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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Cosmos’

Neil deGrasse Tyson attends the premiere of Fox's 'Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey' on March 4, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Neil deGrasse Tyson attends the premiere of Fox’s ‘Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey’ on March 4, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

On Sunday, Americans will have a chance to do something they haven’t done for more than 30 years: travel through the universe on TV through a show called “Cosmos.”

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is hosting the remake of Carl Sagan’s classic science TV series. While Sagan’s series was produced and aired by PBS, Tyson’s show will premier on Fox.

Tyson joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss the new show, outer space and his tweets.

Interview Highlights: Neil deGrasse Tyson

How is the new ‘Cosmos’ different from the original?

“Visual effects have improved since then. While the original ‘Cosmos’ was quite stunning in its day, given what our expectations now are, of every viewer who is a consumer of media, and so because we are airing on Fox, a major network, we had resources available to us to take full advantage of the methods and tools that filmmakers use to tell big blockbuster stories. Yet now they get to use their talents to help us tell the story of the universe. So this show will not only operate on you intellectually, because we will tell you stories of how science works and why it works and what we’ve discovered and why it matters, but combine that with stunning visualizations of the cosmos. We have the chance of affecting you intellectually and emotionally, and as well as even spiritually, because the wonder and awe of the universe are especially potent when presented in this way.”

Why Fox?

Fox in this case — it’s sort of unlikely bedfellows, right? I mean, it worked both ways. It was, we were brought to Fox as a possibility by Seth MacFarlane, who is a major Fox product… He’s just a generally creative guy but not normally associated with science unless you paid attention to each episode of ‘Family Guy,’ where you realize science rears its head in multiple episodes and in multiple ways. So if you paid close attention to that, you’d realize that Seth MacFarlane is a multi-talented, multi-interested person.”

Will this help bring back a sense of wonder?

“I think ‘Cosmos’ is an antidote to the lost wonder. By the way, as children we all wonder — we wonder all the time. And that gets lost in adulthood. It gets beaten out, it gets filtered out or diluted out. And I’d like to think that ‘Cosmos,’ for all ages — anyone with a beating heart. As Ann Druyan says, who’s the principle writer of the series, if you have a beating heart, that’s the target audience. Because we know deep down within you there’s a flame that maybe had gone dormant that we can fan or ignite in case it had blown out. This is the flame of curiosity, the flame of wonder, of awe, of all the things that make you want to learn something more tomorrow than you knew today. Combine that with the role that science has played in shaping civilization, realizing the awesome power that comes with that, you need to now become good shepherds of our culture and our civilization and especially of the world. ‘Cosmos’ takes you there, to all of those places.”

When and where might we find life — such as bacteria — on other planets?

“In the next 10 or 20 years, definitely, either on Mars, below the surface soils, or I’d like to think Jupiter’s moon Europa. Jupiter sits outside of the ‘Goldilocks zone,’ where the temperature’s just right for liquid water to sustain life as we know it. But in spite of that, the gravitational stresses from Jupiter on that moon pumps heat into it that has rendered that ice liquid, and we’re pretty sure it’s been liquid for billions of years beneath the frozen surface. So if you’re going to look for life in the solar system, one of NASA’s mantras is to follow the water.”

Video: Neil deGrasse Tyson introduces the Cosmic Calendar

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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