Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@outlook.com) is an independent consultant located in Alexandria Virginia. His services and capabilities are described here. Application areas include project, program, and data management; market assessment, digital strategy, and program planning; change and content management; social media; and, technology adoption. Follow him on Google+. He also publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain.

Why I Like the New COSMOS

 
Click or tap the above image to download a .pdf of this article.I’ve seen three of the new COSMOS programs so far. I’m really enjoying them. I like the host, the graphics, and how the programs look on a large screen TV. 
 
Most of all like the stories. The program isn’t just a dry recitation of facts. It presents science in  a logical and attractive package to make an impression. 
 
For me the most impressive examples of  “storification” so far have been the evolution of the eye and the intermingling of Newton, comets, gravitation, Halley, and Hooke.
 
The eye story displayed another example of the relationship between time and evolution. If you sit back and think about the number of generations of successful and unsuccessful lifeforms that it must have taken to reach the point where we are now with the physiology of vision, your jaw has to drop at the sheer magnitude of it all. 
 
For some that realization can be a source of some sense of spiritual awe. I count myself as a member of that group where two additional points are also connected. 
 
The first is a sense of amazement that we humans have been able to reach this point where observation, speculation, and experimentation come together  to form such knowledge — knowledge which, hopefully, will continue to evolve.
 
The second point about the evolution of the eye is that, if it could happen here, couldn’t some variation of it happen elsewhere in the universe? 
 
I think there is a high probability that it can and I’m glad that I can make such a speculation. It’s probably one of the reasons why I’ve always enjoyed grand scale science fiction that concerns vast distances and alternative civilizations in comparison with our own.
 
The comet/Halley/Newton/Hooke story provided a fascinating perspective on how humans understand and explain the workings of the universe. This time the story is told from a human perspective and involves jealousy and imperfect humans. I especially like that Newton’s fascination with numerology and alchemy were touched on. As much as he is now revered as a god of science and mathematics he was, after all, a creature of his times.
 
Perhaps the thing I enjoy most about COSMOS is how it takes every opportunity to help us contemplate scale both in time and space. The size and age of the universe are a constant background to the show. For example, I loved the closing image of Episode Three that showed a millions-of-years time lapse of the eventual  “collision” between the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies. This imagery was accompanied by the narrative that, given the vast distances and empty spaces involved, most stars will not collide. 
With these images in mind I’m really looking forward to seeing a discussion of “dark matter.” 
 
Related reading:
  • Movie review: Robert Zemeckis’ CONTACT (http://www.ddmcd.com/movies/robert-zemeckis-contact.html) 
  • Book review: Bob Berman’s THE SUN’S HEARTBEAT: And Other Stories from the Life of the Star That Powers Our Planet (http://www.ddmcd.com/books/bob-bermans-the-suns-heartbeat-and-other-stories-from-the-li.html)
  • Book review: Richard Holmes’ THE AGE OF WONDER: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (http://www.ddmcd.com/books/richard-holmes-the-age-of-wonder-how-the-romantic-generation.html)
  • Book review: Michael Carlowicz and Ramon Lopez’ STORMS FROM THE SUN (http://www.ddmcd.com/books/michael-carlowicz-and-ramon-lopez-storms-from-the-sun.html)
  • Book review: Alan de Queiroz’ THE MONKEY’s VOYAGE: HOW IMPROBABLE JOURNEYS SHAPED THE HISTORY OF LIFE (http://www.ddmcd.com/books/alan-de-queiroz-the-monkeys-voyage-how-improbable-journeys-s.html)
  • Book review: Ed Regis’ WHAT IS LIFE: INVESTIGATING THE NATURE OF LIFE IN THE AGE OF SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY (http://www.ddmcd.com/books/ed-regis-what-is-life-investigating-the-nature-of-life-in-th.html)

Copyright © 2014 by Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D. Dennis is an independent project management consultant based in Alexandria, Virginia who has worked throughout the U.S. and in Europe, Egypt, and China. His clients have included the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the World Bank, AIG, ASHP, and  the National Library of Medicine. His experience also includes database publishing and data transformation, integration of large systems, corporate technology strategy, social media and collaboration technology adoption, statistical research, and IT cost analysis. His web site is located at www.ddmcd.com and his email address is ddmcd@yahoo.com. On Twitter he is @ddmcd.

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