Cosmos: One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue

Welcome to the second episode of the acclaimed documentary series Cosmos, narrated by that great science popularizer and humanist we all miss, Carl Sagan. To see the introductory episode, The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean, click here.

In this episode, in an effort to understand the likelihood of the development of life on other planets, Sagan explores the process responsible for life on earth: evolution through natural selection. He starts with a delightful story about the Heike crab and Japanese samurai warriors, drawing the crucial distinction between artificial and natural selection, and further explains how the process of evolution, when you observe it carefully, is more elegant and coherent than the inference of an intelligent designer.

Then he walks us through the cosmic calendar, showing how the molecular building blocks of life didn't appear until October, how simple multicellular organisms didn't appear until November, and how macroscopic, complex life didn't evolve until around December 15th. The apes from which we descend didn't come into existence until December 31st, at around 10:15am, and anatomically modern humans only came into being 6 minutes before the end of the year.

As if this wasn't awesome enough, we get to visualize our genealogical lineage, and a few others, all the way back from the very first rudimentary forms of simple life to amphibians, reptiles and modern humans, beautifully and powerfully marking our genetic relatedness and cosmic connection. And then we go deep into the nucleus of a cell, discovering the processes by which DNA replicates itself and produces the new generation.

I simply love how Sagan manages to make you feel both completely insignificant and special with the same swift stroke...
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