spaceship *= sqrt(-1);


The new Cosmos, starring Hayden planetarium director and media darling Neil Tyson, does it with a major revamp of the spaceship of the imagination: the machine used by both Tyson and Sagan to whisk viewers around spacetime.

The show visuals are fairly exceptional, but I’m not sold on the heavy reliance on CGI in the new Cosmos. I expect this show will pull in a fair amount of imagery from real telescopes. and I think it will be an important consideration to give the viewer cues with which to distinguish the rendered from the recorded. Exemplia gratis, what are the implications of showing an outside-looking-in view of the Milky Way in the same way as a (real) Earth-based view of the Andromeda galaxy? The givens and the assumptions get all mixed up.

And the lens flares OH! the lens flares. We seem to have steadfastly taken to incorporating lenses into our concept of an observation point, even when said lens has no reason to be there. I am going to ascribe these phenomena to a Mysterious Alien following closely behind Tyson’s voyage. We’ll try to discern the characteristics of the lenses used by Tyson’s tag-along as the show progresses, based on the lens flares and other aberrations.

Apparently, the Mysterious Alien following Tyson’s ship uses a lens with an eight leaf iris diaphragm:



While the camera inside the cabin has a hexagonal diaphragm:


Fox has made the smart and convenient decision to make the first episode of the new Cosmos available without underwriting everything else on cable:

Cosmos on TV (online)

But of course you can get the original online as well: