Tuesday, March 25, 2014

History of the Cosmos; Cosmos as History

History guy
I noticed the other night:  Neil de Grasse Tyson's remake of the Carl Sagan big science classic Cosmos ... is really a history documentary.

The first program was built around on Giordano Bruno (science confronts religious authority).  The second focussed on Charles Darwin (science unhinges faith-based misunderstandings). The third was all about Edmond Halley and Isaac Newton (science predicts better than mysticism).  Fun, btw, to see a Fox Channel program bashing all the things Fox usually raises money from.

Sure, Tyson has this fancy spaceship thingee and he zooms all over the universe, but the backbone of the show is a tour of the standard topics of a History of Science lecture, with a big emphasis on the Western European Renaissance and Enlightenment periods so far. And the space tours are all super-CGI but the history stuff is very simple animation.

Not that I am complaining.  But it would not get so much buzz if they marketed it as a history doc instead of Science. And some commentators think the science is cool but the history is a bit simple:
The story of Edmond Halley sticking by his downtrodden pal and standing up to those idiots at the Royal Society who spent all of their money on 'The History of Fishes' (!) makes for good television. But Tyson is good at teasing out the nuances and complexities in complicated ideas, and I wish there was more of that in his treatment of history. Also, can we please talk about The History of Fishes?
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