As the first season of Fox's "Cosmos " reboot comes to an end, it's not the amazing visuals and storytelling I'm in awe of, but more the way the producers and host Neil deGrasse Tyson have made all of these super-heavy science topics incredibly accessible to the masses. From molecular biology to electromagnetism to string theory and deep space, all of these episodes have managed to both entertain and inform — no easy feat for an American public with an appetite for generally brainless TV. It's easy to see why this reboot of the classic will quickly become a staple in classrooms throughout the world.
The latest example of Tyson slyly using a seemingly simple action to define a complex issue came during last Sunday's episode focused on climate change. One of the biggest curve balls skeptics are always keen to throw in the face of science is the weather outside as reflective of the overall climate. This past season's cold winter and the shouts of "See, global warming is a lie!" rhetoric is a perfect example. As Tyson explains while walking his dog on the beach, it's not the constantly changing weather that's used to study how much the Earth is warming, but the overall trends that predict as much.
“OK, so if we scientists are so good at making these dire, long-term predictions about the climate, how come we’re so lousy about predicting the weather? Besides, this year we had a colder winter in my town. For all the scientists know, we could be in for global cooling,” Tyson says, echoing climate change deniers. In yet another brilliant moment for the season, he then turns the whole man walking a dog scene into a point about how weather relates to climate.
"We can’t observe climate directly,” he explains. “All we see is the weather. The average weather over the course of years reveals a pattern. I represent that long-term trend, which is climate," Tyson explains. "Keep your eye on the man, not the dog.”
“And funny thing,” he adds, “the measured increase in CO2 in the atmosphere tallies with the known amount we’re dumping there by burning coal, oil and gas.”
Amazing that man's impact on the environment is still a question mark in the minds of many, isn't it? Thank you, "Cosmos" for continuing to set the record straight. Check out the full episode from last Sunday here.
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