Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (2014) s01e01 Episode Script

Standing Up in the Milky Way

The cosmos is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be.
Come with me.
A generation ago, the astronomer Carl Sagan stood here and launched hundreds of millions of us on a great adventure the exploration of the universe revealed by science.
It's time to get going again.
We're about to begin a journey that will take us from the infinitesimal to the infinite, from the dawn of time to the distant future.
We'll explore galaxies and suns and worlds, surf the gravity waves of space-time, encounter beings that live in fire and ice, explore the planets of stars that never die, discover atoms as massive as suns and universes smaller than atoms.
Cosmos is also a story about us.
It's the saga of how wandering bands of hunters and gatherers found their way to the stars, one adventure with many heroes.
To make this journey, we'll need imagination.
But imagination alone is not enough because the reality of nature is far more wondrous than anything we can imagine.
This adventure is made possible by generations of searchers strictly adhering to a simple set of rules test ideas by experiment and observation, build on those ideas that pass the test, reject the ones that fail, follow the evidence wherever it leads and question everything.
Accept these terms, and the cosmos is yours.
Now come with me.
In this ship of the Imagination, free from the shackles of space and time, we can go anywhere.
If you want to see where we are in space, just look out the front window.
In the dimension of time, the past lies beneath us.
Here's what Earth looked like If you want to see the future, look up.
And this is how it could appear If we're going to be venturing out into the farthest reaches of the cosmos, we need to know our cosmic address, and this is the first line of that address.
We're leaving the Earth, the only home we've ever known, for the farthest reaches of the cosmos.
Our nearest neighbor, the Moon, has no sky, no ocean, no life just the scars of cosmic impacts.
Our star powers the wind and the waves and all the life on the surface of our world.
The Sun holds all the worlds of the solar system in its gravitational embrace, starting with Mercury to cloud-covered Venus, where runaway greenhouse effect has turned it into a kind of hell.
Mars a world with as much land as Earth itself.
A belt of rocky asteroids circles the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
With its four giant moons and dozens of smaller ones, Jupiter is like its own little solar system.
It has more mass than all the other planets combined.
Jupiter's Great Red Spot a hurricane three times the size of our whole planet that's been raging for centuries.
The crown jewel of our solar system, Saturn, ringed by freeways of countless orbiting and slowly tumbling snowballs every snowball, a little moon.
Uranus and Neptune, the outermost planets, unknown to the ancients and only discovered after the invention of the telescope.
Beyond the outermost planet, there's a swarm of tens of thousands of frozen worlds.
And Pluto is one them.
Of all our spacecraft, this is the one that's traveled farthest from home Voyager 1.
She bears a message to a billion years from now, something of who we were, how we felt and the music we made.
The deeper waters of this vast cosmic ocean and their numberless worlds lie ahead.
From out here, the Sun may look like just another star.
But it still exerts its gravitational hold on a trillion frozen comets, leftovers from the formation of the solar system nearly five billion years ago.
It's called the Oort Cloud.
No one has ever seen it before, nor could they, because each one of these little worlds is as far from its nearest neighbor as Earth is from Saturn.
This enormous cloud of comets encloses the solar system, which is the second line of our cosmic address.
We've only been able to detect the planets of other stars for a few decades, but we already know that planets are plentiful they outnumber the stars.
Almost all of them will be very different from Earth, and hostile to life as we know it.
But what do we know about life? We've met only one kind so far.
See anything? Just empty space, right? Human eyes see only a sliver of the light that shines in the cosmos.
But science gives us the power to see what our senses cannot.
Infrared is the kind of light made visible by night-vision goggles.
Throw an infrared sensor across the darkness Rogue planet.
World without a sun.
Our galaxy has billions of them, adrift in perpetual night.
They're orphans, cast away from their mother stars during the chaotic birth of their native star systems.
Rogue planets are molten at the core but frozen at the surface.
There may be oceans of liquid water in the zone between those extremes.
Who knows what might be swimming there? This is what the Milky Way looks like in infrared.
Every single dot, not just the bright ones, is a star.
