'Cosmos' may have ended, but critical thinking should not

'Cosmos' may have ended, but critical thinking should not

The series 'Cosmos' concluded its final episode this week, with host Neil deGrasse Tyson encourages critical thinking in all areas of life.

This week, the final episode of Cosmos with Neil de Grasse Tyson aired, treating viewers to an in-depth look at everything from the smallest-known atomic particles to the greatest hulking solar systems at the fingertips of the known universe.

The first portion was devoted to the library of Alexandria, the most expansive and archaic source of human knowledge on the planet at the time – containing between 500 thousand to 1 million scrolls – which were burned from the history books when invading barbarians looted the library, destroying a large percentage of the scrolls. Much of the information was not passed on because only the wealthy had access to or valued the information, with the poorer classes not having the ability to easily obtain an education.

The dominating idea of this episode was paralleling the internet to the library of Alexandria, hinting that knowledge may be distributed to anyone with a computer and an internet connection, but questioning if this worldwide web database is being used properly. Tyson sparks the question, “What will happen the next time the mob comes?”

Cosmos went under the gun by critics who have pointed out several different flaws. One of these is that the topics seemed to be brought up at random. The last episode exemplifies this, going from Alexandria, to the first globe made in 1492, to cosmic rays, supernovas, and dark matter. This hodge-podge is difficult to follow, but may be understandable due to the limited time the series can traverse. If the series were to continue for another run, perhaps the storyboard development should be emphasized. No successful textbook, after all, can solidify any information in a scatterbrained student by being scatterbrained itself.

Another critique was is the series doting on white male scientists – not mentioning anything about Nobel Prize winner Rosalind Franklin, a biophysicist who majorly contributed to the understanding of DNA and X-ray Crystallography. However, there was an entire episode devoted to female astronomers, but maybe more than just 1/13 of the series can be devoted to women. On another token, this may be one of the first times American popular culture has given any credit to Islamic scholars, particularly Ibn Al-Haytham, in a highlight by Cosmos.

In this final episode five main ideas were elucidated: think for yourself, question authority, question yourself with the same scrutiny by which you question authority, test your ideas, and don’t be afraid of failure. Failure is only something to be afraid of if one is in denial of it. With this in mind, the audience is encouraged not to be afraid of the future if the barbaric hordes come again, as long as knowledge is distributed to all and used properly in the face of fear.

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