With the rampant anti-intellectualism and distrust in science that continues to plague our country these days, we need passionate, well-spoken defenders to cut through the B.S. and speak the truth. In the 1980s, Carl Sagan filled that role very well, with his Cosmos series capturing the imaginations of many young people who went on to pursue careers in science. Sagan passed away in 1996, but the torch has been passed in recent years to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York and the go-to guy whenever a news agency needs somebody to provide easily digestible sound bites for a new science story. Tyson turns 55 years old today.
The Sagan parallels will become even more direct in the not-too-distant future, with Tyson set to host a new incarnation of Sagan’s Cosmos, set to air on Fox sometime in 2014. Tyson has the knowledge and the passion to be a great host for a new Cosmos, but he also shares one other quality with Sagan that makes him even more ideal. He’s got a touch of the poetic about him, a way of speaking about the universe that elicits excitement and wonder in the listener. Compare two of our favorite videos below: Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” speech, and Tyson’s “Most Astounding Fact.”
GFR wishes you a happy birthday, Neil! Keep defending the faith, brother.
MY FELLOW AMERICANS
President Harry Truman delivered the first televised presidential address on this date in 1947. Aside from being a noteworthy historical footnote, that moment fundamentally changed the shape of all the presidential elections that were to come, and indeed the very nature of politics and campaigning as a whole. Suddenly the majority of the voting public could see the political candidates, rather than just those few who could see one their speeches or appearances in person. Suddenly it wasn’t just what you said, but how convincingly and charismatically you said it. From there it was just a matter of time until the advent of mudslinging commercials harnessed the power of television to turn politics into an even more cynical exercise than it had been before.
DEJA VU ON THE NEXT GENERATION
Most series have a rough time finding their footing in their first season, and Star Trek: The Next Generation was no exception. Its first two seasons are riddled with for more forgettable than classics. “The Naked Now” may not be the worst of the bunch, but it was troubling at the time because it suggested the writers weren’t yet comfortable letting the show be its own thing. Instead, we got a virtual remake of the Original Series episode “The Naked Time.” That episode is fondly remembered by many Trek fans, serving up such unforgettable moments as Sulu’s shirtless swashbuckling and Spock wrestling with control of his emotions after exposure to a disease that breaks down inhibitions. We even got a retread of the original episode’s plot point where Lt. Riley takes over the ship — only in the TNG version it’s Wesley Crusher, at his most punchable. “The Naked Now” first aired on October 5, 1987. Let’s be glad the show improved.