The Continuing Return of Carl Sagan

By Carl Zimmer | March 24, 2009 11:24 am

Last summer I had a great time revisiting my geek childhood by watching old episodes of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on Itunes. As I blogged here, it may be as badly dated as a disco ball, but it’s still wonderfully captivating to my twenty-first century daughters.

Well, if you didn’t fork over $1.99 per episode then, here’s a new recession-era deal you can’t refuse. Cosmos is now on Hulu. Here’s episode one…


Comments (9)

  1. johnk

    While I liked Cosmos, my favorite TV science series was the one sponsored by AT&T (?Bell?) in the late 50s and early 60s. Some of the episodes, like “hemo the magnificent” (blood) and “windows on the mind” (about senses) are, I believe, on youtube.

    I was the target age, grade school and middle school, when these were shown. Among the things I liked: 1. the content per minute ratio was pretty high; 2. high-level ideas were well mixed with concrete facts and were clearly explained. 3. some of it was goofy and fun. 4. I didn’t feel patronized.

    These had top-flight production values for their day. Its fun to contrast the animation ideas of 50 years ago with animation ideas used today. They both work in different ways.

  2. They’re also available on Google Video (e.g. here).

  3. Blu-Ray-Ven

    well Mr. Zimmer, (and first note i am younger then you) you may think cosmos is dated. but the pace of the show was much more peaceful and attentive to the information and knowledge being presented rather then the CG and effects that keep the post MTV generation viewers focused on the show.

    for example, The Universe by the History Channel, good show, full of good info but to many “zip-zip-zip flash flash flash pan in pan out wow what was that” type CG effects meant to keep the audiences brains buzzing rather than them focusing mostly on the info being given

    [Carl: You should read my original post on Cosmos to see what I meant about it being dated.]

  4. I’m teaching an astrobiology course right now and every once in a while i think to myself… “There is NO WAY i can explain this better than Carl Sagan explained it”, so rather than be presumptuous and try, I pop in a DVD of Cosmos and show 5-10 min or so. I’m always pleased at how well my students respond to it

  5. Rob

    I’m currently reading Pale Blue Dot. Wonderful book.

  6. FastEddie

    I’m a science layman, but even I can spot a few items that are dated. But that is as it should be. What a sad state of affairs it would be if our knowledge had not increased since 1980. It would be great to see an episode-by-episode breakdown of the dated information prepared by some sort of journalist who specializes in science — if only such a creature could be found.

    During a recent rewatching, I found I most enjoyed Sagan’s tour of the history of science.

  7. Alexandra

    “We’re sorry, currently our video library can only be streamed within the United States.”

  8. About Two years ago after finishing my preliminary exams here at Colorado State I watched every single cosmos episode. I was filled with an immense energy and enthusiasm for science in general that hasn’t dissipated much. Watching these episodes led me to much reading and more watching.

    Two results worth sharing here :
    1.”The Ascent of Man” series by Jacob Bronowski, which I believe Sagan modeled this series on.
    It is entirely captivating and used to be entirely available on google video. I think they have put the cibash on that unfortunately. There were moments when watching this that I welled up with tears and cried. Highlights were the bit about Mendel and the suppression of his work -litterally burned manuscripts- by the successing abbot at his monestary. And Bronoski’s visit to Auschwitz. I think taking that 2minute clip out of the 11 hour contexts cheapens it to the point of repulsion though -see you tube.

    2. Personal encounter with Carl Sagan’s ex-wife Lynn Margulis. She gave two talks at CSU while I was in my third year and both were amazing. After the second talk she held and intimate discussion for those that were interested and I basically got an hour one on one with the originator of the endosymbiotic theory

  9. Robert Rushing

    I had exactly johnk’s reaction to Cosmos—I was the right age, and Sagan had the right personality (enthusiastic, not patronizing… in fact, I think I’ve unconsciously been aiming at the same teaching style for decades). Sadly, I must also agree with Alexandra—I’m not currently in the US, so Hulu is a loss (on the other hand, I’m in Paris, so I can’t really complain). Finally, Kris, I believe it’s “kibosh”—I don’t think it’s been spelled with a c since the 1860s or so. Anyway, here’s to Sagan—I’ve been keeping my old copy of Cosmos the book around for my son, and now that he’s seven and loving science more than ever, it’s probably about time.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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