TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 9

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 9, "The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth"At the beginning of its run, Cosmos tended to alternate excellent episodes with mediocre ones, which made me wonder if that would be the pattern for the whole series. But I'm happy to say that the show has hit its stride: the last three episodes, including this one, have been outstanding, and in my opinion this was the best of the three.We started out back on the Cosmic Calendar, this time in mid-December, the … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 8

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 8, "Sisters of the Sun"In earlier episodes, Cosmos has conspicuously missed opportunities to highlight the scientific contributions of women. I found that all the more perplexing because it's co-written by Ann Druyan, whom we know is attuned to feminist issues. In fact, it's because of her that Cosmos even has that title: Carl Sagan originally wanted to call it "Man in the Cosmos", until she persuaded him otherwise by pointing out the sexist … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 7

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 7, "The Clean Room"There may be some fields of science that have absolutely no political implications, but they're few and far between. Scientists stand on the front lines of humanity's advancing knowledge, and as such, they're often the first people to glimpse a looming danger, one that can only be avoided by making changes in society. And when that happens, they're inevitably faced with a choice between disinterested investigation and political … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 6

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 6, "Deeper, Deeper, Deeper Still"After the last two strong episodes, there was bound to be a clunker sooner or later, and I'm sorry to say this was it. Although it elaborated on a theme of the microscopic, atomic and sub-atomic worlds, it lacked a central narrative thread to tie together all the different stories it presented.It started out promisingly enough, with Tyson taking his miniaturized spaceship of the imagination into a dewdrop to show us … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 5

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 5, "Hiding in the Light"With computer graphics getting cheaper and better every year, every new TV show and movie has to grapple with the question of how much is too much. That's no less true for a hard-science series like Cosmos than it is for a sci-fi drama. There's always the temptation to put more flashy visuals on screen just because you can, and the technology we have now makes it possible to show razzle-dazzle that would have been inconceivable in … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 4

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 4, "A Sky Full of Ghosts"Any science show faced with time constraints has to strike a balance between breadth and depth. The process of science is always laborious and not always interesting; but if you don't show it at all, it leaves the impression that the results just dropped out of the sky like a religious revelation. The second episode of Cosmos felt overstuffed with detail; the third was just right. This one, in true Goldilocks fashion, felt a … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 3

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 3, "When Knowledge Conquered Fear"I wrote that last week's episode felt overstuffed, trying to cover a vast amount of territory in just 45 minutes of TV. This one did much better in that regard. The writing was tightly focused, telling a central story that wove throughout the episode, and using that story to provide branching-off points. This was a nearly flawless example of how science writing should be done.The central story, told mostly through … [Read more...]

New on AlterNet: Cosmos and the Creationists

My latest column is now up on AlterNet, Neil deGrasse Tyson Shows Why Small-Minded Religious Fundamentalists Are Threatened by Wonders of Universe. It's about the new Cosmos TV series, and its reminder that those who advocate new ideas have always met fierce violent resistance from the credulous masses and the elite guardians of popular orthodoxy, from the persecutors of Galileo and Giordano Bruno in the medieval era to creationists, climate-change deniers and anti-vaxers today. Read the excerpt … [Read more...]

Movie Review: Particle Fever


Last weekend I saw Particle Fever, a movie about the Large Hadron Collider and the scientists who built it in their quest to resolve one of the greatest outstanding mysteries in physics. It's easily among the most enthralling science documentaries I've ever seen, so if you get the chance, see it!The LHC was built to fill in the last missing piece of the Standard Model, the wildly successful theory that's guided particle physicists for decades, but that fails to explain why some subatomic … [Read more...]

TV Review: Cosmos, Episode 2

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 2, "Some of the Things That Molecules Do"If I had to pick one word to describe this episode, it'd be "overstuffed". Granted, the series has a huge amount of territory to cover; and unlike the original Cosmos, which aired on PBS, this one is subject to the ever-growing commercial demands of Fox, giving it just 44 minutes of television in an hourlong slot. Even so, it seemed to be straining at the seams to fit in every story it wanted to tell.The … [Read more...]