Cosmos is coming back! Yes, the month of March will witness a sequel to the famous PBS series hosted in 1980 by Carl Sagan.
And now, a moment of silence to remember that Beautiful Man, Carl Sagan. As a young person I was a scientist groupie. It all started with Mr. Spock, who (in my mind anyway) made it cool to be smart. Of course, at the time, the coolness factor went mostly unrecognized in your average American grade school. And it only applied to boys. But of all this, I was blissfully unaware. And then, Carl Sagan said “Let There Be Light.” I remember finding his book The Dragons of Eden in the late 70’s, and devouring it with the single-minded intensity I usually reserved for my after-school fix of Chef Boyardee pizza.
Then there was Cosmos, with Sagan in his trademark corduroy blazer and turtleneck, explaining how Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the earth in the third century BC. It was a tour de force that I borrowed many years later for my own lectures on ancient Greek science.
This time, Cosmos is being broadcast on Fox (of all stations! –and so far as I know, only in the US). The host is the perfect heir to Sagan: Neil deGrasse Tyson. Like Sagan, Tyson is an astronomer with a great gift for communication.
He’s the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. In a profile for The New Yorker (Feb 17), a smitten Rebecca Mead described him this way:
He is tall and charismatic, with a deep, commanding voice that can shift register from a honeyed purr to a practiced roar of outrage. His wardrobe invites notice: bright patterned vests, suede shirts, broad-brimmed felt hats in the style of Indiana Jones.
Oh yes. What we have here is another Beautiful Man. And now we come to my favorite bit of the article, because I’ve teased you long enough, haven’t I?
In his memoir, he reveals that he considered supplementing his income by working as an exotic dancer in a strip club, until he discovered that one dance routine would require him to wear, and ignite, an asbestos-lined jockstrap soaked with lighter fluid.
A sad loss to the world, that path not taken! We must grudgingly make do with his other contributions. Tyson is still a very good dancer, and has been known to moonwalk for admiring crowds after his lectures. And another irresistible fact:
He has a library of rare antiquarian scientific volumes, including a third edition of Sir Isaac Newton’s “Principia,” which he considers the most important book ever written. But when explaining science, he is most likely to point to a movie such as “A Bug’s Life” [in which an ant creates a telescope by wrapping a blade of grass around a droplet of water].
Okay, I was only able to uncover one erotic secret. But I’m looking forward to reading the rest of that memoir by the (current) Coolest Scientist in the Cosmos…