How many stars? How many worlds? How many ways of being alive? Where are we in this picture? See that trailing outer arm? That's where we live about 30,000 light-years from the center.
The Milky Way Galaxy is the next line of our cosmic address.
We're now a hundred thousand light-years from home.
It would take light, the fastest thing there is, a hundred thousand years to reach us from Earth.
This is the Great Spiral in Andromeda, the galaxy next door.
We call our two giant galaxies and a smattering of smaller ones the "local group.
" Can't even find our home galaxy from out here.
It's just one of thousands in the Virgo Supercluster.
On this scale, all the objects we see, including the tiniest dots, are galaxies.
Each galaxy contains billions of suns and countless worlds.
Yet, the entire Virgo Supercluster itself forms but a tiny part of our universe.
This is the cosmos on the grandest scale we know a network of a hundred billion galaxies.
It's the last line of our cosmic address for now.
Observable universe?! What does that mean? Even for us, in our Ship of the Imagination, there's a limit to how far we can see in space-time.
It's our cosmic horizon.
Beyond that horizon lie parts of the universe that are too far away.
There hasn't been enough time in the 13.
8 billion year history of the universe for their light to have reached us.
Many of us suspect that all of this all the worlds, stars, galaxies and clusters in our observable universe is but one tiny bubble in an infinite ocean of other universes a multiverse.
Universe upon universe.
Worlds without end.
Feeling a little small? Well, in the context of the cosmos, we are small.
We may just be little guys living on a speck of dust, afloat in a staggering immensity, but we don't think small.
This cosmic perspective is relatively new.
A mere four centuries ago, our tiny world was oblivious to the rest of the cosmos.
There were no telescopes.
The universe was only what you could see with the naked eye.
Back in 1599, everyone knew that the Sun, planets and stars were just lights in the sky that revolved around the Earth, and that we were the center of a little universe, a universe made for us.
There was only one man on the whole planet who envisioned an infinitely grander cosmos.
And how was he spending New Year's Eve of the year 1600? Why, in prison, of course.
There comes a time in our lives when we first realize we're not the center of the universe, that we belong to something much greater than ourselves.
It's part of growing up.
And as it happens to each of us, so it began to happen to our civilization in the 16th century.
Imagine a world before telescopes, when the universe was only what you could see with the naked eye.
It was obvious that Earth was motionless, and that everything in the heavens the Sun, the Moon, the stars, the planets revolved around us and then a Polish astronomer and priest named Copernicus made a radical proposal.
The Earth was not the center.
It was just one of the planets, and, like them, it revolved around the Sun.
Many, like the Protestant reformer Martin Luther, took this idea as a scandalous affront to Scripture.
They were horrified.
But for one man, Copernicus didn't go far enough.
His name was Giordano Bruno, and he was a natural-born rebel.
He longed to bust out of that cramped little universe.
Even as a young Dominican monk in Naples, he was a misfit.
This was a time when there was no freedom of thought in Italy.
But Bruno hungered to know everything about God's creation.
He dared to read the books banned by the Church, and that was his undoing.
In one of them, an ancient Roman, a man dead for more than 1,500 years whispered to him of a universe far greater, one as boundless as his idea of God.
Lucretius asked the reader to imagine standing at the edge of the universe and shooting an arrow outward.
If the arrow keeps going, then clearly, the universe extends beyond what you thought was the edge.
But if the arrow doesn't keep going say it hits a wall then that wall must lie beyond what you thought was the edge of the universe.
Now if you stand on that wall and shoot another arrow, there are only the same two possible outcomes it either flies forever out into space, or it hits some boundary where you can stand and shoot yet another arrow.
Either way, the universe is unbounded.
The cosmos must be infinite.
This made perfect sense to Bruno.
The God he worshiped was infinite.
So how, he reasoned, could Creation be anything less? It was the last steady job he ever had.
And then, when he was 30, he had the vision that sealed his fate.
In this dream, he awakened to a world enclosed inside a confining bowl of stars.
This was the cosmos of Bruno's time.
He experienced a sickening moment of fear, as if the bottom of everything was falling away beneath his feet.
