Critiquing Cosmos - Episode 6

Well, that was a bit of a change in pace!  A week after one of the more history-laden episodes thus far, "Deeper, Deeper, Deeper Still" was perhaps the most information-dense.  Let's dig in.

I loved...

An eyeful of atoms: I'm as guilty as the next astronomer of getting a bit cocky when it comes to big numbers.  I'll often remind people that there could be a hundred billion stars in each of a hundred billion galaxies out there - that's a lot of stars!  But, apparently that is nothing compared to the number of atoms in just one of my eyes.  Certainly puts some things in perspective.

Darwin makes a prediction: Darwin deduced his theory of evolution by natural selection by poring through thousands of specimens of animals, past and present, but that doesn't mean it couldn't predict the future.  Like all great scientific theories, natural selection postulated the presence of phenomena not yet discovered.  By positing the presence of a long-tongued insect decades before its eventual discovery, Darwin made a brilliant deduction which inspired faith in his fledgling theory.

Everything about neutrinos: Gosh, neutrinos are just so cool.  The visual of travelling through a hundred lightyears of solid steel is mind boggling.  And the fact that neutrinos can escape the Sun in mere moments, while light takes ten million years? Amazing! As the episode described, the existence of neutrinos is yet another prediction made by a scientific theory.  And, like Darwin's moth, it would take decades to be confirmed.  Now that we know billions of them pass through our bodies every second (neutrinos, not moths!), it's hard not to feel a shiver run down your spine.

I liked...

The return of the tardigrade: Fox must have invested a lot of money in their tardigrade simulation code, because these alien little bears made their second appearance in six episodes.  It's amazing to think that these tiny creatures are among the hardiest on Earth - and that they outnumber us humans a billion to one!

Atoms as empty space: It's one of the most remarkable facts in science: atoms are almost inconceivably empty.  I thought the imagery of a mote of dust suspended in a cathedral was a great illustration of this.  Talk about a lot of unused space!

The temple of Ramses II: I'm a sucker for ancient Egypt, so this was low-hanging fruit.  In all seriousness, though, I don't think I'll ever stop being amazed at the remarkable cognizance ancient peoples had for the workings of the sky.  If you asked me today to design a building which was only illuminated on two particular days of the year, I'm not sure I could oblige.  Much less design it such that the sunlight cast always leaves one statue in darkness.

I didn't like...

Chlorophyll as a assembly line:  This is a tough one.  Chemical processes are really challenging to represent and I definitely get what they were going for here.  That being said, I felt as if this representation of photosynthesis was pretty confusing.  The show did a much better job just a few minutes later with the blueprint-style explanation of smell.

 

This episode tackled some pretty conceptually-difficult topics.  In a way, it illustrates the chasm in which modern chemistry exists.  Chemistry lacks both the macroscopic nature of many biological phenomena and the mathematical simplicity of many relationships in physics.  This makes it a uniquely challenging topic for public discourse.  Can you name a single living chemist?  Probably not!  Despite this, chemistry has a more direct impact on our everyday lives than practically any other field of science.  Food for thought...

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