Sunday, March 9, 2014

Cosmos: two voices in the cosmic fugue

Posted By on Sun, Mar 9, 2014 at 5:23 PM

Of course, you all read this blog religiously, so you know that the reimagining of Cosmos begins tonight. The 13-part documentary originally aired in 1980 on PBS, hosted by Carl Sagan, while tonight's version on Fox, also 13-parts, will be hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, co-host of Star Talk Radio and frequent guest on shows like The Colbert Report and Real Time with Bill Maher. The series will be introduced before its premiere by President Obama.

But the history of Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson goes back farther than this, farther than 1980 even.

In 1976, when NDT was considering colleges, he received a letter inviting him to visit Cornell University from Sagan, who was a professor and science director at the University. The two met during that visit and sporadically traded letters over the next decade, mostly about what Tyson was up to in his career.

In the run-up to tonight's premiere, NDT and Ann Druyan (writer-producer of both shows and Sagan's widow) donated these letters to the Library of Congress, who have posted them online for us to take a look at. There are seven letters in total, beginning with a letter to Sagan dated 04-30-1976, where NDT informs him of his choice of Harvard over Cornell, and continues through a letter dated 06-24-1988, where NDT includes a recent research paper (the paper is included).

He also sent clippings along the way (click for big):

It's all very professional, not the personal letters that Jefferson and Adams traded, but still interesting to sift through. (It's also something worth noting: NDT grew up in a building in the Bronx called Skyview Apartments. Prescient.)

In addition to this, NASA will be tweeting (@NASA) during the broadcasts for the next 13 weeks, sharing photos and background information on their contributions to the show's research and development.


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