But he summoned up his courage.
I spread confident wings to space and soared toward the infinite, leaving far behind me what others strained to see from a distance.
Here, there was no up, no down, no edge, no center.
I saw that the Sun was just another star, and the stars were other Suns, each escorted by other Earths like our own.
The revelation of this immensity was like falling in love.
Bruno became an evangelist, spreading the gospel of infinity throughout Europe.
He assumed that other lovers of God would naturally embrace this grander and more glorious view of Creation.
What a fool I was.
He was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church in his homeland, expelled by the Calvinists in Switzerland, and by the Lutherans in Germany.
Bruno jumped at an invitation to lecture at Oxford, in England.
At last, he thought, a chance to share his vision with an audience of his peers.
I have come to present a new vision of the cosmos.
Copernicus was right to argue that our world is not the center of the universe.
The Earth goes around the Sun.
It's a planet, just like the others.
But Copernicus was only the dawn.
I bring you the sunrise.
The stars are other fiery suns, made of the same substance as the Earth, and they have their own watery earths, with plants and animals no less noble than our own.
Are you mad or merely ignorant? Everyone knows there is only one world.
What everyone knows is wrong.
Our infinite God has created a boundless universe with an infinite number of worlds.
Do they not read Aristotle where you come from? Or even the Bible? I beg you, reject antiquity, tradition, faith, and authority.
Let us begin anew, by doubting everything we assume - has been proven.
- Heretic! Infidel! Your God is too small.
A wiser man would have learned his lesson.
But Bruno was not such a man.
He couldn't keep his soaring vision of the cosmos to himself, despite the fact that the penalty for doing so in his world was the most vicious form of cruel and unusual punishment.
Giordano Bruno lived at a time when there was no such thing as the separation of church and state, or the notion that freedom of speech was a sacred right of every individual.
Expressing an idea that didn't conform to traditional belief could land you in deep trouble.
Recklessly, Bruno returned to Italy.
Maybe he was homesick.
But still, he must have known that his homeland was one of the most dangerous places in Europe he could possibly go.
The Roman Catholic Church maintained a system of courts known as the Inquisition, and its sole purpose was to investigate and torment anyone who dared voice views that differed from theirs.
It wasn't long before Bruno fell into the clutches of the thought police.
This wanderer, who worshiped an infinite universe, languished in confinement for eight years.
Through relentless interrogations, he stubbornly refused to renounce his views.
Why was the Church willing to go to such lengths to torment Bruno? What were they afraid of? If Bruno was right, then the sacred books and the authority of the Church would be open to question.
Finally, the cardinals of the Inquisition rendered their verdict.
You are found guilty of questioning the Holy Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Of believing that God's wrath is not eternal, that everyone will be saved.
Of asserting the existence of other worlds.
All of the books you have written will be gathered up and burned in St.
Peter's Square.
Reverend Father, these eight years of confinement have given me much time to reflect.
So you will recant? My love and reverence for the Creator inspires in me the vision of an infinite Creation.
You shall be turned over to the Governor of Rome to administer the appropriate punishment for those who will not repent.
It may be that you are more afraid to deliver this judgment than I am to hear it.
Ten years after Bruno's martyrdom, Galileo first looked through a telescope, realizing that Bruno had been right all along.
The Milky Way was made of countless stars invisible to the naked eye, and some of those lights in the sky were actually other worlds.
Bruno was no scientist.
His vision of the cosmos was a lucky guess, because he had no evidence to support it.
Like most guesses, it could well have turned out wrong.
But once the idea was in the air, it gave others a target to aim at.
If only to disprove it.
Bruno glimpsed the vastness of space.
But he had no inkling of the staggering immensity of time.
How can we humans, who rarely live more than a century, hope to grasp the vast expanse of time that is the history of the cosmos? The universe is In order to imagine all of cosmic time, let's compress it into a single calendar year.
The cosmic calendar begins on January 1st with the birth of our universe.
It contains everything that's happened since then, up to now, which on this calendar is midnight December 31st.
On this scale, every month represents about a billion years.
