Loved the show as a kid, love Neil Tyson … High expectations, hope its not wasted :)

  24. “Fox News is separate from Fox TV”

    Unless I am mistaken, both are owned by Rupert Murdoch, and the “Fox” name reflects common ownership—it’s not just a coincidence.

    One could also say that the Space Shuttle is separate from NASA. Yes, they are not the same, but phrasing it like this makes it sound like they are as separate as Katharine and Audrey Hepburn, which is not the case. Correct me if I am wrong.

  25. This is fantastic news. I watched Cosmos as a kid, and it had a profound influence in my interest for science. This is coming just in time to watch it now with my own kids.

  26. brlet

    Fox tv is not fox news, but it wasn’t fox news that cancelled firefly.

  27. May it inspire a new generation of kids to get involved in science. The roads from my curiosity, skepticism and love of science all lead back to “Cosmos.”

  28. Rhett

    Looking forward to how Tyson pronounces “billions.”

  29. Dennis

    I feel like all the content for a new “Cosmos” has been and is being covered by the multitude of science/astronomy/cosmology shows on the Discovery Networks & Nat Geo network – all of which I watch (yes, even the ones with Phil ;-P ).
    However, airing it on Fox with a presenter as accessible as Tyson will probably reach a greater mass of people, so I’m all for it – and can’t wait to see it.

  30. Liisa

    I was JUST thinking about this last week. With Tyson making the podcast rounds after TAM9 I started paying more attention to his speaking style and made the obvious connection to Sagan. I’m thrilled it won’t be long between my brain thinking “they should let him do an updated Cosmos” and actually being able to watch it.

  31. Dave C

    Wonder if Neil will go as far as Carl, just to cut a pie.

  32. Joel

    Of course, what we really need brought back is Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man.

  33. Chief

    #27 Rhett.

    Better update that saying, today with the known universe’s new discoveries, “Trillions” will be more apt.

    I am assuming that the graphics and video’s of the currently observed universe will be offered and really hope that this is released on Blu Ray to take advantage of this imagery. Expecially since I don’t have TV. Also, Tyson has to make this his own as to much similarity to Mr. Sagan’s version could start a war of “he missed this part which was my favorite memory from” etc.

    Re #31 Dave C

    Wonder how many cuts over 90 to get down to the subatomic particles and why stop there, down to the strings…..

    I often listen to Cosmos while working in the workshop. Love the Music and way the stories are told.

  34. Elmar_M

    “It is not going to be the same without Carl :( ” says sentimental me.
    I hope they manage to capture the mood and the essence of the old show.
    The soundtrack and of course Carl Sagan made a lot of the appeal of the old show. I wonder whether they will manage to live up to these high standards.
    I am definitely going to keep an eye out for it. This could be great, if they do it right…
    I hope they dont screw it up though!

  35. Steve

    2013? But I want it now! Seriously, I’m glad to see this occurring. Cosmos had a big influence on me, as did reading Broca’s Brain. Hopefully it will inspire a new generation.

  36. Well, the Moon Hoax thing was Fox television…they have some penance to do ;p

  37. Sion

    Neil? Neil? Was Phil not available?! Pah!

  38. dirk

    When I was about 12, I saw a documentary on FOX about the moon. My dad said it was garbage, but I was skeptical about that until I found BA year or two later.

    But yeah, Fox TV = Fox News = Murdoch.. sometimes they can come up with something interesting, and worth watching.. but there’s never a good motive behind it.

  39. Beau

    I loved going through and watching the series on Netflix. Cosmos was a little before my time, so I never really saw it until about a year ago. I love Neil Tyson, and he’s the perfect “next generation” Carl Sagan.

  40. I can think of no one better to revamp an update COSMOS than NDT. It is sad though that Brian Cox’s series Wonder of the Universe/Solar System was not aired on PBS here. I think a couple of episodes of Wonders surpassed Cosmos.

    Neil Tyson is the new generations Sagan, and so is Brian Cox.

  41. Legion

    “To circumvent the expected comments on this, note that Fox News is separate from Fox TV, so the irony is there but perhaps not as strong as you might think.”

    Uh yeah, Phil. We already know this. Is anyone scratching their head over the fact that Family Guy is on Fox?

    So, no, I’m not seeing any irony here at all. Married With Children and In Living Color put Fox on the map when they were a startup network in 1987 – becoming the 4th network in history. The fact that Fox News is also owned by them does not confuse me or anyone else with a half a brain – and a half a brain is all I’m really working with these days. Ha!

    Love ya, Phil! Now will you please accept the friend request that I sent you on FB months ago? Thanks. :-)

  42. I don’t know.

    Neil Degrasse Tyson projects a kind-of a Mister Wizard personality. Fine in its own way, but …

    … Carl Sagan was more of a PREACHER. He wasn’t just educational and entertaining, he was INSPIRING. I just … don’t get the same sense of AWE listening to Tyson as I do when listening to Sagan.

