Tag Archives: Cosmos

A new Cosmos

Here’s something to look forward to. Next year a new version of the classic series Cosmos will be available. The trailer below gives and idea of its likely quality – watch it full screen. the quality is great.

Official Trailer from Comic-Con | COSMOS|

Phil Plait, writing on the Bad Astronomy blog, gives his view on what the series may be like (see Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey: Carl Sagan’s show updated with Neil Tyson).

It will be called Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey. Hosted by renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and writers Ann Druyan (Carl Sagan’s widow) and  Steven Soter. The executive producers are Seth MacFarlane and Ann Druyan.

Phil Plait warns agains prejudging a show a show only on the evidence of the trailer but feels it will be successful. And needed. Sagan’s original series, while still very effective, need updating to use new media and knowledge. Also, there is need for more pro-science public media which can help counter current anti-science and pseudoscience attitudes. As Plait says:

“We live in a time when the denial of reality is as prevalent (or more) than the acceptance of it. Much of that denial comes from a provincial view of the Universe, a narrowly constrained frame of mind that not just disallows but actively discourages doubt, questions, exploration, and freedom of discovery. The original Cosmos was all about those things, and not in a dry, documentary style, but from a very human viewpoint. This is why Cosmos endures, and why it needs to continue for a new generation.”

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Seven Minutes of Terror

Although recent US probes to Mars have been very successful there have certainly been a lot of failures in both US and Russian attempts in the past.

However, we all have our fingers crossed for the Curiosity probe which will attempt the landing of a rover on Mars in early August. But the landing itself will be very stressful. There are just so many problems to overcome – not the least  the 15 minutes radio messages take to get from Mars to Earth – one way.

I don’t know what odds to bookies place on a successful landing – but after watching this video I don’t think it can be very high.

Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror – YouTube.

Still, a lot of people are hoping for success and no doubt we will be able to share the tension, excitement and (hopefully) joys of the NASA engineers involved in real-time on the internet and via Twitter.

New Hubble images

hubble-repairNew images from NASA‘s Hubble Space Telescope are starting to appear. These are the first since the upgrade by shuttle astronauts during their 13 day service mission last May. The upgrade included a new Wide Field Camera, and repair of two other instruments. (see Hubble Telescope is Back: Fantastic New Images Released).

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Let’s celebrate!

From The Sensuous Curmudgeon this post raises an interesting thought for me; He writes in Born 23 October 4004 BC — Happy Birthday, Universe!:

“According to the Ussher chronology, computed in the 1650s from a literal reading of the Bible by James Ussher, an Anglican Archbishop, the first day of creation began on the night preceding Sunday, 23 October 4004 BC. Presumably that takes into account the missing day caused by Joshua’s commanding the sun to stand still. Because there was no year Zero, the universe will be 6,011 years old this Thursday (we’re writing on Tuesday, 21 Oct 2008).”

Now, I have never heard of any celebrations occurring each October 23rd. Nor, 11 years ago, did I hear of any celebrations for the 6000th birthday of the Universe – the big one!

It seems to me that those people who genuinely believed in “Young Earth” creation would have been partying like mad. (Come to think of it, why didn’t I know about this in my wild youth when I was always looking for an excuse to party).

Perhaps these creationists don’t really take their own claims seriously.

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Scientific dissent from . . . science?

Opponents of scientific evolutionary theory will often refer to the Scientific Dissent From Darwinism list to justify that the theory is controversial and should be discarded, or at least equal time be given to creationist “theories” in school biology classes. There is no doubt that the list is being used to attack scientific theory but its worth looking at the statement professionals on the list have signed up to. It reads:

“We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

Few of the signatories have signed the statement for scientific reasons – rather their motives have been religious (see Who are the “dissenters from Darwinism”?). However, scientists by their nature are skeptics and should always critically examine evidence. In principle few scientists would disagree with the statement. So why has the Scientific Dissent from Darwin list attracted so little scientific support (see Dissenters from Darwinism in context)?

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Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan

This Thursday is the eleventh anniversary of Carl Sagan’s death. It is marked this year, as it was in 2006, by a world-wide Carl Sagan Memorial Blog-a-Thon. Last year this featured more than 250 posts in 11 languages. Sagan was a very public figure – more so than most scientists. This was because of the enormous amount of work he did to popularise science. Many remember him, and appreciated him, because of his work on video programmes like the Cosmos series. Although first broadcast in 1980 this 13 part series still presents an awe-inspiring history of scientific discovery in a popular format.

Sagan faced opposition and criticism from within the scientific community for this work. At the time many scientists did not recognise how important the popularisation of science was. In this sense Sagan was a trailblazer and has made it much easier for scientists today to do similar work. Scientists like Richard Dawkins, Robert Winston and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Tyson discusses this in a recent Point Of Inquiry interview.

I really like Sagan’s comment about the scientific attitude:

“In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.”

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