This set is one of the main reasons why I got a DVD player. My VHS taps had actually broken from too many viewings of "Cosmos." This box-set is one of the all-around coolest DVDs I own. The packaging is as innovative as the series, allowing for quite a few disks to take up very little shelf space. (It is about the size of three DVD cases.) The disks average 2 episodes per disk. The digital sound and picture is perfect, and a great boon to this exceptional series. As an extra feature, the "updates" option fills in any scientific gaps.
As to "Cosmos" itself, like many people I could offer my testimony to it's quality. As a child (I think I was about 7 when I first saw it) "Cosmos" opened my mind to the possibilities of the Universe. I am glad that the information is still relevant today, and that the only thing dated about the production is Carl Sagan's turtlenecks.
Should I ever have children, "Cosmos" is the sort of thing I would like to share with them.
on April 15, 2000
The "Cosmos" series, along with Carl Sagan's books, prompted me to go back to school when my son was 9 to get a physics degree, to become a science writer and essayist, and to write two science books for children, the latest "How Come? Planet Earth" (Workman). I watched it with my son every week, and he was mesmerized. He later met Dr. Sagan in Ithaca, who called on this 10-year-old, his hand frantically waving, FIRST at a seminar of very distinguished adults.
"Cosmos" was sheer inspiration as well as brilliant education, the perfect antidote to a bad day, the ultimate escapist television. As each episode closed and the poignant theme music played, it would inevitably bring me to tears. I was lucky enough to purchase the entire set before it went out of production. It was the first thing my son, now 28, wanted to borrow when he came home for a visit recently. I miss Carl Sagan's presence in the world more than I can say, ....
on December 17, 1999
I was fortunate to purchase all 13 episodes a few years ago before they became unavailable, and believe me it was difficult then to get them. I have learned the following from the Carl Sagan Productions website: The COSMOS series has recently been fully acquired by Carl Sagan Productions but it cannot be sold until the music rights have been re-cleared. We are planning to re-issue it on DVD and VHS after the legal work is complete. We will also be reissuing the album, Music of Cosmos, on CD. I am sorry none of these items is available at this time. --So hopefully it won't be much longer for these extraordinary programs to be available for purchase. In the series, Carl Sagan masterfully guides one through the wonders of our Universe and lets us see just who we are in it. From stars to micro-organisms, to trees and whales, to Johannes Kepler and the little-known, woman scientist named Hypatia from ancient Alexandria, to warnings of the perils of human aggression and foolishness of the past and perhaps future, and mostly of our striving, never-ending need to explore and understand through science; Sagan takes us on this journey. This is not just some science documentary, but rather, an experience that gives one a spirit, an appreciation, and a zest for science and understanding and mostly for being alive in this marvelous Universe. The photography is lovely. The music is full of wonderment. Sagan explains complex subjects to easy understanding (his greatest talent). When the videos become available again, I will be purchasing them again for fear of wearing the old ones out. They are great for everyone! The best purchase I ever made.
Although the "Cosmos" series is nearly 20 years old, it remains as relevant today as it did in the early 1980s. The series was devised and written by the astronomer Carl Sagan of Cornell university. Based on the book he wrote by the same name, the late Carl Sagan put together the most ambitious and far-reaching inquiries into the human scientific endeavor to date.
Within "Cosmos" is an assortment of discussions of the history of scientific ideas, as well as the personages who conceived and promoted those ideas. The collection includes such diverse fields as astronomy, theoretical physics, zoology / taxonomy, molecular biology, cosmology and chemistry.
Sagan takes his viewers on a tour of some of the most pivotal epochs in science history. Incorporated into the historical overview are such personages as Eratosthenes of Alexandria, Hypatia of Alexandria, Anaxagorous, Aristarchus of Samos, Archimedes, Democritus of Abderra, Aristotle, Johannes Kepler, Leonardo Davinci, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein (among others). Sagan does a wonderful job of recounting the intellectual milieu in which these pioneers lived, and also explains what inspired their revolutionary ideas.