  43. Jeremy

    This is very exciting! Cosmos influenced me about as much as any TV show could. Sagan was the consummate master of communicating the profundity and relevance of science in our lives, imo anyway. Tyson is great and as time has gone by I’ve come to really appreciate his voice in the public sphere.

    I guess I have two worries, one that Sagan is a really tough act to follow. Secondly that it will be aired on commercial TV. I think PBS afforded Sagan a free hand. The distinction between FOX News and FOX TV notwithstanding, I worry about the influence of a shameless profit-driven network getting it’s dirty hands involved…still excited though!

  44. Michael Suttkus, II

    I’m so glad this is going on the network that brought us Alien Autopsy and When Animals Attack instead of Fox News.

    But, let’s hope it’s a huge success. It’s got big boots to fill.

  45. Great news & looking forward to seeing it. :-)

    However, like (#9.) Ian I reckon Brian Cox (or the BA!) would do a better job as host and presenter of Cosmos than Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Not a big Tyson fan personally – he comes across to me as arrogant, contemptuous of those who disagree with him and actually a rather nasty person. Rejoicing in being cruel to schoolchildren and others should, IMHON, disqualify Tyson from this sort of PR gig.

    OTOH, Brian Cox is marvellous at conveying the wide-eyed wonder of everything and seems a lot less “up-himself” in Aussie vernacular and, I think, his performaces in ‘Wonders of the Solar System’ and ‘Wonders of the Universe’ were very reminsicent of Carl Sagan.

  46. Jabjabs

    Well this is the best and most odd news I have heard in a long while. Phil do what ever you can to at the very least be an extra on this show. You could be Kepler :D

  47. Marcelo

    Well, I’m glad to see a revamped Cosmos, but I’d would rather see it with a Brian duo: Cox and Griffin.

    Tyson is a thumbs down.

  48. VinceRN

    Best possible selection of a host. No offense meant to our host.

  49. Naomi

    First reaction: HOLY ^)&$@#)&!!

    Second reaction: Don’t. Mess. This. Up.

    Of course I’m going to watch it, but… well, I can’t stand MacFarlane (skeptic or not, he still created The Worst Piece Of Crap On TV!), and Fox is still a Murdoch thing, and… well. At least I have my Cosmos DVD boxset.

  50. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’m sure it will be a great show, but I doubt it will feel like Cosmos without Sagan. It would kind of be like if you were to have Family Guy without Seth MacFarlane – you could still do the show and provide the same information, but it just wouldn’t be the same.

    But all the best to them! Looking forward to watching it when it comes out!

  51. Chip

    Great news. I can get FOX-TV off air but rarely watch other than Star Trek TNG reruns. For sure I’ll watch this however. I have the updated COSMOS on DVD but will be interested to see what changes are made to this latest version.

  52. Andy I

    Where to hear Mr Tyson? My limited experience is hearing from him why Pluto isn’t a planet. Not nearly as interesting as reading Phil go bananas over a new NASA picture.

  53. It was the book Cosmos (the big, hardcover, illustrated version) that first inspired me as a child to become interested in science, and that led me later to The Demon-Haunted World, which introduced me to critical thinking.

    Thanks, Carl. You are sorely missed.

  54. Grand Lunar

    Awesome news!

    It has the potential for tribute to be made to Sagan as well, and with updated info.

    And Tyson is a great choice.

    Neat the Seth McFarlene is involved too.
    I wonder what may come of that?

    @7 OtherRob,

    Many thanks for that quote by McFarlene!
    It’s so true.

  55. Brian Schlosser

    Newscorp is big. Like, really, really big. Murdoch may get richer from crap like Fox News, but thanks to Fox we also have The Simpsons… They have given the ridiculous and the sublime!

    It’s like saying you shouldn’t use a GE light bulb because another GE company makes fighter jet engines used in a war.

  56. katwagner

    #45 Messier Tidy Upper, welp I have a bone to pick with you. I love Neil Degrasse Tyson, he’s not mean to kids – he just had to explain to them why Pluto isn’t really a planet. Anymore. And I think he’s done a wonderful job on PBS’s Nova Science Now, and I totally don’t get how he talks down to people. I mean I got a BA not a BS, and I understand this guy and the concepts he teaches about.

    As for National Geographic Channel, well, I didn’t know it was owned by News Corp til I saw it on the Daily Show. Jon scrolled a whole bunch of channels owned by Murdoch and how much we stand to lose if Murdoch goes down. So that blew me away – why does Rupert Murdoch own so many media outlets? Is that legal? Is that OK? I gagged.

