We watched the first episode of the new Cosmos last night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course my wife and I spent every minute comparing it to the original, while our son thought it was all new and cool. My favorite moment: Neil deGrasse Tyson donning shades to watch the Big Bang. As some are saying (rather petulantly, I think), Neil is no Carl — but frankly, Carl Sagan couldn’t have gotten away with those sunglasses.
Also, I’d just like to take a moment to thank European cable programming, which still operates on the old bargain that if you pay for a channel, you don’t have to watch commercials every five minutes. (Remember when that was the deal for US cable too?) There was not a single commercial in our airing of the episode, and after hearing various US viewers complain mightily about how the show was chopped up into tiny segments punctuated by interminable commercials, I’m even more grateful for our high-quality, uninterrupted experience. We’re ready for the next episode!
Since Cosmos primed us with the concept of the galactic address, this is a perfect time to check out the website “If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel: A tediously accurate map of the solar system.” You may have seen something like it before, in which you scroll horizontally across vast distances to see a scale model of the solar system, but this one is different in a couple of ways.
— First, an indicator at the bottom keeps you apprised of how much distance you’ve covered from the Sun.
— Second, it includes little notes and observations between planets to keep up your interest as you traverse the long, long, long, long distances of nothingness between tiny points of light.
— And third, you can use shortcut buttons at the top to simply hop from one planet to another, while still being able to see the true scale of things. But you won’t be able to read the little notes. (When going this route, you do have to keep your eye on the scroll bar indicator of your browser, because the automated scrolling alters speed in order to keep you from sitting there for an hour waiting for it to get from Mars to Jupiter and beyond. If you’re not watching how the scroll bar zoooms along before slowing to a stop at its destination, you’ll get an inaccurate impression of the distance.)
I’m always surprised at how far Mercury really is from the Sun, and how ridiculously far away Uranus and Neptune are. Also, a tip of the hat to the website designer for including Pluto. I laughed at the note there — and then nodded my head.