There have been many scientific documentaries put out on video since the debut of "Cosmos." Virtually all of them, however, were influenced by Sagan. His vision was to make science more accessible to the general public, as opposed to being confined to the stuffy laboratories and lecture halls of academia. After all, the fruits and treasures of scientific discovery belong to all of us, not just a select educated few. It was not so long ago, however, that it was widely thought that laymen were not intelligent enough to follow the general principles of scientific polemics. Sagan disagreed with this premise and has taken tremendous efforts to dispel it. "Cosmos" is an example of those efforts.
This is a truly outstanding piece of work and is recommended for everyone who has so much as a peripheral interest in science. Yes, it is a bit on the expensive side, but it is also nearly 12 hours worth of intellectual fervor. This version on DVD also contains updated material in which Sagan introduces scientific revelations which have been made since the PBS series came out. It also contains commentary by his widow, Ann Druyan. So, buy this box set and enjoy all the cosmos has to offer.
on October 7, 2004
This review refers to the DVD box set of the 13-episode series, "Cosmos."
I first watched this series (not the original airing in 1980, but its late 80s re-playing) while I was in middle school, perhaps the summer between Grade 7 and 8. Though I had been interested in science as a young child, that interest had waned as I entered my teens. Still, after watching the first episode, "The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean" while siting in my basement trying to avoid the heat of a Saskatchewan sun, my interest in science emerged once more and I ended up watching the entire series. Years later, I decided to buy the "Cosmos" collector's edition. I was at first worried that the series would not have stood the test of time. My concerns were unfounded as I was once again transported on my own voyage of the imagination.
One thing that one will notice is that new footage has been added, such as images from the Hubble telescope. These new images are not obtrusive and even most purists will not object to their inclusion. Most of the discs also include updates on the science behind "Cosmos."
Though this point has been time and time again, perhaps the greatest legacy that Carl Sagan left to us is how he was able to popularize science for the masses. While presenting a picture of a vast universe, one in which humanity is neither noteworthy nor the end result of the universe's creation, Sagan does not make the viewer feel insignificant or forlorn. Rather, the viewer is filled with a sense of awe and is inspired by the possibilities the cosmos holds for our species. It really isn't hyperbole when I claim that, for many, "Cosmos" is a spiritual, as well as an intellectual, journey.
on December 24, 2000
Carl Sagan's TV series COSMOS did nothing less than change the course of my life. I did not know what I wanted to do with my life, until watching the TV series COSMOS inspired me to become a teacher of science and mathematics. In the COSMOS series, Carl Sagan proves that science can be understandable, relevant and, most of all, interesting! Before COSMOS aired on PBS, I had no interest in science. This series ignited my desire to understand the Universe and humanity's place in it. His explanations of astronomy, evolution, and other branches of science are the clearest I have ever heard. Even Albert Einstein's theories are simply and clearly explained in a way that anyone can understand. The graphics and photography are stunning, and the music hauntingly beautiful. There is currently an urgent need to improve science education in the U.S. At home or in the classroom, Carl Sagan's videos (and books) have been, and will continue to be, an inspiration and an invaluable learning aid for people of all ages.
on March 26, 2002
I did a review on this series for the VHS set sometime ago. Recently I bought the DVD set and could not be pleased more.
The DVD set has incorporated newer images of stars and galaxies from more recent pictures taken by the Hubble telescope and earthbound observatories. Also the graphics in some sequences have been improved. The visuals are clean and sharp and I have had no problems playing these DVD in my player.
Producer, Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan's widow, opens the first episode and talks a little about when Cosmos was made and what's happened since. She also talks about what were Dr. Sagan's thoughts and how they transpired into what's currently known in science. I found more on the production company for these programs at: carlsagan.com
Also, most of the episodes end with a "Cosmos Update" that was filmed 10 years after Cosmos was made. In the updates, Carl Sagan discusses and sometimes demonstrates anything new that's been learned on the material just viewed. The DVD's come in a handsome case with a breif synopsis of each episode printed on it.
In the series, Carl Sagan masterfully guides one through the wonders of our Universe and lets us see just who we are in it. From stars to micro-organisms, to trees and whales, to Johannes Kepler and the little-known, woman scientist named Hypatia from ancient Alexandria, to warnings of the perils of human aggression and foolishness of the past and perhaps future, and mostly of our striving, never-ending need to explore and understand through science; Sagan takes us on this journey.
