Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" The Most Enlightening Show Ever Created

A Show That Plays In Its Viewers' Hearts

From the "shores of the cosmic ocean" to the library of Alexandria, Cosmos takes its viewers on a journey that they will not soon forget.  Carl Sagan has a way with words that is understandable by almost everyone.  The way he speaks, the way he describes things, works its way into your mind.  He entangles you, captivates you, with a power that some might go so far as to call magic. 

With over half a billion viewers, the words of Carl Sagan have inspired millions of people.  Many of today's scientists and science enthusiasts were moved by Mr. Sagan's short-lived show.  Although it was on air for less than a year, this says nothing of the popularity of Cosmos.  At the time, it was the most viewed public show in American, and as of 2009 it was still the most viewed show on the PBS network.  

What is it that made a show about science so popular?  Today it would be very unlikely to see such a program get so far in the mainstream with competition like Jersey Shore and Family Guy, just to name a few.  But look three decades back.  It was a day far back in the scope of a human lifetime.  The world was very different in some respects.  Cosmos made its debut about 10 years after the space race and in the midst of the Cold War.  Science still scared and excited many people.  Cosmos was what we needed.  It taught many once-ignorant people the nature and meaning of science - with cutting-edge special effects for its time. Children and adults alike learned why science is necessary in our world.  Cosmos armed them with knowledge. 

 Cosmos Refurbished

It is a sad thing that this show, like Mr. Sagan, is no longer with us. Without such mainstream guidance, many people are found lacking in science literacy.  But Cosmos is far from dead.  In the near future, Cosmos will be resurrected and made like new.  Just look here.  Not only will it be back, but it will be aired on Fox.  You know, the station with the news crew that is notorious for its obnoxious bias.  Don't get me wrong, bias is wonderful - it makes us who we are, but the news is one place that should do without it.  It seems that Cosmos is appealing once again to the right audience.

Here's an example of one of the many blunders of Fox News, just in case you were previously unaware:

Wait... what?

The thing I find the most interesting about this new Cosmos is that one of its three producers is Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) - the same man responsible for this: 
Ironic, isn't it?

Don't Believe Me?

Do you still have any doubt of the major impact Cosmos has had in the world?  You don't have to take my word for it.  Just look it up on YouTube and read the thousands of comments.  While shows like The Office and The Simpsons are funny, they haven't touched people like Cosmos has.    

This scholarship is sponsored by USDish.com

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pale Blue Dot

Pale Blue Dot

"But for us, it's different. Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam." -Carl Sagan

Can you even see it?  From this distance, Earth is unrecognizable.  It's nothing more than a pixel in the vastness of our solar system.  Even the solar system is minuscule in comparison to the Milkyway Galaxy.  Stuff like this keeps me awake at night.

Why aren't we out there right now?  Why have we stopped caring?  Space isn't just a large emptiness to be taken for granted.  It is our past; it is our future; it is our destiny.  Men could become like gods if only we had the dedication as a society to make the leap.  I dream of a day when "science fiction" is a dead term.  Do you think that sounds crazy?  Well, then I'll save my wilder thoughts for another day.  But think about it.  Do you suppose digital watches were always a credible idea?  How about television?  How about robotic limbs controlled by output from the mind (Check This Article Out)?  Science has given birth to all of these things, and it continues to work miracles.
A lot of things that are going on with science seem to have some people concerned, ethically speaking.  Some of this (probably more than some, actually) comes from ignorance.  For example, the Bush administration, if I remember correctly, was strongly against stem cell research because of the misconception that it killed unborn fetuses.  Regardless of your ethical views, this, as I remember, was true for a period of time, but it quickly because an obsolete method of harvesting stem cells.  Cells can now be retrieved from virtually anywhere in the body (except of course from red blood cells because they have no nucleus) and be reprogrammed to act as stem cells.  This is a miraculous work of science, but ignorance of its methodology stunted its growth.
But this isn't about stem cells.  This is about a much larger picture.  This is a picture so large, no one person can see it in a single view.  Not 100, not 1000 people could view this picture in its entirety.  This is simply because it is scattered.  A piece of this picture is kept within the mind of every inspired human being on this pale blue dot that we call home.  The picture itself is of paradise.  Paradise cannot be found.  It must be made.  Only when the world works in harmony can paradise be created.  