  57. Joe W.

    I actually got hyped for this until I heard that MacFarlane was involved…

  58. Silent Bob

    @ 45 Messier Tidy Upper

    [Tyson] comes across to me as arrogant, contemptuous of those who disagree with him and actually a rather nasty person. Rejoicing in being cruel to schoolchildren and others…

    Eh?!!

    Messier, I’m genuinely astonished that anyone could form such an impression of Neil deGrasse Tyson.

    Can you expand on this? Do you have any examples of such behaviour?

  59. Ian

    I applaud the team up with FOX. Why go preaching to the choir over at PBS? A new COSMOS should boldly go where no man has gone before, namely, into the living rooms of millions of Americans who have never been exposed to good science programming. This is going to be epic.

  60. SLC

    PZ Myers already posted a comment on this.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/08/05/chutzpah/#comments. Se comments for info re Cosmos.

  61. Elin

    I’m loving Wonders of the Universe. Brian Cox is totally my new nerd crush. Some people think Cox’s voice is “droning;” I find it soothing. To each their own. I’m bummed that there are apparently only 4 episodes of WOTU, so I’m looking forward to the new Cosmos.

    I was lucky enough to see Dr. Tyson at TAM a couple of years ago and he didn’t come across as any more arrogant than any other high-level physicist. He even gave the audience a very brief lecture about not being condescending to religious believers. “Maybe they know something you don’t,” he said.

  62. Bryan D

    Shouldn’t the “irony” here be that this is the same Fox that gave us that Moon hoax show that you yourself did a great debunking of? Fox News seems a tad irrelevant given how big NewsCorp is, you missed the joke!

  63. Len

    Im hoping they just rerun the original and maybe redo some of the visuals / tweak any outdated info (is there any?)

    But i have a feeling that they will end up ruining this. Modern documentaries are geared towards the short attention spans of today and are full of endless repetition, basically recapping everything 4 or 5 times over after each commercial break.

    Maybe im remembering too fondly but i dont think cosmos was dumbed down like that (hmm good excuse to go rewatch it, there goes my evening)

    Modern documentaries are geared towards the short attention spans of today and are full of endless repetition, basically recapping everything 4 or 5 times over after each commercial break. See what i did there :)

  64. QuietDesperation

    MacFarlane is a bright guy, and knows how to produce things and is on good terms with Fox with the money he has made them. He could have sold Fox a show of him eating breakfast, but instead he’s doing this. And I like Family Guy. It’s actually OK for smart people to like dumb humor.

    Uh yeah, Phil. We already know this. Is anyone scratching their head over the fact that Family Guy is on Fox?

    You’re not reading other sites about this. Some people are already predicting the show will espouse a creationist viewpoint. Seriously, some people are saying Fox will demand anti-science content and that Tyson will eventually quit. They should really go see Randi about those precognitive powers.

    What’s funny is that Fox decides to do this, hires a solid scientist host, and all many can do is trip over their own ideology and have hissy fits about how, like, Fox is like, evil and eats babies, or something. Kudos to Phil for avoiding that whole mess. See the Slashdot thread for an example of what I’m talking about. Entertaining, but really sad at the same time. It’s the ideological echo chamber effect in full force. The world becomes a cartoon filled with nothing but angels and demons, and politics morphs into theology.

    I’m sure it will be a great show, but I doubt it will feel like Cosmos without Sagan.

    Here’s my potential blasphemy: I thought that Sagan was a bit too maudlin. Never understood the near deification people grant him. As with many things, his book was better. ;-) And please, for the love of anything good that may still exist, no more Vangelis music.

  65. Stan

    I was in college at the time when “Cosmos” came out. A member of our astronomy club was able to contact Carl Sagan’s agent to see if he would give a talk. I think the fee was $2000.00. It was far more than we could afford.

    Ever since watching “Universe” on the History Channel, I felt Amy Mainzer would be the perfect choice to bring Cosmos to life again.

    Anyone hear of Jack Bacon? I have an autographed copy of his book “The Parallel Bang”. The sales rep said that he was the next Carl Sagan. That was about five years ago. Haven’t heard anything about him since. Guess I need to Google him. Wonder how many people have been branded “the next Carl Sagan”.

  66. NateHevens

    I really hope it’s not them just tweaking the original. My hope is that it’s a sort of “sequel”, talking about all the things we’ve learned since Sagan’s last update on the show.

    And Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson? Honestly… they couldn’t have picked better if they tried. I’m such a huge fan. And Seth McFarlane? Really? That is INCREDIBLE!

    With the people at the helm of the update, it’s going to be hard to mess this up, IMO.

