Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Speaking of Carl Sagan . . .

No, I haven’t seen anything more of the “updated” Cosmos shows outside of this trailer released earlier this week at San Diego ComiCon.

Yet I have to wonder.
This Cosmos seems loud. Bassoforte. And dripping with CGI. It’s true the intro to the 1980s Cosmos looks almost Victorian to the modern eye:
But dammit, that’s CARL SAGAN on the BEACH with a TIE. How is Neil deGrasse Tyson going to top that?
Apparently, with lots of bassoforte and CGI.
I don’t deny there may be some science that needs updating, as progress goes forward. But the attraction and charm in the original Cosmos comes in Sagan’s delivery and in the simple methods used to convey the scientific principles he’s teaching. Yes, he could have used animation or slick CGI to illustrate Eratosthenes’ calculations on the Earth’s circumference, but as he does it here you get an immediate, human feel to the concept. You don’t need CGI or animation or anything, just a man, the sun, and a bit of stiff cardboard with two obelisks sticking out of it. You can imagine Eratosthenes doing the same kind of experiment, without having to use a computer to do it. I like the clarity of the explanation. Hopefully Tyson et al can maintain that.
Of course, the CGI is cheap. Cheaper than a trip of Egypt – and given the political climate there right now, certainly safer. But I worry the CGI is going to cheapen things. I love, for example, to look at the raw images sent back by Voyager, by Curiosity, by Cassini. And though I love some of the CGI produced to go along with these images, my fear is that with a top-heavy CGI Cosmos, the raw, the real, is going to get lost. We have so many bells and whistles these days they drown out the whisper of the solar wind, if I can turn a Saganesque bit of phraseology.
And what is cooler than seeing Carl Sagan wander around on a freakin’ SET of the SOLAR SYSTEM, to debunk a nimrod who thought Venus was expelled by Jupiter? When I saw this bit, I wanted a similar set to play around in when I was a kid. I still kinda want one now. A CGI solar system would have taken the human out of the equation. Maybe it would look better, but it would look cheaper.
But that’s our day and age now.

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