They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

COSMOS Watch: Episode 2

Sunday 16 March 2014 21:00 EDT Channel 17.1 (FOX HD)

Most comments I heard about Episode 1 came to me in pairs: (1) Really good and Neil Degrasse Tyson has the right enthusiasm to follow Carl Sagan and (2) parts of it were a little much -- but then they were aimed at a different younger audience than the commenter, so good job. Lots of love for Carl Sagan's COSMOS, that those old enough were highly influenced towards science, but all admit it has gotten long in the tooth.

For those skeptical about FOX hosting COSMOS, along with National Geographic, consider the following: a report that "an editing error" resulted in an Oklahoma FOX affiliate excising the 15 seconds which mentioned evolution. Make of it what you will... but why was an affiliate editing the network feed?

-- This is a story of you... And me... And your dog.

-- There was a time when dogs did not exist? How did this happen?

-- Let's go back to a time before the last Ice Age.

-- Lived in fear of dangerous animals, including wolves.

-- Neil by a blazing campfire, wolves pushed back by waving flaming wood.

-- Wolves fear humans, but attracted by food.

-- Some wolves have a lower level of fear hormones. Don't threaten the humans and they'll let you scavenge their refuse.

-- The domestication of man by the wolves.

-- Survival of the friendliest.

-- Guards, interspecies cooperation.

-- Anime set in brief break in the Ice Age. Villages. Wolves have given up their freedom for food. Humans choose their mates, choose the ones who will accept training.

-- Artificial selection -- breeding.

-- Bred for prettiness, too. Most of our popular breeds are only a few centuries old.

-- Almost all our edible foods were artificially selected from rough wild forms.

-- It may not seem like it, but we've been living in an Ice Age for the past 2MY. We've just been in a warm spell.

-- Brown bear in the snow.

-- Something amazing is about to happen. We need to get smaller to see.

-- We'll take the subclavion artery thru the heart. (Shades of Fantastic Voyage)

-- Now shrink to the molecular level in our ship of the imagination.

-- If Life has a sanctuary, it's in the nucleus -- its scripture is written in the genetic code.

-- There are as many atoms in a single strand of DNA as the number of stars in the galaxy.

-- We are each of us a little universe.

-- Clockwork anime of DNA replication.

-- One mutation, a cub with a white coat. The white coat gives advantages to hunting in to snow and ice.

-- Mutations are entirely random and happen all the time.

-- That's what Darwin meant.

-- An individual doesn't evolve, a population does.

-- But when published in 1859, an uproar. Why?

-- Twinge of embarrassment of being related to apes.

-- what about our kinship with the trees?

-- Segment of an oak tree DNA, like a barcode.

-- Compare to my DNA, same sequence for metabolizing sugar.

-- But unless you have an identical twin, no one has the same DNA as you.

-- Metabolizing sugar is so basic, it happened before we branched too far.

-- The stuff of life is so malleable -- ½M types of beetles alone.

-- We have yet to make contact with most of the forms of life on THIS planet.

-- Tree of Life is 3½ BY old.

-- Science reveals all life on Earth is one.

-- Before Darwin, the idea of the Intelligent Designer -- life is too complicated for evolution.

-- Consider the human eye. Cornea, lens, retina, neural connections.

-- Can't be result of mindless evolution.

The COSMOS App available for download. (Which does what exactly?)

-- Go back to a time before eyes.

-- In the beginning, life was blind.

-- 4BY ago.

-- After a few 100MYs, protein evolved that was light sensitive.

-- Split screen of Creature's Eye View.

-- Can tell difference between surface, darker depths.

-- Pigment spot. Better sensitivity.

-- A dimple in the pigment spot -- deepens, socket.

-- Smaller opening with a cover.

-- Pinhole imaging.

-- Then a lens. Brightens and focus.

-- Then something terrible happened.

-- A straw seems to bend in a glass of water.

-- Eyes evolved for use in water.

-- First land creatures had lousy vision.

-- STILL can't see as well as water creatures -- what's in front of our nose or near darkness.

-- Why didn't we evolve new eyes? Evolution doesn't work that way.

-- Evolution just a theory? As if it's an opinion?

-- But it's a theory like gravity.

-- Because evolution is blind, it can't anticipate great events.

-- 5 great extinctions.

-- A monument, the Halls To Extinction, to broken branches of the tree of life.

-- For every 1 of species alive today, 1000 disappear.

-- In the past 500MY this has happened 5x.

-- One 250MY ago, end of Permian Age.

-- Trilobites, armored animals that propelled the ocean floors. (Always fond of trilobites, myself.)

-- Siberian volcanic eruption unlike anything seen.

-- Earth was very different then. One supercontinent, one giant ocean.

-- Molten rock ignited coal deposits, polluted the air, warmed the planet and stopped ocean circulation.

-- Noxious bacteria blossomed, but most of the ocean and land species died. 9 of 10 species.

-- So close to wiped out totally. Life took 10MY to come back.

-- Among the winners, the dinosaurs. 150MY until taken down by another cataclysmic disaster.

-- I know an animal that can live in boiling water, frozen in ice, 10 years without water and even the vacuum and radiation of space. (I remember when they published and showed the video of THAT the other year.)

-- The tardigrade or water bear has survived all 5 extinctions. Small, about the head of a pin.

-- What if life were different?

-- A world very different from Earth.

-- zoom past rings of Saturn.

-- Clouds and haze completely cover Titan.

-- No oxygen but atmosphere is also mostly nitrogen.

-- descend through a couple 100km of smog.

-- Only other place in the SS where it rains.

-- 100s of lakes, one larger than Lake Superior. Rivers carve planet.

-- Methane and methane. Natural gas on Earth, liquid in frigid Titan.

-- Lots of water, all frozen. Much of surface is hard water ice.

-- Carl Sagan and others have speculated on life in hydrocarbon seas. Might use acetylene instead of sugars for energy.

-- Ship of the Imagination descends 200m below surface into the dark.

-- Neil coyly plays with us -- did you see movement over there -- but wisely doesn't even try to illustrate this possible alien life.

-- Story of life on OUR world.

-- Earth 4BY ago, before life.

-- Most evidence of life destroyed by erosion, etc.

-- Maybe someone watching this will be the 1st to solve how life began.

-- Life may have begun...

-- Original computer animation graphic morphing sketches of life 4BY in 40sec. (True story: First time I'd ever seen morphing like that before. Impressed, I told one of my teachers. They pointed out that though interesting, it didn't PROVE anything. They could have morphed a fish into a toaster into a chicken, and would the seamless smoothness of that animation convince me that kitchen appliances once roamed the Earth? This was a seminal moment in my science education. It convinced me to not be swayed by flashy things even if well intentioned, but stick with the science and was one of the majors influences on my interest in science literacy.)

-- "These are some of the things that molecules can do, thanks to 4BY of Evolution." - Carl Sagan

OVERALL: Not pulling any punches, this second episode continues to stress the logical thread of development. Not quite as geewhiz as Episode 1, but true to the spirit of both science and Carl's original. Twice now they've pulled a major piece from the old COSMOS and kept it for the new.

No doubt this is The Red Meat episode, especially after Oklahoma. Why is an astrophysicist talking about evolution? Why is this scientist talking about sanctuary and scripture?

The answers those people don't want to hear are, Cosmos is everything, evolution is the engine of both large scale astronomical things and piddly little life, and COSMOS the show is about poetry as much as science.
Tags: cosmos

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