  67. Anything with Seth McFarlane AND Neil Tyson in it has to be awesome.

  68. Please, please, PLEASE let us have this on British TV!!!!! Yes, I’m one of those old enough to remember the original – which even Brian Cox described as the greatest science series ever made, and the Gold Standard to which he himself aspires.
    Sadly, I can’t help thinking the same as Len #65. It’s exactly the same in our documentaries; after every commercial break, the narrator has to remind the viewers what they were just watching three minutes ago. not to mention the “Coming up…” just before each commercial break, telling us what’s about to happen in three minutes’ time… PLEASE don’t let them ruin this that way!

  69. Eugene

    Tyson has some immensely entertaining and informative talks floating around Youtube, and they’re not all just about Pluto :p And he plays a great nice-guy counterpoint to Dawkins’ grumpy old man when talking about atheism.

    My one demand for this show is that they MUST continue to refer to humans as being made of Starstuff. Greatest word ever.

  70. Nick M

    What *I* would like to see is a series with many of our top Astronomers of today…Brian Cox, Amy Mainzer, Caroline Porco, and maybe that guy in Boulder…what’s his name, again?…anyway, put that kind of cast together for a kind of Cosmos Redux. Not necessarily the same show, but a unified piece of science, education and poetry in the spirit of Cosmos, perhaps with it’s own beautiful, modern (and new) surreal score for the soundtrack.

    Alternatively, I’m waiting for Michael Bay to score the rights on the film version of “Sixty Symbols.” I’ve always wanted to see Prof. Moriarty armed with a quantum nano-canon taking on Prof. Bowley’s spongy ball mind weapon in a battle to the death at the LHC. The explosions would be epic(ly small)!

    Oh, I nerd myself.

  71. QuietDesperation

    Well, Tyson is the host. Nothing says he can’t have other people talk.

    I’ve always wanted to see Prof. Moriarty armed with a quantum nano-canon

    I might be getting tired of steampunk. I read Girl Genius but that’s about it. League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen ran off the rails somewhere around volume 3.

  72. Brian Too

    Owned by NewsCorp. The same NewsCorp that owns the News of the World? Why yes, yes it is! The paper so dirty they had to shut it down instead of resorting to the usual corporate excuse that it was “one or two bad apples.”

    I am perpetually ready to be disappointed by Fox, NewsCorp and their leaders.

    Now this does not automatically spell doom for the new Cosmos series. They’ve made a promising start and NewsCorp does have some good properties too. It’s just that NewsCorp does not seem to have any floor on their standards.

  73. Great news, but I tend to agree with Neil Haggath #70 and Len #65 regarding the perceived short attention span of today’s viewers by the TV companies and the script repeats after the commercials. I just can’t see it beating the defacto Gold Standard set by Sagan. NdeGT is great, but will he be the one who makes the content decisions as Sagan-Soter-Druyan-Malone were in charge of the original for PBS, whereas now it will probably be some suits in the office!

    Everything has to be cool and sensationalised rather than popularised now!

  74. Fox is perfectly happy to show stuff that pushes against Murdoch’s ideology as long as people watch and it makes money. See The Simpsons.

    I have my doubts that this will have the kind of pull they want, but if it does, more power to them.

  75. jsallison

    Now if we could talk someone into remaking Kenneth Clarke’s Civilisation. Could never get past his teeth.

  76. Silent Bob

    Speaking of Neil Tyson…

    Some videos of his recent talk at TAM 9 have been posted.

    Highly entertaining and recommended:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E93W0zkh1J8 (08:33)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6Y8tG6pJDY (07:39)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVym6ITIUgI (05:10)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qlt0hkLNr3w (04:56)

  77. Naomi

    QuietDesperation @ 66, if they take out Vangelis’ Alpha (or Pulstar, or Heaven & Hell), I’m boycotting the whole series :|

  78. Marco Sognatore

    I agree with Ian, #61. If this was a PBS production it would just mean preaching to the choir. Through Fox the information and the philosophy will reach a different segment of the population, and if the show is done right it will resonate with them- hopefully without having to dumb itself down too much.

  79. davidlpf

    sounds interesting and if they need a peon in their team I am diffently free.

  80. realta fuar

    I agree (mostly) with Marcelo and MTU: I personally can’t stand Neil Tyson. He’s not the worst person that could be chosen for this but he’s in second place. I’ve never seen him do or say anything that didn’t absolutely reek of self-aggrandizement. Brian Cox would have been a much better choice. Doesn’t matter if Ann Druyan chose or approved him (IF she did) as it’s a very good rule for writers etc. NOT to be involved in casting (the late, lamented Robert Parker thinking that Joe Montegna was a great Spenser is a classic example of this).

  81. Asterra

    Bleh. I am no fan of Tyson. He seems to spoil any science programming he appears in. Perhaps this is partially the fault of producers who are trying too hard to widen their audience. For example, compare the typical MTV-esque documentary of today to the quality shows of yesteryear. Same mentality at work.

