With Cosmos’ thirteenth episode, “Unafraid of the Dark,” Neil deGrasse Tyson brings to conclusion his extraordinary re-imagining of Carl Sagan’s groundbreaking series. Tyson’s brilliant presentations, rich in detail while always clear and comprehensible, have done a great service to the public understanding of science. Over the last few months, the intellectual wasteland of American popular culture was briefly illuminated with this surprising display of science. Given the toxic state of typical television programming (three words: Honey Boo Boo), shows of the quality of Cosmos may not be seen again for a long time.
It's worthwhile now to reflect on three things Neil deGrasse Tyson accomplished in Cosmos. Cosmos directly helped science literacy, provided the spark of inspiration, and addressed the nature of science.
Tyson helped science literacy in a revolutionary way: directly educating the public. While many self-styled education reformers talk endlessly about education, Tyson’s approach was simply to educate. He clearly explained important points from numerous disciplines in a way that will, I think, stick with viewers and enlighten untold numbers of citizens and future students. Years from now Cosmos will supplement lessons in classrooms, from K-12 to universities.
Given the state of how poorly citizens and students are learning science, any improvement is welcome. Consider this: