December 4, 2021

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[Review] Cosmos New Worlds: what will happen in the future (at best)

On March 15, in National Geographic France, Neil DeGrasse Tyson returns to present the third season of the science series, Cosmos. With Cosmos: New Worlds, humanity faces its faults and mistakes, but also a wake-up call that is not without hope and motivation.

In 1980, American astrophysicist Carl Sagan, accompanied by his wife Ann Duryan and partner Steven Stocher, launched one of the first popular science television shows, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. Released in thirteen one-hour episodes, the show is motivated by the imaginary journey of its narrator – Carl Sagan, himself – through the universe, its origins, and the history of scientific discovery and innovation.

Broadcasting in many countries, it quickly became “the most watched science series in television history”. In 2014, nearly twenty years after Carl Sagan’s death, Cosmos returned to the big screen with An Odyssey through the universe, presented by another astrophysicist renowned for his eloquence, Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Following its success, aided by updated scientific knowledge and significant technological advances in special effects, the series is once again renewed. Starting March 15, 2020, it will feature 13 new episodes in Cosmos: New Worlds, worldwide on the National Geographic channel. We had a chance to see some of them in preview.

“Each episode has to show proof that a bright future is possible for humankind,” said “host” Ann Druyan to describe this third season of Cosmos, on the occasion of a preview in Paris. What we need is to face reality and not lie to ourselves – especially in the face of the challenges posed by global warming.

Cosmos: New Worlds is positioned as a real tool for reflection about our world, our future, but also our past. The series isn’t afraid to flag “me” in terms of humankind’s weaknesses and faults. For example, in the first episode that replaces the documentary series’ scientific foundations and principles, the narrator evokes the agricultural revolution as a discovery that is both beneficial and disastrous.

He explains that agriculture has brought about a unifying change in human history, but is currently causing ecological upheaval – the fall of natural pollination and biodiversity – that could be fatal for us. In this regard, he underlines that humankind is indeed the origin of the sixth mass extinction, namely the Anthropocene. However, as the spirit of the series wants it to be, it concludes that it is irreversible and it is up to us, the culprits, to turn things around and stop the phenomenon before it happens.

In the second episode, entitled “The gift of a glimpse of the habitable zone”, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, aboard the “ship of the imagination” (driven by “the two foundations of scientific thought”, skepticism and wonder), voluntarily dissociates from the postulate that humanity has passed through a crisis. geology and ecology today and then persisted for several hundred years.

The series then tries to take on the challenge of formulating a valid and relevant perspective for exploring the universe in search of a “New World”. It introduced the idea of ​​a “habitable zone that determines whether a planet or satellite has the potential to harbor water and a life-supporting atmosphere, depending on its distance from its star. Thus evoking the already expressed idea of ​​a large solar telescope that, like mirrors, would be able to use the Sun to Explore the universe in a very precise way.

Later, the series created spacecraft that, thanks to a thin membrane, captured photons from sunlight or lasers to travel at 20% of the speed of light across space. To underscore this sci-fi bordering itineraries, Cosmos uses superb visual effects (particularly for the stellar-visited plan) and an original soundtrack worthy of the biggest modern blockbusters, composed by Alan Silvestri (Ready for Player One, Avengers: Endgame). . In all, this season 3 will have over two thousand computer-generated shots. “In theaters usually these scenes are no more than a few seconds, but here there are those that can last 7 or 8 minutes,” says Ann Druyan.

To allow viewers to believe in this avalanche of fictional, albeit coherent, discoveries, Cosmos also plays on the history of humanity and science. “Cosmos, at its best, is a source of information, but also inspiration and motivation”, said Neil DeGrasse Tyson at the premiere.

As such, the series draws many parallels with aspects of history that are often forgotten or overlookedunderestimated by mankind. To give credence to interstellar travel, he looks back at the origins of the Polynesians. In classic animation, to distinguish itself from futuristic VFX shots, this sequence reminds us that this population is also facing an increase in overpopulation and a rapid reduction in its resources. In order to survive there, he decided to conquer the Pacific Ocean in search of other islands to settle down.

To do this, he draws on what he knows about the laws of nature and physics. Thus, viewers understand that the deep void is just another ocean in which we must sail to ensure the long-term survival of the human species. And, according to the latter, messages of hope from series like Cosmos can help him “wake up from his slumber” and bounce back.

Cosmos: New Worlds isn’t just a popular, big-budget science documentary series. Above all, this is a “show” whose purpose is to emotionally take the audience and make them dream. If he prides himself on providing him with scientifically correct information, his main intention is to convey the “necessary message of hope” , sometimes closer to dream than reality. Ann Druyan justifies herself by qualifying the Cosmos as “a fusion of science and imagination”, whose two dimensions do not contradict or contradict each other.

In writing, the series doesn’t shy away from attaching emotion to scientific facts or future perspectives. The final episode, devoted to a hypothetical World’s Fair in New York in 2039, follows the backdrop of a young female character who, as a child, seemed passionate about science. Then, in adulthood, he marveled – tearfully – at the discoveries of his exhibits and fireworks retracing the history of the universe. The series counterbalances this “pathos” with plenty of humor and pun: by evoking the Big Bang in this final episode, the narrator doesn’t hesitate to laugh at the fact that his recovery will be banned for those under 14 years old. another sci-fi documentary because it takes audiences’ hands and touches them emotionally,” admits Neil DeGrasse Tyson. We all know the power of a story well told, and the show has hired the best talent in the fictional world to take advantage of it. ”

In short, Cosmos’ goal seems to have remained the same since its first iteration in 1980: to generate thought and transmit scientific thought. or teaching,” says Ann Druyan.