    My real worry here is that if these are indeed meant to be a “revamped” version of Cosmos, with Tyson somehow shoehorned into my favorite series of all time, there is a real threat that whenever properly remastered* versions of Cosmos are considered (for Bluray or whatever’s current), these Tyson versions may be the go-to material. That would be saddening. I would be forced to create my own, Tyson-free iterations. Shrug. I’m up to the task.

    *Cosmos exists as two components: 60i video and 24fps film. The film is almost certainly 16mm. The resolution of 16mm film negatives slightly exceeds 1080p (and even a 16mm print can net you around 72op). Additionally, both the video and film elements could use some SERIOUS remastering. The audio could use a lossless presentation. So there is plenty of argument for remastered, high-definition versions of the show.

  82. @59. Silent Bob :

    @ 45 Messier Tidy Upper : “[Tyson] comes across to me as arrogant, contemptuous of those who disagree with him and actually a rather nasty person. Rejoicing in being cruel to schoolchildren and others…”
    Eh?!! Messier, I’m genuinely astonished that anyone could form such an impression of Neil deGrasse Tyson. Can you expand on this? Do you have any examples of such behaviour?

    The whole Pluto issue – and Tyson’s rude dismissal of many people incl. schoolchildren who complained and argued with him over it.

    I could be mistaken here but if I recall right, it was Tyson who originally controversially removed Pluto from a display at the Hayden Planetarium (?) – well before the IAU had made its, in my view (& many others) totally wrong, definition anti-ice dwarfs decree – wasn’t it?

    I viewed footage of Tyson and his arrogant and brutally contemptuous stance on the news and a documentary which was screened on SBS or ABC TV Australia a few years ago, a couple of times. Neil D.G. Tyson came across as a real jerk.

    PS. Afraid I haven’t got the source available to quote right now, alas. Can’t even recall the exact title or documentary producer – it was recorded on VCR tape, since lost. Can’t seem to find this online either as of yet. :-(

  83. From all that I’ve read, Tyson is a cool guy but entirely mainstream. His published speculations also seem to be entirely mainstream, from what I’ve read. Sagan, on the other hand, had a completely unique perspective of reality and was not so quick to jump on the mainstream bandwagon on all occasions, and all of his statements concerning reality seemed to have qualifiers such as, “according to the present cosmological model,” etc.

    Sagan also brought in a interesting blend of history and science which was uncommon at the time. His ideas concerning possibilities of life in the universe involving a multitude of conditions, were also very interesting and unique. I will certainly look at the modern version but do not expect too much because I think Tyson will spend too much time on BB theory which I believe is almost entirely wrong, and not enough time on logical possibilities, history, and other related subjects.

  84. petew

    Shudda got Brian Cox to do it “cause that would be amaaaaziing”

  85. Silent Bob

    @ 87 MTU

    Fair enough, my friend. I notice several others have chimed in to agree with you since I asked my question.

    I was just surprised because I’ve read a book by Tyson (Death by Black Hole), seen a TV show hosted by Tyson (Origins), heard his radio show (StarTalk Radio), heard him speak “live” many times (on YouTube), and seen him be a guest on various chat shows – and I just honestly have never noticed the “nastiness” others have referred to.

    Anyway, love him or loathe him I urge you to watch at least the first video of his TAM 9 talk last month that I posted earlier (@ 79). His example of “hate mail” he has received over Pluto is an absolute classic :-)

  86. Robert Carnegie

    I think it was the same BBC radio show that introduced material that became [Red Dwarf], that also presented a version of [Cosmos] in which “Sagan”, probably voiced by Christopher Barrie, included in a list of things that scientists know about the cosmos, that it’s an anagram of “smoocs”.

    I can’t decide whether I really expect you to be pleased to know that, or whether I merely am pleased that I do. And it might have been [In One Ear], anyway.

    Someone also did a radio “Bleeding Incredible World of Clarke von Dingleberry”, rather lost on a British audience, presented from “Joe’s Beach Bar, Sri Lanka”, where this Clarke apparently -lived-. The bar. (Yes, I know. But wouldn’t you if you could, tsunami aside? Which is one big “aside”.)

    In one of the pieces, he discussed the many places around the world where Bigfoot, Yeti, and other such creatures were reported to be seen occasionally, and he had very carefully satisfied himself before moving in that Joe’s Beach Bar, Sri Lanka, wasn’t one of them.

  87. I’ve always felt that Michio Kaku would be the one to fill Sagan’s shoes, but I’m still looking forward to this with untold excitement.

  88. davem

    I’m OK with Mr Tyson, as long as he calls it the ‘cosmos’ and not ‘cosmose’. Drove me mad at the time, still does….

