Cosmos: A Personal Voyage

From Academic Kids

Cosmos: A Personal Voyage was the name of a thirteen part television series produced by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan. It covered a wide range of scientific subjects including the origin of life and a perspective of our place in the universe. The series was first broadcast by the Public Broadcasting Service in 1980. It won an Emmy and a Peabody Award and has been since broadcast in 60 countries and seen by more than 500 million people, according to the NASA Office of Space Science.

The show's format is based on previous BBC documentaries such as Kenneth Clark's Civilisation, Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man and David Attenborough's Life on Earth. (The BBC repaid the compliment by screening the series, but episodes were cut to fit 50-minute slots and shown late at night.) However, unlike those series, which were shot entirely on film, Cosmos used videotape for interior scenes and special effects, with film being used for exteriors.

The series is notable for its groundbreaking use of special effects, which allowed Sagan to apparently walk through environments that were actually models rather than full-sized sets.

Sagan's historical description of Hypatia of Alexandria and the burning of the Library of Alexandria has been criticized by historians who interpret the sources on Hypatia's life and the end of the library differently and who believe that Sagan should have made clear that there is a scholarly controversy on this issue. Other parts of Cosmos were controversial among the general public, though hardly among scientists, such as Sagan's straight-forward treatment of astrology as a pseudoscience and his equally straight-forward description of biological evolution.

Cosmos had long been unavailable after its initial release because of copyright issues with the included music, but was released in 2000 on Region 0 NTSC DVD which includes subtitles in seven international languages. When the series was released on home video in North America in the late 1980s, a 14th episode was added which consisted of an interview between Sagan and Ted Turner. In 1990, for the 10th anniversary of the series, Sagan videotaped new epilogues for each episode in which he discussed new discoveries (and alternate viewpoints) that had arisen since the original broadcast.

The thirteen parts are:

I: The Shores Of the Cosmic Ocean

  • Light years, galaxies, stars, planets: numbers and distances, where we are located (the Local Group)
  • Eratosthenes and the circumference of Earth
  • The Library of Alexandria
  • The Cosmic Calendar: from the beginning of the universe to the "arrival" of humans

II: One Voice In the Cosmic Fugue

III: The Harmony Of the Worlds

IV: Heaven and Hell

V: Blues For A Red Planet

VI: Travellers' Tales

  • The Netherlands in the 17th century
  • The life and work of Christian Huygens and his contemporaries
  • The Voyager probes (first images of Jupiter and its moons)

VII: The Backbone of Night

VIII: Travels In Space and Time

IX: The Lives Of the Stars

X: The Edge Of Forever

XI: The Persistence Of Memory

XII: Encyclopedia Galactica

XIII: Who Speaks For Earth?

Carl Sagan also wrote a book called Cosmos (1980), which is similarly structured and contains most of the information from the series, and some information not found in it. This book is still in print as of 2002.

The sequel to Cosmos is Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994).

See also

de:Unser Kosmos

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