Every day represents nearly Let's go back as far as we can, to the very first moment of the universe.
January 1st, the Big Bang.
It's as far back as we can see in time for now.
Our entire universe emerged from a point smaller than a single atom.
Space itself exploded in a cosmic fire, launching the expansion of the universe and giving birth to all the energy and all the matter we know today.
I know that sounds crazy, but there's strong observational evidence to support the Big Bang theory.
And it includes the amount of helium in the cosmos and the glow of radio waves left over from the explosion.
As it expanded, the universe cooled, and there was darkness for about 200 million years.
Gravity was pulling together clumps of gas and heating them until the first stars burst into light on January 10th.
On January 13th, these stars coalesced into the first small galaxies.
These galaxies merged to form still larger ones, including our own Milky Way, which formed about 11 billion years ago, on March 15th of the cosmic year.
Hundreds of billions of suns.
Which one is ours? It's not yet born.
It will rise from the ashes of other stars.
See those lights flashing like paparazzi? Each one is a supernova, the blazing death of a giant star.
Stars die and are born in places like this one a stellar nursery.
They condense like raindrops from giant clouds of gas and dust.
They get so hot that the nuclei of the atoms fuse together deep within them to make the oxygen we breathe, the carbon in our muscles, the calcium in our bones, the iron in our blood, all of it was cooked in the fiery hearts of long-vanished stars.
You, me, everyone we are made of star stuff.
This star stuff is recycled and enriched, again and again, through succeeding generations of stars.
How much longer until the birth of our Sun? A long time.
It won't begin to shine for another six billion years.
Our Sun's birthday is August 31st on the Cosmic Calendar four and a half billion years ago.
As with the other worlds of our solar system, Earth was formed from a disk of gas and dust orbiting the newborn Sun.
Repeated collisions produced a growing ball of debris.
See that asteroid? No, not that one.
The one over there.
We exist because the gravity of that one next to it just nudged it an inch to the left.
What difference could an inch make on the scale the solar system? Just wait, you'll see.
The Earth took one hell of a beating in its first billion years.
Fragments of orbiting debris collided and coalesced, until they snowballed to form our Moon.
The Moon is a souvenir of that violent epoch.
If you stood on the surface of that long ago Earth, the Moon would have looked a hundred times brighter.
It was ten times closer back then, locked in a much more intimate gravitational embrace.
As the Earth cooled, seas began to form.
The tides were a thousand times higher then.
Over the eons, tidal friction within Earth pushed the Moon away.
Life began somewhere around here, September 21st, three and a half billion years ago on our little world.
We still don't know how life got started.
For all we know, it may have come from another part of the Milky Way.
The origin of life is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of science.
That's life cooking, evolving all the biochemical recipes for its incredibly complex activities.
By November 9th, life was breathing, moving, eating, responding to its environment.
We owe a lot to those pioneering microbes.
Oh, yeah one other thing.
They also invented sex.
December 17th was quite a day.
Life in the sea really took off, it was exploding with a diversity of larger plants and animals.
Tiktaalik was one of the first animals to venture onto land.
It must have felt like visiting another planet.
Forests, dinosaurs, birds, insects, they all evolved in the final week of December.
The first flower bloomed on December 28th.
As these ancient forests grew and died and sank beneath the surface, their remains transformed into coal.
we humans are burning most of that coal to power and imperil our civilization.
Remember that asteroid back in the formation of the solar system the one that got nudged a little to the left? Well, here it comes.
It's 6:24 AM on December 30th on the Cosmic Calendar.
For more than a hundred million years, the dinosaurs were lords of the Earth, while our ancestors, small mammals, scurried fearfully underfoot.
The asteroid changed all that.
Suppose it hadn't been nudged at all.
It would have missed the Earth entirely, and for all we know, the dinosaurs might still be here but we wouldn't.
This is a good example of the extreme contingency, the chance nature, of existence.
The universe is already more than 13 and a half billion years old.
Still no sign of us.
In the vast ocean of time that this calendar represents, we humans only evolved within the last hour of the last day of the cosmic year.