(Wild Thought Alert!) You want to live forever?  Don't pray for it, make it happen!  The Immortal jellyfish figured it out.  What's so hard about manipulating our own DNA now that we have the tools to do so?  The answers are waiting to be found.  Clues must first be discovered and then strung together.  But, like I said, no one person can do it alone.  We all must work together.  Science is the key to a grander future.  

I'm not trying to persuade you to make a career out of science if that isn't what you want.  I just want you to think crazy thoughts with me for a few minutes.  

Have you ever imagined life on another planet?  I don't just mean aliens, I mean it in the sense that humans would one day travel and live there.  Not too long ago, a planet named Kepler-22b was discovered in what is known as the Goldilocks zone of the star that is orbits.  The Goldilocks zone is named as such because it is the area around a star that is "just right" for liquid water, which is an essential component for life (as the evidence leads us to believe so far).  My point is, Kepler-22b could house life, assuming it has other favorable characteristics, some of which are described in this article.  But the majority of society doesn't even seem to care about this "stuff" anymore.  It seems as if it was thrown out the window with all the other fads.

People's lack of interest bothers me, but I can understand why they have no interest.  I myself only got excited about the drive behind science a year ago.  Most people just don't hear enough about it to get interested.  My source of inspiration was Youtube.  Through Youtube, I was taught to be fascinated with science by figures such as Carl Sagan, Michio Kaku, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Stephen Hawking.  They, rather than the classroom, taught me how exciting science really is.

Science speaks to our inherent nature as human beings.  We only lose interest because society beats that aspect of our character into submission.  Today's geeky stereotypes (which I see are slowly dissipating) make learning about science seem uncool.  Pop culture and the media think it's better to focus people's attention on other things - wars, economy, drugs, sex, violence - the usual.  Science in the classroom can often be the most dreaded part of a student's day, and it's not because it's too hard - it's just made to appear so boring.  But think back to childhood.  Think back to a time before hair started sprouting in weird places.  What could you be found doing when you weren't playing with toys or sleeping?  I know I would go exploring everywhere I could.  I would be getting into all sorts of things that I should not have been messing with.  It wasn't a cry for attention.  I wasn't a rotten child (although, some would argue).  I was just curious about the world around me.  Every child is the same.  We are born and from that moment we probe the environment, picking up bite-sized pieces of information here and there until we have a fundamental understanding of what is going on around us, our own personal picture of the world.  Only when we are told to stop doing what we're doing for the thousandth time do we quit exploring.  Don't get me wrong, I'm glad mommy was there to tell me that the contents of that bottle was dangerous, but what was so harmful about letting me hang out around the back porch every now and again (she was a little protective, but in her defense, my neighborhood wasn't the safest place)?  The thing is, children are natural-born scientists.  They have the drive to discover, but becoming an adult often means giving up that drive as if it were nothing more than a cherished teddy bear that the child would appear uncool cuddling with at a certain age.  But such things are the nature of humans.  We often lose sight of what is really important in attempts satisfy our short-term goals.  Maybe you'll wish you had Teddy to comfort you somewhere down the road.  Maybe if children weren't discouraged from asking so many questions at a young age, they would be more prone to ask them when they really mattered.  Remember high school?  Are you there now?  Do you wonder why not many people participate in class?  Do you wonder why so many of the teacher's questions go unanswered?

I could go on forever with this, but I feel like I'm starting to rant a little too much.  I didn't plan on my first blog to go on as this did.  The main point is that I wish I had never lost sight of my curiosity, and I feel that children should be encouraged to explore their environment.  Society should focus more on the exciting, beneficial part of the world and quit being so greedy with the its temporal aspects.  If you have managed to read this far, I really appreciate your time.