  89. @ Brian Too :

    Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp is a HUGE organization. Their decision to buy News of the World (before the scandal hit) was almost certainly fuelled by two, and only two, factors:

    1. News of the World was a media outlet, and
    2. News of the World had an attractive balance sheet.

    When Muroch bought them out, his instructions were probably little more than “Keep making a profit however it is that you’ve been doing it.”

  90. Asterra

    @92 In my opinion, Michio Kaku shares similarities with Tyson (aptly described by #88 as being too “mainstream”). When I listen to either of them, my impression is that their body of knowledge and inspiration came 100% from The Science Channel and similar resources. Michio Kaku gets points, however, for being a more uncluttered mind and easier to listen to. I would have strongly preferred him being associated with this Cosmos revisit.

    Tyson has two modes: Rehearsed, and interviewed. When he isn’t hosting whatever program one finds him in, he tends to stumble and ramble a bit. I particularly remember one program where he had been asked what would happen if you got sucked into a black hole (or something like that). It was embarrassing to watch him reach for a more detailed response than a grinning “It’ll.. just.. blow you away.”

  91. Gary

    Two quick points: (1) Tyson is no Carl Sagan. He rubs me the wrong way and always has. Sagan explained science; he didn’t dumb it down the way Tyson does. (2) “updated” versions of classic science shows usually mean replacing slower-paced but thorough explanations with hyper quick-cut MTV-style computer animations…and the more exploding stars, the better. Consider the difference between Burke’s classic hour-long “Connections” with the almost incomprehensible 20-minute (after commercials) Connections 2 and 3. I don’t think modern audiences are given credit for having attention spans long enough to sit through a full hour of dialogue like that found in the original Cosmos.

  92. CB

    Tyson does a great job on Nova: Science Now, and I think he would do even better on subjects more in his wheelhouse. The perfect choice? Maybe not. I do get the impression that he is a shameless self-promoter, but that’s not necessarily bad as long as his method for doing so is the promotion of science.

    He is the one, btw, who took the first steps towards “demoting” Pluto at the Hayden Planetarium. I saw a lengthy interview with him on the subject, and explained his views with patience and understanding towards those who had sentimental feelings. I would want to see a specific clip of him being “rude”, beyond just refusing to tell children what they wanted to hear. Personally I smell projection on the part of those who were offended by Pluto’s demotion regardless of how it is handled. I mean given how grossly facts are misrepresented by these people in order to make the definition seem silly, I definitely am not going to take their qualitative judgments at face value.

    Anyway, that controversy will die off. Hopefully the legacy of Cosmos will live on.

  93. Brian Too

    @94. tracer,

    Oh I agree. And that’s the problem, isn’t it (I mean, the part about being profitable, not us agreeing)?

    When corporations reward profitability no matter how that is achieved. And only seem to care about the law, reputation, morality and other nasty ‘externalities’ when they get caught.

    I do not buy the “they are a huge corporation” excuse. I do not believe the “I was betrayed by trusted insiders” excuse. I believe that it is the responsibility of management to know, in considerable detail, how they earn their money, when, and where. They are to know who they employ and why. If you tell me they did know then they are complicit in organizational failings. If you tell me they did not know then they are incompetent.

    Seriously, the business model of the News of the World was on display every day. There was already a cell phone hacking investigation prior to the last one. Why, I remember Princess Diana complaining about the tabloid press and their intrusions, what, 20 years ago?

    And it does not equate for me, suggesting that the public’s appetite for the dirt somehow washes clean the body corporate. No it does not. Not in morality nor philosophy.

    But on a realistic level, if you want to do something about the situation, you must go after the control points. Which means the corporate sector.

  94. carbonUnit

    It was Fox which aired the Alien Autopsy travesty. On the plus side, maybe the pendulum is about to swing the other way. Real Reality [both words whose meaning has been destroyed] programming might be seen as fresh and innovative!!! Maybe the sheeple are tiring of endless psychic/bigfoot/woo drivel which they may sense, at some level actually is BS. I think the worst that is likely to happen is that Cosmos doesn’t go over as fabulously as I would hope. (If they put it to a cRAP score, that would be a pretty serious frak-up.) This stands a chance of being something major for a new generation.

    You might say I’m a dreamer…

  95. CB

    I think it was the same BBC radio show that introduced material that became [Red Dwarf], that also presented a version of [Cosmos] in which “Sagan”, probably voiced by Christopher Barrie, included in a list of things that scientists know about the cosmos, that it’s an anagram of “smoocs”.

    LLOL. Literally laughed out loud. Was “Son of Cliché” the show? That’s what WP says Red Dwarf is from.

  96. Nigel Depledge

    Kyle S (92) said:

    . . . I’m still looking forward to this with untold excitement.

    Oh, but you just told us about your excitement . . . so . . . does that mean that it’s now told excitement?

  97. Nigel Depledge

    Forrest Noble (88) said:

    . . . I think Tyson will spend too much time on BB theory which I believe is almost entirely wrong, and not enough time on logical possibilities, history, and other related subjects.