11:59 and 46 seconds.
All of recorded history occupies only the last 14 seconds, and every person you've ever heard of lived somewhere in there.
All those kings and battles, migrations and inventions, wars and loves, everything in the history books happened here, in the last seconds of the Cosmic Calendar.
But if we want to explore such a brief moment of cosmic time we'll have to change scale.
We are newcomers to the cosmos.
Our own story only begins on the last night of the cosmic year.
It's 9:45 on New Year's Eve.
Three and a half million years ago, our ancestors, yours and mine, left these traces.
We stood up, and parted ways from them.
Once we were standing on two feet, our eyes were no longer fixated on the ground.
Now we were free to look up in wonder.
For the longest part of human existence, say the last 40,000 generations, we were wanderers, living in small bands of hunters and gatherers, making tools, controlling fire, naming things, all within the last hour of the Cosmic Calendar.
To find out what happens next, we'll have to change scale to see the last minute of the last night of the cosmic year.
We're so very young on the time scale of the universe that we didn't start painting our first pictures until the last 60 seconds of the cosmic year, a mere 30,000 years ago.
This is when we invented astronomy.
In fact, we're all descended from astronomers.
Our survival depended on knowing how to read the stars in order to predict the coming of the winter and the migration of the wild herds.
And then, around 10,000 years ago, there began a revolution in the way we lived.
Our ancestors learned how to shape their environment, taming wild plants and animals, cultivating land and settling down.
This changed everything.
For the first time in our history, we had more stuff than we could carry.
We needed a way to keep track of it.
At 14 seconds to midnight, or about 6,000 years ago, we invented writing.
And it wasn't long before we started recording more than bushels of grain.
Writing allowed us to save our thoughts and send them much further in space and time.
Tiny markings on a clay tablet became a means for us to vanquish mortality.
It shook the world.
Moses was born seven seconds ago.
Buddha, six seconds ago.
Jesus, five seconds ago.
Mohammed, three seconds ago.
It was not even two seconds ago that, for better or worse, the two halves of the Earth discovered each other.
And it was only in the very last second of the Cosmic Calendar that we began to use science to reveal nature's secrets and her laws.
The scientific method is so powerful that in a mere four centuries, it has taken us from Galileo's first look through a telescope at another world to leaving our footprints on the Moon.
It allowed us to look out across space and time to discover where and when we are in the cosmos.
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.
Carl Sagan guided the maiden voyage of Cosmos a generation ago.
He was the most successful science communicator of the 20th century, but he was first and foremost a scientist.
Carl contributed enormously to our knowledge of the planets.
He correctly predicted the existence of methane lakes on Saturn's giant moon Titan.
He showed that the atmosphere of the early Earth must have contained powerful greenhouse gases.
He was the first to understand that seasonal changes on Mars were due to windblown dust.
Carl was a pioneer in the search for extraterrestrial life and intelligence.
He played a leading role in every major spacecraft mission to explore the solar system during the first 40 years of the Space Age.
But that's not all he did.
This is Carl Sagan's own calendar from 1975.
Who was I back then? I was just a 17-year-old kid from the Bronx with dreams of becoming a scientist, and somehow the world's most famous astronomer found time to invite me to Ithaca, in upstate New York, and spend a Saturday with him.
I remember that snowy day like it was yesterday.
He met me at the bus stop and showed me his laboratory at Cornell University.
Carl reached behind his desk and inscribed this book for me.
"For Neil, a future astronomer.
" At the end of the day, he drove me back to the bus station.
The snow was falling harder.
He wrote his phone number his home phone number on a scrap of paper and he said, "If the bus can't get through, call me and spend the night at my home with my family.
" I already knew I wanted to become a scientist, but that afternoon, I learned from Carl the kind of person I wanted to become.
He reached out to me and to countless others, inspiring so many of us to study, teach and do science.
Science is a cooperative enterprise, spanning the generations.
It's the passing of a torch from teacher to student to teacher, a community of minds reaching back to antiquity and forward to the stars.
Now, come with me.
Our journey is just beginning.

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