Tonight is an exciting night of television for anyone interested in discovering how the universe works. For those of us committed to sharing our understanding of the universe, it is particularly exciting and trepidatious to think about turning on the telly at 9:00PM tonight—tuning it to the Fox network (or National Geographic) of all places—for the reboot/revival, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, of one of the most successful science documentary series on television ever: Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.
You can watch that whole original epic series on youtube now, in case you are of a younger generation who missed it entirely, or if you (like Salman Hameed at Irtiqua) want to relive the moments of your youth when Sagan lit that luminescent candle in the dark, and perhaps changed the course of your life. I can but hope (with no little trepidation) that the new Cosmos lives up to that legacy, and indeed takes it further to light up a whole new generation (of Fox TV watchers, no less) to the wonders of science.
If Neil deGrasse Tyson was able to excite Seth MacFarlane—the “creative engine” of juvenile, puerile, sexist comedy (making a ton of money) for Fox, who came up with the boob song (for Oscar 2013) which still makes me cringe—into putting his considerable wealth and clout into producing this Cosmos reboot with a lot more showbiz whizbang, and getting Fox to broadcast it (alongside NatGeo), then there is hope for many of us already excited about science but frustrated by increasing public ignorance of, and hostility towards science. But I don’t want to burden Tyson, or one show, with too many expectations – just… take me on an astonishing ride. That is all I ask! And that is what this trailer promises, so buckle in:
As you wait for the series to premiere tonight, you might also want to revisit this recent in-depth three-part interview with Tyson by Bill Moyers, which aired last month, and ranged widely, tackling not just the show and a cosmic perspective:
… but the nature of science, its increasingly irreconcilable relationship with religion, and Neil’s relegation of God to “an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance”:
… to the dark politics of the US which has held back this country from remaining the leader of science in the world:
Join me, and enjoy the ride starting tonight!
A birthday greeting and a message from the one and only peer-reviewed Darwinian rapper, Baba Brinkman.
Happy Darwin Day to everyone!
Science only adds to our appreciation of the beauty of nature, no matter what the romantics and poets may say about the dispassionate clinical eye of science. A deeper scientific understanding can only lead to a deeper aesthetic appreciation of nature’s beauty.
“I don’t understand how it subtracts”, said the physicist Richard Feynman famously once when asked about the difference in perspectives and whether science diminishes our appreciation of beauty. Several years ago, I shared a video clip of that reply, what has become known as Feynman’s “Ode to a Flower”.
Here is a beautiful animation set to Feynman’s lovely Ode – enjoy:
[Reposting this video (which I originally posted in Jun 2012) since it appears to be getting some new attention via truthout and unworthy this week.]
For a richer, more darkly humorous look at the history of oil, see this old post.
Its been a lean time here as far as my writing on this blog goes. I’m hoping this winter break somehow takes me over the hump and releases some pent up words, which, hopefully, will flow across this blog once again. Meanwhile, just to keep you hooked, allow me to share some more videos, like this one featuring a ferocious tigress.
You may be wondering, why is leafwarbler (yes, the same, who wrote this polemic against tigers) suddenly sharing videos of lions and tigers? Well, that lion getting tossed by a buffalo was obviously worth sharing as a fantastic bit of natural history! This one below is particularly interesting because it puts one of the most viewed viral videos—you must have seen that clip of a tiger leaping right up to the top of an elephant to attack the Mahut riding on its back, haven’t you?—within the proper broader context of the ongoing conflicts (and potential reconciliations) between tigers and people in India.
What do you think of that key point hammered in at the end of the video, about the importance of protected areas for tiger conservation? Hard to argue against that when dealing with a large carnivore which obviously needs large territories, and has such obvious potential for conflict. Yet, I have my doubts (which may be more suitable for another proper post) about the over-reliance on protected areas, and have often (most recently in India earlier this year) found myself arguing with conservationists in India about the need for more of a reconciliation ecology approach to at least augment the reservation ecology framework that has been enforced for some decades now. Protected areas, I feel, have done about all they can offer in a land full of so many people. Yet tigers—and even more, leopards—continue to “stray” outside their sanctuaries and national parks, and manage to persist in the surrounding human-dominated landscape matrix for various periods of time. These farm / village / suburban landscapes and what these animals do in them have only recently begun to attract the attention of researchers and conservationists alike. Much to think about and many stories to be told from this zone of conflict/overlap and potential reconciliation between humans and tigers (and leopards and elephants and…) but for now, it is good to have at least one dramatic visual story being told in its proper context.
I’ll be in Chicago for a couple of days this week, to speak in the seminar series at the Field Museum there. I’ve promised to talk about “Biodiversity in the concrete jungles of the Anthropocene: global patterns & local processes in urban ecology” – and have been preparing my presentation based on the work I’ve been doing on urban biodiversity here in California, and on a global scale. Since we do seem to be in the Anthropocene (for good or ill), it is high time we come to grips with our ecological anxieties vis a vis the human element in nature, and get more proactive in managing the earth’s environment for our own benefit and for other species. So, this weekend, I’ve been reading up a bit about the Anthropocene, and about resilience, and other related topics, and will try to write more about these things over the coming winter break. For now, I want share this video of a presentation by Prof. Will Steffen recently at the Stockholm Resilience Center where he provides a brief introduction to the Anthropocene:
via Introducing the Anthropocene – YouTube.
Well… maybe… not quite, because this doesn’t exactly looks like Middle Earth this bird is soaring over:
No, this is not an excerpt of a CGI scene from The Hobbit movie. Nor does the bird look quite like the greatest Eagle who ever lived in the annals of human mythology.
Better still – this is a clip from a real video camera mounted on the back of a real eagle, almost literally giving us the bird’s eye view of the Alpine landscape of the Mer De Glace area of Chamonix, France.
Pretty damn cool, eh?