    So, if you think BBT is “almost entirely” wrong, which bits of it do you think are correct?

    And do you have a better explanation for facts such as these:
    1. The universe is expanding;
    2. There is a cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB);
    3. The temperature of the CMB is 2.7 K;
    4. The CMB is smooth to within 1 part in 10,000;
    5. The CMB contains heterogeneities at the level of 1 part in 100,000;
    6. The universal abundance of H, He and Li match predictions from the BB model;
    7. No elements other than H, He and Li have a universal abundance;
    8. The universe is (as far as we can tell) isotropic and homogeneous at coarse resolution;
    9. At fine resolution, the heterogeneity we observe matches the BB model;
    10. The spectrum of the CMB matches that of a black body.

  98. Nigel Depledge

    @ MTU (87) –
    Well, you’re not exactly known for being objective over the issue of Pluto’s classification, so if that’s your only objection to Tyson, it’s really not very convincing. If you can link to some actual dialogue in which Tyson is being rude or whatever, that’d be useful.

  99. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Nigel Depledge : Well if you had read my comment # 87 above you’d see I have tried to do so. I’m certainly not alone on this.

    As for being ‘objective’, I can’t see why my pro-ice dwarf views are to be condemned as not convincing whilst views that are biased against Pluto are apparently okay. :-(

    I think objectively I *have* made a convincing case for why Pluto and the otherice dwrafs doindeed count as planets just as the gas giants and rock dwarfs do.

    It’s a shame you disagree and frankly I can’t fathom why you disagree when all the anti-Pluto mob has on its hands is one big argument from authority fallacy. Seems to me that Pluto and the ice dwrafs are being denied planetary status for the “sin” of being small and having other similiar worlds as well – yet this applies equally as well against Earth as it does Pluto. After all, Earth is tiny too compared to Jupiter and lies in a belt of similar worlds Venus, Mars and Mercury.

  100. Moonhead

    I’m happy with any new, good popularized documentaries on astronomy, including this one. I’m just not sure whether it should be done under the ‘Cosmos’ flag. I hope the project is treated like a sequel and not an upgrade replacing the original (I’m one of those people that never found piece with Lucas’s ‘upgrades’ to Star Wars TOS. Except maybe the moving dewback lizards in ‘A New Hope’.)

    #96 Gary wrote “‘updated’ versions of classic science shows usually mean replacing slower-paced but thorough explanations with hyper quick-cut MTV-style computer animations…and the more exploding stars, the better.”

    That is indeed one of several possibilities I fear. And bad, generic drum ‘n’ bass interludes :(

    # 93 davem wrote: “I’m OK with Mr Tyson, as long as he calls it the ‘cosmos’ and not ‘cosmose’. Drove me mad at the time, still does…”

    Lol. I had come to accept that this was indeed the common American pronunciation (or at least, New Yorkish). But from your comment I understand it’s on the same level as pronouncing ‘suns’ as ‘sunnns’.

  101. CB

    It’s a shame you disagree and frankly I can’t fathom why you disagree when all the anti-Pluto mob has on its hands is one big argument from authority fallacy. Seems to me that Pluto and the ice dwrafs are being denied planetary status for the “sin” of being small and having other similiar worlds as well – yet this applies equally as well against Earth as it does Pluto. After all, Earth is tiny too compared to Jupiter and lies in a belt of similar worlds Venus, Mars and Mercury.

    We aren’t “anti-Pluto”, we’re “pro-fact, sentimental feelings for what you learned in grade school be damned.” Pluto is still a very awesome body, it’s just in a different class than the 8 planets. That this implies “anti-Pluto” just shows the underlying emotional basis for this controversy.

    All we have is the correct observation that Pluto has not cleared its orbit like the other 8 planets have.

    All you have is gross and deliberate misunderstandings of what we are talking about when we say that, and statements of laughable inaccuracy like “yet this applies equally well against Earth as it does Pluto.” No, it doesn’t. The Earth has cleared its orbit to an extent 22,000,000 times greater. That’s seven orders of magnitude difference.

    Only someone completely neglecting reason in favor of their pre-determined emotion-based conclusion would ignore a factor of 10^7 difference to say the argument “applies equally well” to both cases.

    Fortunately, in the long term, emotions will fade, science will prevail, and history will look back on this time and wonder why there was any controversy at all when the Pluto categorization is so obvious and natural, just like Ceres is viewed today. Heh, that’s not true, it will be clear why there was controversy — human emotions, in particular nostalgia.

  102. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (104) said:

    I think objectively I *have* made a convincing case for why Pluto and the otherice dwrafs doindeed count as planets just as the gas giants and rock dwarfs do.

