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Cosmos: Possible Worlds host Neil deGrasse Tyson on the importance of science and keeping wonder alive

Cosmos: Possible Worlds explores all the possibilities of space travel and existence beyond earth. Pic credit: NGC
Cosmos: Possible Worlds explores all the possibilities of space travel and existence beyond earth. Pic credit: NGC

This Monday, those who love science and all things space have a doubleheader of Cosmos: Possible Worlds starring Neil deGrasse Tyson on National Geographic Channel.

From creator, writer, and director Ann Druyan, the series is hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson who will continue the analysis and work that began 40 years ago with the late, great visionary Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, his wife and creative partner.

What is Cosmos: Possible Worlds about?

Cosmos made its first television debut over 30 years ago and 30 years later National Geographic continued the thrilling saga with the second installment, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. That highly-acclaimed season was one of the most-watched science series in history with 135 million viewers tuning in around the world, including 45 million in the U.S. It was also nominated for 12 Emmys, winning four.

And now this Monday, the third season, Cosmos: Possible Worlds, returns to National Geographic.

Cosmos boasts state-of-the-art visual effects, stylized animation, and dramatic reenactments to propel this 13-episode adventure through space and time…this is storytelling with scale.

And the brilliantly-creative, multi-award-winning team who’ve made Cosmos a reality was at the recent Television Critics’ Association press tour this past winter, including Jeffrey Okun, the Visual Effects Supervisor on the series. Brannon Braga, the executive producer, writer, and director was also there.

There was also Ann Druyan, the driving force behind it all; the creator, executive producer, writer, and director of the most-celebrated science franchise in the world.

Also on the panel was Kara Vallow, the co-executive producer. With her was executive producer Jason Clark and last, but never least, was Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of Cosmos and Chief Science Editor.

Who is Neil deGrasse Tyson?

A renowned TV personality, Neil serves as the fifth head of the Hayden Planetarium and is one of the most-renown astrophysicists in the world.

What did Neil have to say about Cosmos and facts at the TCA?

One TV critic asked about the fact that people are just not believing things that are fact-based, bringing up the flat-earthers and others who deny science and facts.

Neil deGrasse Tyson said:

Yes, I think in the absence of the methods and tools that we have brought to bear on this series, methods and tools of storytelling, of visual effects to create worlds that previously you would’ve only just read about in the form of words, I’d like to believe that we have a potency of communication that might be able to get through to people who don’t yet understand what it means for something to be objectively true.

And one of the things that has been the hallmark of all three cosmoses is the rigorous adherence to what is true and to present it in a way that’s not from an authoritative throne, that doesn’t make you feel bad for not having known it in advance, this is part of this sort of the fireside style that Carl Sagan exuded. It’s the comfort you have learning for yourself what is true and then taking advantage of that newfound power of knowledge and insight to become a better shepherd of your civilization. And I think that is achieved in this season of “Cosmos” as never before. So I’m very proud to be associated with what we’ve all accomplished here.

And as far as the USA being the only nation on Earth with its very own Space Force, if there was any way this could possibly be a good idea?

Neil said:

Space Force. So I think I’m not alone when I say I wish I’d lived in a world where no one needed any kind of force of all. Excuse me, a force of reason, maybe. We should have a reason force, perhaps. But of course that’s not the world we live in. We live in a world that does intermittently have bad elements in it. The role of a Space Force is not what people think it is. It’s not laser weapons and bombs and things.

Think of it in another way. We have more space assets than ever before, not only in the value of the hardware that’s up there, but also in the value of the commerce enabled by that hardware. There would be no Uber without GPS satellites, for example, and a host of other — entire industries that thrive on location and ranging on Earth’s surface. So one of the things a military does is protect your assets. So there’s a concern that if you have bad players up there in space, they could put our assets at risk; again, not only the hardware, but the economic value that they represent.

So, I think a Space Force still needs to be discussed and debated so that it doesn’t run away with itself, that it serves needs rather than some sort of hegemonistic goals. The world doesn’t do well under those kinds of futures. The future we hope for in this series — in fact, the subtitle, I get even a little bit choked up even today, “Possible Worlds.”

Oh my gosh, let’s imagine a world where that’s not even necessary and we’re offering the tools and tactics and wisdom and insight that comes to us informed by other examples in nature, other examples in our own species in stories not yet told about the courage exhibited by scientists, by leaders, by ordinary citizens. So yeah, we probably need a Space Force, but I’d like to imagine a future where there’s no need for any kind of force at all.

What to expect on Cosmos: Possible Worlds:

Ladder to the Stars airs on Monday, March 9 at 8 ET/PT
Viewers will embark on an adventure spanning billions of years into the evolution of life and consciousness. Nat Geo says: “Visit a 100,000-year-old laboratory and examine the change in lifestyle that radically altered human existence and the life of the heretic who found God in the book of nature, which opened our way to the stars.”

The Fleeting Grace of the Habitable Zone airs also on Monday, March 9 at 9 ET/PT
Change is a 100% constant in the cosmos. Nat Geo says: “There will come a time in the life of the sun when Earth will no longer be a home for us. Explore the story of our ancestors who rose to a comparable challenge, as well as a long-term vision of our future on other worlds.”

Cosmos: Possible Worlds premieres on March 9th, Monday, at 8/7c on National Geographic Channel.

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April is an accredited entertainment writer, interviewer and television critic. She is a current member of the Television Critics Association (TCA), Gay and Lesbian Entertainment... read more
April Neale
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