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Priesmeyer: Cue the tears on science

  • Blog Post by: Molly Priesmeyer
  • May 16, 2014 - 3:16 PM

The first time "Cosmos" made me cry I was maybe six or seven. 

After my mom and I watched "Cosmos" for the first time together, Carl Sagan became my made-up surrogate father, whose gentle approval of everything I did would sprinkle my shoulders like "star stuff." Calling the radio station for the 78th time today? Good job, honey. You're not weird at all. (Cue star stuff sprinkles, which were housed in the elbow patches of his jacket).

It was originally called a "Personal Voyage." And it was.

Now, nearly 35 years after that show first aired, "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" is having its own watershed moment. The show comes after a time period where science experienced its own dark ages. Funding cuts and politicization and anti-science minds left a black hole in science programming. (Like Carl Sagan famously said, "We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.")

There's been backlash--creationists demanded equal time on FOX. But there's also been a new connection to science and the universe and how it can make us feel. Yes, feel.  Here, science isn't hard facts and metrics and behind-the-scenes lab work. The "Cosmos" writers have mastered the art of storytelling, using history and real people as jumping off points to explore how empathy and curiosity drive and connect us all.

This week's episode, "The Electric Boy," highlighted Michael Faraday, a 19th century physicist who became obsessed with light and magnetism as a young boy. The show and its artful storytelling created a collective crying moment, and it wasn't the first time people have gathered around their televisions/computers/devices and taken to social media to talk about crying at Cosmos.

"Do you ever watch Cosmos and start crying?" someone posted on Twitter. "I'm watching Cosmos and I just started crying about science," wrote someone else. "I'm not crying, it's just a gazillion atoms in my eye," another person wrote. Someone else admitted: "This week's Cosmos cry: Poverty, the equations for electromagnetic fields, and never stop being curious (even if you can't remember)."

I'm not sure what it all means or where it will take us next. But I'm pretty sure it's just further evidence of what host Neil deGrasse Tyson is fond of saying: "You…me… everyone...we are all just star stuff." 

Cue the tears. 

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