    It’s a shame you disagree and frankly I can’t fathom why you disagree when all the anti-Pluto mob has on its hands is one big argument from authority fallacy. Seems to me that Pluto and the ice dwrafs are being denied planetary status for the “sin” of being small and having other similiar worlds as well – yet this applies equally as well against Earth as it does Pluto. After all, Earth is tiny too compared to Jupiter and lies in a belt of similar worlds Venus, Mars and Mercury.

    Well, I’ll try to keep this brief so’s not to derail this thread too extensively . . .

    I personally feel that the “dwarf planet” category is not much more than a sop. It is not needed. I addressed all of your arguments both against the IAU definition and in favour of your own preferred definition in this thread:
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/07/27/wise-finds-the-very-first-earth-trojan-asteroid/#comments
    Unfortunately, despite my first rebuttal being only about 12 hours after your latest post there, you have not posted again since, and I can only assume that you gave up visiting that thread before I really got into my stride.

  103. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (104) said:

    It’s a shame you disagree and frankly I can’t fathom why you disagree when all the anti-Pluto mob has on its hands is one big argument from authority fallacy. Seems to me that Pluto and the ice dwrafs are being denied planetary status for the “sin” of being small and having other similiar worlds as well.

    To reiterate briefly from the last thread in which this came up:

    1. You have claimed that the IAU definition is illogical, but you have not shown this to be so;
    2. You claim the IAU “discriminates” against Pluto and Ceres (et al.) because of their size, but this is just false;
    3. You misrepresent the “gravitational clearance” criterion but I have yet to see you make any honest attempt to understand it;
    4. You conveniently ignore the fact that your preferred definition is at least as arbitrary as the IAU’s;
    5. You ignore the fact that your preferred definition would have Pluto and Ceres classed as planets (which they resemble in only superficial ways) and segregated from the KBOs and asteroids respectively (which they resemble in all important respects);
    6. You have used an analogy to biological classification, and suggested that excluding Pluto from “planets” is like excluding mice from “mammals”, but classing Pluto as a planet (and therefore separating it from other KBOs) would actually be more like excluding the blue whale from “mammals”.

    And so on. Yes, there are additional objections and issues with the arguments you make, but I was trying to be brief here.

    yet this applies equally as well against Earth as it does Pluto. After all, Earth is tiny too compared to Jupiter and lies in a belt of similar worlds Venus, Mars and Mercury

    This is deliberately obtuse.

    Earth, Venus, Mercury and Mars are each by far and away (i.e. several orders of magnitude) the largest and most massive thing in their orbital region. Pluto simply isn’t. And neither are Ceres, Eris, Makemake, Haumea or Sedna.

    There is a very real discontinuity between the kind of things that are the 8 IAU planets and the kind of things of which Pluto and Ceres are the largest known examples. This discontinuity could well indicate something fundamentally different about the formation of these objects, or their history within the solar system between the initial formation of planetary objects and the present kinda-stable arrangement.

    IIUC, Pluto has been forced into an orbital resonance by Neptune’s gravity, but nothing similar can be said for any of the four rocky inner panets.

  104. Nigel Depledge

    Moonhead (105) said:

    I’m happy with any new, good popularized documentaries on astronomy, including this one. I’m just not sure whether it should be done under the ‘Cosmos’ flag.

    Yeah, I agree with this. Unless they make it a simle updating of the original series, I can’t see why they are using the name. Either it’s a new show about the cosmos (and, hey, why not give it its own name?) or it’ll just be re-inventing the wheel. But with whizzy computer graphics.

  105. Elena

    Why Neil Tyson? I personally don’t like him, he comes across as arrogant and mean. Brian Cox would’ve been a much better choice.

  106. flip

    Bit late after the discussion, but anyway…

    All the people commenting on how Fox being in charge (or suits for that matter) will change the quality of the show should remember two things:
    1. In order to produce the show, someone had to convince the bean-counters that there is a market for it
    2. Someone will be smart enough to research the market audience, track opinions, and make sure that fans aren’t pissed off

    It’s exactly the same reaction that people will have to movies made from novels or comic books. Even Fox isn’t going to be stupid enough to completely change the underlying concepts of the show; and that astronomy heavyweights have signed off on being part of it suggests that they were contractually satisfied that Fox wouldn’t screw up too much.

    This isn’t to say that it will be perfect, or that it won’t end up being crap. Only that it’s highly unlikely that a corporation will create something that they know will backfire on their target audience/income. (Assuming their target audience is people who usually watch these kinds of programs, and not, you know, trying to make inroads on a target audience who usually doesn’t)

  107. Nemo

    I’m happy for Tyson to have his own show. I’m really unhappy that they’re calling it Cosmos. He should do his own thing under his own title.

  108. Kamaljeet

    Finally the world will watch TV on a subject that really matters…

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