I started thinking about being an astronomer a few months ago, in Paris. My Grammy asked me what i want to do when i get older, and like i usually said, baseball player. Then when we got home, i thought about it a little more. So I was thinking about it and one thing came to mind: Astronomy. Hmm I thought, and it really hasn’t come back to my mind since I found this series: Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.
Ep. 1: Standing Up In The Milky Way: This is the introductory episode of the series. Neil DeGrasse Tyson explains the universe and how there might be many, many different universes out there. He talks about how far the galaxies are apart from each other and how our universe might be a very small one if there are any others. Neil explains our solar system and the order of the planets, and the different characteristics of each of the planets. Did you know that the rings of saturn are all tiny little moons going around saturn? Saturn only has a couple of big moons.
Ep. 2: Some Of The Things Molecules Do: In this episode, Neil explains the kinds of things that molecules do to help the Earth maintain its stability. He talks about evolution and how polar bears evolved. In one of the ice ages, a mama brown bear had an egg… In every cell, there is kind of a spellcheck sort of thing, that checks the dna of the cell. It makes sure that there are no mistakes, but there are definitely mistakes that pass. The brown bear had two babies, a brown and a white, and the white one was much more successful in hunting than the brown, because they were hunting in the snow. Neil explains how people may have come from apes. Also, he shows how eyes evolved over the millions of years, and that they started with the smallest of creatures. Neil says that this species (extinct now) was a tiny protein. They started with eyes that could only see light and dark, but now just look around. We can see lots of things now. Our eyes were evolved for seeing underwater, Neil says, but we came out of water and that’s why there are optical illusions.
Ep. 3: When Knowledge Conquered Fear: In this episode, Neil explains how back in the beginning of time right up until Isaac Newton’s time, how people were very afraid of what comets would do. They thought that comets were a bad fortune, and were always very scared when they saw one. Newton, proved them wrong. He came up with the theory of gravity, and that the comets just come back around because of the sun. The only reason the comets have tails is because they are made mostly out of ice, and when they get close to the sun, that ice melts and leaves a trail.
Ep. 4: A Sky Full Of Ghosts: In this episode, Neil DeGrasse Tyson tells us about light. He explains that the stars you see in the sky are really just the light. Those stars might have died millions of years ago. He also explains how black holes form, and that black holes are real, believe it or not. Black holes are so strong that they can suck in light. At the center of the galaxy the stars move at about 40,000,000 km. per hour, which means there might be some humongous star 40 times the size of our own, imprisoned in a black hole.
Ep. 5: Hiding In The Light: In this episode, Neil is explaining how we came to discover all the different types of light and how light has different colors. When Isaac Newton first put a prism in front of light, he discovered that light had different colors. Joseph Fraunhofer later did an experiment on the temperatures of different light. He was the first to discover infrared light, and he also discovered that there are little tiny black lines in between the other colors of the spectrum. These black lines are caused by hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen atoms have one nucleus, one proton and a wavy line that dances around it. This wavy line is odd, because it disappears and reappears every few milliseconds. Neil describes it like this: “It’s as if you take an elevator from the second floor to the fourth floor, but cease to exist in between.” Anyways, the black line is caused when a light wave hits an atom, and the light waves scatter. Neil says that “these dark lines are the shadows cast by hydrogen atoms in the atmosphere of the sun.”
Ep. 6: Deeper, Deeper, Deeper Still: In this episode Neil is explaining how atoms work. Usually, the nuclei of an atom never touch, but this doesn’t apply to the nuclei in the sun. The sun’s gravity is so strong that it rips the nuclei around and forces them together. Stars are the only places that this occurs. In our bodies, the nuclei are held together by protons. When two people touch, They aren’t actually touching. Atoms have tiny force fields around each of them, so when one person “touches” another, one person’s atoms push away the others. So if you ever hit someone, you can say that you never touched them (but just don’t hit anybody anyways).
Ep. 7: The Clean Room: This episode is about geology and the age of the earth. Neil explains what the man Clair Patterson did to find the age of the earth using the amount of lead that was in a meteorite that landed on the earth close to when it was formed. He figured out that the earth is about 4.8 billion years old. After Patterson made this discovery, he helped to prevent the use of lead in gasoline for cars in 1966 (maybe that’s why Papa Willy is so crazy). Lead mimics the other minerals you need to fuel your body, such as iron. When it gets into your body, it takes the place of the iron and stuff, and stops your immune system. Lead also makes you go mad if it gets into you. Neil explains why looking at the layers of rock would not have been effective to find the age of the earth, because some layers of rocks took longer to form than others.
Ep. 8: Sisters Of The Sun: In this episode, Neil mostly explains how constellations got there. He says that the Romans and Greeks used the constellations to entertain themselves. The Australians didn’t look at the stars for their constellations, but they looked at the dark parts of the sky. There is one star group in particular, called the Pleiades, that had many myths about how they came to be. Here is one story by the Native Americans: One day, seven sisters decided to sneak away from camp to dance freely under the stars. When they were busy dancing, seven bears jumped out from behind a bush. The bears chased the sisters, until they got to a rock. One of the sisters cried out to the rock for pity, and the rock heard their cries and grew to what is now known as “Devil’s Peak.” The seven sisters Went up in the heavens and became what is now the Pleiades.
Ep. 9: The Lost Worlds Of The Planet Earth: In this episode, Neil explains what our world has gone through since it was created. He tells us how a man named Alfred Wegener came up with the Pangea theory. The geologists didn’t believe him at first, and they thought that there might be land bridges at one point that eroded over time. Wegener never got to proving that he was right, but 40 years later, a woman named Marie Tharp confirmed Wegener’s theory by showing that the underwater mountain ranges would connect the South American mountains to the African ones. Also, Neil tells us that a very, very long time ago, when the Earth was about four billion years old, there was an oxygen surplus in the atmosphere. This is why the insects back then grew to be humongous. The dead trees would fall over and leave their oxygen behind, taking the toxic gasses with them. Usually, when insects are too big, they die because there isn’t enough oxygen to fuel their bodies. But back then, there was so much oxygen in the air that centipedes got to grow the size of alligators, and survive.
Ep. 10: The Electric Boy: This episode is about a man named Michael Faraday. Faraday was one of the smartest people in the history of science, along with Einstein and Newton. He solved the problem of how the magnetic field works. Faraday was the man to create the motor. You might think that the motor isn’t really the greatest creation ever… because it isn’t, but just think of all the companies and jobs are made possible because of motors. If we didn’t have motors, the earth wouldn’t even be close to the way it is now.
Ep. 11: The Immortals: This episode explains how every one of our radio stations and tv stations that sends out radio waves, is sending out messages to the universe. Those waves of light obviously travel at light speed, and they never stop going. If there is another intelligent species out there, someone might already know about us. If life started out on Earth, there are definitely possibilities that aliens could be in different solar systems than ours. Every one hundred years or so, an asteroid hits our planet, sending debris from our planet. Most of that debris has living things on it, because that’s just how it is. Sometimes, the living things survive. There was an animal that was found frozen in the polar ice caps for a thousand years, and it was still alive when they dug it out. When the debris comes in contact with another planet in our solar system, the life gets there, but sometimes the life doesn’t get to another planet in our solar system. When it doesn’t, it goes to the very outside of the solar system, and circles around for a bunch of years. It would be impossible for the debris to reach even the closest star to our own, with life surviving on it, because it is so far away. But sometimes, our star goes through a star nursery, which takes us so much closer to another star. Sometimes, by chance, the debris from our planet hits another planet in the star nursery, bringing life to another solar system. If evolution is real, the small organisms from our planet would eventually evolve into an intelligent species, such as our own.
Ep. 12: The World Set Free: In this episode, Neil talks about global warming, and that if we continue to burn fossil fuels like we are today, the Earth may turn out to be somewhat like Venus. Venus has the hottest temperatures in our solar system, even though it’s the second closest to the sun, because of its atmosphere. Venus’ atmosphere is made up almost entirely of carbon dioxide, (CO2) which traps heat in. Venus’ atmosphere only lets a little bit of light in, but all of the heat from that light gets trapped in, so there it gets very hot. Anyways, if we keep pumping CO2 into the air, Earth will eventually get too heated for us to live on, similar to Venus, but Earth would never get as hot as Venus, because it isn’t close enough to the Sun.
Ep. 13: Unafraid Of The Dark: This is the last episode of the series. It is mostly an overview of what we learned in the other episodes. In 1977, Voyager 1 and 2 were sent out. These spacecrafts are still in contact with the Earth’s satellites, millions of miles away. It took lots of pictures of the solar system, and it will keep travelling, maybe not connected to Earth, but it will travel for another estimated one thousand million years. They designed a message on it to communicate with (if there are any) the other intelligent species out there, using science as the language.
This series of episodes about space really helped me get a bigger understanding about the universe. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in the cosmos, because Neil DeGrasse Tyson really teaches well. You can stream it right from Netflix, and learn a lot.