1. Neil deGrasse Tyson first met Carl Sagan as a teenager in 1975.
Tyson grew up in the Bronx. As a teenager, he wrote to Carl Sagan and went to spend the day with him in Ithaca, NY, where Sagan taught at Cornell University.
He recounts this meeting at the end of the first episode of the new Cosmos. Sagan dropped him at the bus stop, but offered him a place to stay if the bus didn’t turn up. By then he already knew he wanted to be an astrophysicist. “But that day with Carl I learned the kind of person I wanted to become,” he says.
2. Seth McFarlane is secretly a bit of a science geek.
Though he’s famous for creating Family Guy, McFarlane, who is executive producer of the new series of Cosmos, is actually “a very clear and natural match” for the show according to its presenter astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Before the new series of Cosmos was even in the works, Tyson and McFarlane went for lunch in New York. Tyson says of the encounter: “He asked me 25 questions about the Big Bang. Six months later, the episode [of Family Guy] showed up where Stewie goes back to the Big Bang and at the end I get the credit ‘Science Consultant.’”
3. McFarlane even lends his voice to some of the historical scientific ‘heroes’ in the programme.
In the first episode McFarlane voices Giordano Bruno in an animated recreation of his life. Bruno was an Italian Dominican friar whose astronomical theories went further than Copernicus’. As well as believing the Earth orbited the Sun, he also proposed that the Sun itself was just like any other star moving through space.
4. Two asteroids named after Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan are locked in perpetual “wedding-ring” orbit around the sun.
Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan met while working on the Voyager Golden Record – a message humanity sent to the stars, filled with music and greetings from around the world. They later married and worked together on the first series of Cosmos that aired on PBS in 1980.
Sagan died in 1996. When Druyan, who is writer and executive producer of the series, decided to reboot Cosmos for a new generation, Tyson really was the only choice for presenter. “It would have been unthinkable to do it with anyone but Neil,” she says.
5. The show won’t “beat people over the head” with climate change.
Cosmos will tackle the issue head on. “We are completely unflinching when it comes to climate change,” Druyan told BuzzFeed.
But instead of telling people what to think, Tyson and Druyan want to empower people to think for themselves. “Cosmos at its best gives you enough information to understand how to think about these problems,” Tyson says. “Otherwise we’d just be preaching.”
6. The show’s “Cosmic Calendar” still features, but has been updated.
Since the first series of Cosmos premiered cosmology has come a long way, so its history of the universe presented on a calendar has been updated too. For one, we now think the universe is 13.8 billion years old, rather than 15 billion.
“We talk about the multiverse [in the new series], which was not a topic of much discussion in the past,” Tyson says.
But he is keen to emphasise that the show puts new science into its wider context. “We’re not chasing the latest discoveries because it’s not about tearing a page out of a textbook and presenting it to you. It’s about asking ‘What does it mean?’ and ‘Why does it matter?’”
7. Cosmos is as much about the people behind the science as it is about their discoveries.
When researching the stories of the historical figures that feature in the show, Druyan learnt about their emotional struggles as well as their science.
“It was really interesting to me how inextricably intertwined these personal struggles were with these great insights and how the insights became part and parcel of the human experience,” she told BuzzFeed.
8. Tyson wants the world to embrace science as pop culture.
Tyson told BuzzFeed that if he could make everyone around the world understand just one thing about science, it’d be this: “Science is all around them, science is in them, science is something to embrace as mainstream pop culture thought.”
Now watch the trailer, and get excited.
The first episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey airs on Sunday 9 March on Fox in the U.S. and Sunday 16 March on National Geographic Channel in the U.K.