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Cosmos is, hands-down, the greatest educational series of all-time.
Even the wonderful (and highly recommended) history series Connections
can't hold a flame to the perfection of Cosmos. If you don't believe
me, look at the user ratings.
It makes me tear up that most of my friends and almost all Americans don't know what Cosmos is (or what "cosmos" means), yet they can name every Friends cast member and their character's name and quirks.
Computer graphics have come a long way since 1980, and just a few minor scientific updates are needed, but the series was so far ahead of its time that other than the spaceship deck set, the hair, and the clothes, it doesn't seem dated in 2004. It won the Peabody and Emmy awards, and remains to this day the most watched PBS series of all time (600+ million viewers in 60 countries).
The series is 13-hours, but ought to count as a three semester hour (~45 hours of class) Intro to Cosmology college course. Sagan's ability to communicate the essence of the cosmos and the history of scientific discovery is concise and absorbs the viewer.
If ever there was a series that explained "life, the universe and everything" (an appropriate quote from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), Cosmos is it. Cosmos takes the viewer on a journey from the origin of the universe to the end of time and displays it as easily as looking at a calendar on a wall (literally, at least from the origin until present time!). Evolution of all life on Earth is condensed into a simple animation only a few seconds long. A detailed history of the origins and interactions between religion and science is engaging and sure to provoke discourse between viewers. The series also explores the massive capacities of information available in the brain and DNA (virtually wiping aside "nature" in favor of "nurture"). Cosmos details Mars and Venus and uses them to eloquently describe the "greenhouse effect" and its possible repercussions on Earth. I could describe episode by episode, by suffice it to say, it encompasses almost every "big picture" question one could ask.
Some people knock Carl Sagan for seeming smug or turning from a researcher to a public entertainer. I think of his entertainment as education to a broader audience, and any smugness should be discounted in favor of the information being conveyed. Sagan did society a tremendous favor by making this series. This is the most digestible science series I've ever seen. This should be required viewing for all high school students (or elementary students in their later elementary grades).
Whether you buy it, rent it, check it out from the library, or borrow it from a friend, watch this series. Thanks to Cosmos, you will have a better understanding of your universe.
(Incidentally, Sagan's speech is suspiciously similar in style to Agent Smith's from the Matrix. I've never heard of Hugo Weaving crediting Sagan as an inspiration but, intentionally or not, the similarity is there.)
Hey folks - THIS is pure heaven!
Today I got the Cosmos DVD box set and went completely bananas! I love it for two reasons.
First: Even for todays standards it is a well made documentation that will make you think about yourself and the world you live in. The Cold War may be over, but people are still as stupid as ever. Cosmos is not just a simple documentation about stars and planets with numbers, technobabble and nice pictures - it's a manifest for peace and understanding that EVERYBODY should see.
Second: I remember when I used to watch the series when I was ten years old. I didn't miss a single episode. Cosmos may not have CHANGED my life - but it certainly gave it a new direction. It taught me to keep an open mind and to care more about my surroundings. When I saw Cosmos today, I felt again like the little boy I was two decades ago. I'm in awe of the whole world and the wonders of the Universe that surrounds every one of us.
If you have kids: show it to them! If you want to know more about life on earth or on other planets: see it! If you think, ordinary documentations about outer space are too complicated to understand: see it! If you don't really care about the Universe, the stars and the planets, but you wonder what all the fuss is about: see it!
In any case: SEE IT!!!
Sagan. Who else could reveal the Universe to us so eloquently? Who else
could make those humans who scarcely even notice the world around them
up at the skies with wonder? And all the while, he was never
condescending... He awakened so many ordinary minds--he made us all
to the extraordinary. Amazingly, drew us in to his world, even those of
who felt that true Science was beyond their grasp.
His love of the subject was always apparent, and although
knowledge was overwhelming, his presentation of it never was.
I was in school when Cosmos was first broadcast...for me and for many people I know Cosmos was the first time the Universe came to life. I recommend it for anyone of virtually any age...Be enthralled by what's within and without...
Also recommended: The Connections Series (1, 2 and 3) and the Day the Universe Changed (with James Burke)...Also, A Brief History of Time.
More than twenty years on, but this documentary series still stands out head and shoulders above most. It is not simply the fact that it was a well-made production, but more of how it was presented. Professor Carl Sagan offered ordinary intelligent viewers an enthralling scientific series without the scientific language; he presented it as if he were an excellent school-teacher, right there before the class, in his careful, methodical way of speaking. His carefully worded explanations of all that could be seen on screen added superbly to that something which is close to magical; thus, for many people, it was a magnificent series for people to learn English; and I include a lot of North Americans and British people!
