11 March 2014


So. As much as I like NdGT. I'd have to say I was sort of underwhelmed by Cosmos. I found two high points 

1) The story at the end about Carl (tying the series to the old). Most of humans teaching about and exploring the world around us owes a great deal to people before us mentoring and motivating. And not to people hectoring and lecturing. And one of the points he mentions is not merely that Sagan was a scientist of some note, but that he made a favorable impression on Neil as a human being as someone to aspire to be like not merely as a professional calling but in qualities of decency. We're not quite like robots.  

2) The pale blue dot and the capacity to pound away at the immensity of geological and universe-level time scales and the immense vastness of space. The moon as a single pixel scroll from a week ago does this too. 

Space is... really big, and usually not much to see. 

Time is also not that full of humans. The insignificance of man in the face of these features shouldn't be discounted, and does much to free us from worry over all but our most personal and immediate concerns (food, shelter, safety and well-being of loved ones, etc). Chances are, whatever it is, it just isn't going to matter very much in 50 years (rarely do humans and our squabbles matter this long) or 5000 years (much rarer) or 5 million years (we haven't even been around that long, so who knows). 

We're just not used to thinking of time in those terms. 

Most underwhelming: Bruno. I guess that was included in part to try not to piss off as many religious fundamentalists? I'm not sure if it worked or not. But the biggest problem was that Bruno was mostly operating from an unfounded conjecture and had found little or no evidence to cling to his convictions with, and there didn't appear to be a very strong tie to Galileo or Copernicus' actual discoveries and scientific explorations being made so much as a morality play about the evils of censorship and closed-minded attitudes in positions of authority (which there are rarely any other kind). 

These are both important points for the operation of discovery and inquiry. But they're not always scientific modes of discovery or inquiry after those requisites of relative freedom academically and curiosity are met for the paths of our exploration. People have explored lots of useless bullshit in their free inquiry and while dominant theories have been overturned and later ignored, not just things like the earth-centric universe, many theories go no where or turned out to be useless conjectures. We don't talk about most of it now, mostly because we have some new versions of it. I suspect string theory would fall in this category under the rubric of science that goes no where, possibly much of social psychology and medical reviews under flawed science that should go somewhere, and I know most creationist babbling would fall into it under the rubric of free formed inquiries rather than rigorous investigation. 

I've seen Neil talk before (live and on frequent guest slots on Daily Show/Colbert, and podcast appearance), so I know he knows how to communicate science and concepts of science and philosophy. But overall it was merely decent as a starting point. Between this and Bill Nye's indirect funding of Ken Ham's nonsense, this hasn't been a great month for science. But it hasn't been a bad one either. 

Note: I watched the True Detective finale first the other night and only got to Cosmos tonight (Monday). I was okay with that too but it was somewhat meh at parts. 

I did really like that they didn't get them all, just the one guy, that there wasn't some weird plot twist from left field, that they both almost died, and the last line (it used to be all dark, I think light is winning). I wasn't as fond of the Marty's family plot line back story sort of pbth'ing out. 

I'm not sure why some commenters weren't happy about the sheriff not being a lead/being obviously involved either. Lots of promising police work goes nowhere. It would make sense to include some of it at the expense of an authoritarian prick like that sheriff clearly was, being brought lower. 
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