The magnificent use of visual concepts as Professor Sagan took us on his voyage into the unknown, was admirably backed up by a sensational selection of music which just lifted the entire work way above the run-of-the-mill documentaries. Here there is no preaching: just simple plain old-fashioned teaching; but so carefully carried out. The universe came to life as we journeyed on through the Cosmos: it was at once exciting, it was fun, it was spell-binding, but this series was always educational in the first degree.
And do not think I am talking about it being for a classroom of 14 year-olds: this is not the case. Whatever your age, `Cosmos' is one of those great landmarks in the making of anything for the screen, whether the big one or the small one.
Previous to this wonderful series, I had only heard Vangelis' music in `Chariots of Fire', but with the selection used in `Cosmos' I have become the firmest stalwart of this brilliant Greek musician and composer. Who can forget such delightful pieces as `Entends-tu les Chiens Aboyer' and - on my LP recording! - the Bulgarian Shepherdess Song, as well as the other pieces used to such effective advantage for this unrepeatable TV documentary series?
This is a series that should be repeated again and again. Outstandingly brilliant.
Many thanks to the late Professor Carl Sagan and to KCET, Los Angeles.
There really is no way to convey how much of an impact this series had on me when it first came out back in 1980. The views of our life here on this little blue marble seemed so insignificant compared to the vastness of the cosmos. It came to pass then my views on science and technology forever changed and turned my life around. One of the most significant features of the series was the selection of soundtrack music. It was also an example of appreciation for the finer things in life that we take for granted. For anyone with even the slightest interest in space and technology truly needs to spend time in the "Cosmos" to get a view of our world from a different perspective. Bottom line, true brilliance and creativity at its best.
Such apparently disassociated issues as deciphering hieroglyphics from
ancient Egyptians and accompanying the Voyager spacecraft along its
planetary tour meet up in these wonderful series. Carl Sagan not only
transmits the facts, but also and perhaps most important, his enthusiasm
swoops down deeply into the spectator skin.
Sagan (who hosts the series himself) magnificently shows that science is the art of solving Nature's mysteries. Every topic that is encompassed in Cosmos, is shown as so: Beginning in the knot, showing the big efforts that are made to untie it, and the final breath-out of the human mind prevailing over the (previously) unknown. Not only science, but everyday subjects are researched as well, such as astrology or the UFO phenomenon. History also shares a good role in Cosmos.
Overall, the great production and the soundtrack make this series a MUST for everyone carrying a throbbing heart.
I was always fascinated by the documentaries created by public
television after my experience with Cosmos, Carl Sagans gift to
humanity. Beautifully weaving human knowledge into a 13 part series. He
covers the entire landscape of understanding in some way; History,
Biology, Genetics, Neuroscience, Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy,
Religion and the relationships of all these with human politics
throughout history and across cultures. It is quite a goal to hit and
it is done masterfully. I clearly remember anticipation for the
commencement of the series in 1980 when I was 9. It and many of the
later science/natural world focused PBS series to follow (Nature,
Nova,The Mechanical Universe) in the 80's were what inspired me to
pursue a profession in engineering. I hold an electrical engineering
degree because of shows like this. Here I am 25 years later discovering
again the wonder of Cosmos. I've picked up the series as a gift for my
children, yet unborn, that they may hopefully be similarly inspired by
this masterful work of television at its best.
Highiest possible recommendation.
This thirteen part series is Carl Sagan's personal account of the universe and how humans have interpreted it through time. In Cosmos, Carl Sagan takes us on location to places in the world where the most important people and ideas in science and astronomy were born, and to places in outer space where those ideas have revealed the universe to us. Carl Sagan shares a sense of wonder that is both intelligent and humorous, while occasionally warning us of our capabilities of self-destruction. Though Cosmos was made during the height of the cold war, it still stands as a reminder of global problems and dangers we still need to resolve. This series has either consciously or unconsciously set the standard for the format of almost every hosted science show or series on Television since it was made, and it's no wonder. Carl Sagan is a charismatic and sincere authority on the subject matter, and the music score is mostly by Vangelis (Bladerunner, Chariots of Fire, 1492) Synergy, Tangerine Dream, Vivaldi, and more. The visuals are amazing and remain as relevant as they were on the release date.
Carl Sagan had a way with words. He had a way of making the complex simple.
As a young teenager growing up with an interest in science this was an
excellent way to begin.
This is one of those must see programs. The music by Vangelis was also fantastic.
This ignited (excuse the pun) my interest in science and Vangelis' music which is as keen now as when I first saw and heard it.
Carl Sagan is known world-wide for being the most effective teacher ever. This series is based around his novel by the same name, which is the the best selling science book of all time. He explains how life works and how we are trying to find life elsewhere in the cosmos, how the laws of physics govern everything, how we must take care of ourselves and the earth, and so much more. He makes the Earth sound like a total paradise. Anyone even mildly interested in science should definitely see it. See this, it should be at your local library.
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