This is not just some science documentary, but rather, an experience that gives one a spirit, an appreciation, and a zest for science and understanding, and mostly, for being alive in this marvelous Universe. The photography is lovely. The music is full of wonderment. Sagan explains complex subjects to easy understanding (his greatest talent). They are great for everyone! The best purchase I ever made.
on February 25, 2001
It has been a long wait for a lot of people. The everlasting memorable quality of Cosmos was well attested by the many dozens of unanimous five-star reviews stretching back over a year (for some reason amazon.com has truncated the number of customer reviews that were posted for the long out-of-print "Cosmos: Complete Collection" video set; there used to be many, many more than there are now) taking the time to wistfully sing the highest praises for this then-unavailable show and clamoring for it to be re-released. Although I never posted one of those reviews myself, I avidly read them as I checked amazon.com (and carlsagan.com) almost daily to see whether there was any news on when, if ever, Cosmos would be released. Cosmos is a fantastic 13-part science miniseries about not simply astronomy but about humanity's place in the universe including evolution, history, the brain, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, concluding with a plea to cherish and preserve the humanity that, even if there are billions of other intelligent species in the universe, remains unique and precious.
Now, at last, I have the show again in this wonderful 7-DVD edition. The picture and the music quality are quite superb. As for the picture/content, all the original Cosmos footage appears to have been restored, from the 1980 La Perouse sequence to the 1990 Comet sequence, and some new mostly still pictures have been added as well (such as new artwork of galaxies during the "Shores of the Cosmic Ocean" flight of the spaceship and a screenshot of the new seti@home computer program). All the 1990 Sagan updates remain, a 2000 Ann Druyan introdution comes before the first episode, and there are also a few occasional "Science Update Subtitles" that give short updates in the science of what is being discussed (one of which I found particularly interesting: much of "Edge of Forever" wonders whether our expanding universe is "open" or "closed," and in the 1990 Update Sagan states that this has still not been determined, but then a Science Update Subtitle states that recent observations suggest that the universe is not only "open" but that its expansion appears to be increasing). As for the music, the DVDs contain some new original Vangelis music that is truly wonderful, and most of the great music in the episodes themselves is unchanged but not all, with some musical differences both minor and major (such as the total replacement of all the Jean-Michel Jarre music that used to fill "Lives of the Stars" with the new Vangelis music), but on the whole all the new musical choices still work beautifully.
Incidentally, contrary to what a below reviewer stated, the final episode of Cosmos, "Who Speaks For Earth?", has not been proven wrong by 20/20 hindsight. As briefly pointed out in a Science Update Subtitle at the end of that episode, as Sagan stated at greater length in his last book "Billions and Billions", and as was detailed in the recent documentary on CNN "Preparing for Armageddon", even today after the "winning" of the Cold War, the nuclear armaments of both sides have been only slightly reduced and both sides remain able and ready to senselessly destroy the world many times over at the drop of a hat. It is therefore more necessary to remind everyone of Sagan's worries in this episode than it was 20 years ago, as these days most people now dismiss the problem as solved.
on October 23, 1999
I first saw this series when it originally ran in 1980, when I was 12. It absolutely changed my whole worldview, as it did for millions of future Gen-X scientists. .... This review is based on the 7-tape gift box set released in 1989, which I bought at a book fair in Orlando in 1993.
Cosmos is a grand tour, easily the most compelling and best made science television series ever. Sagan shows great poise in front of the camera; one wonders what it must have been like to sit through his classes at Harvard and Cornell. Sagan strives (and almost, but not quite, succeeds) in distinguishing, as he says in episode one, "between speculation and fact. Our journey will require imagination and skepticism both". The series combines film for outside shots and videotape for inside shots. For the most part, the production quality is first-rate, though what passes for "special effects" here and there, while passable for 1980, haven't aged well. This series would no doubt be an even greater visual tour-de-force were it produced today.
Episode one, "The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean", is a broad overview of the topics that will be covered in the remainder of the series. Episode two, "One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue", begins the meat of the series, discussing artificial and natural selection, voyaging through the cell and the structure of DNA, and ending with grand speculations on potential life on other planets, most notably and creatively, Jupiter.
Episode three, "The Harmony of the Worlds", describes the way the groundwork was laid for our present understanding of astronomy through the life of Johannes Kepler, the oft-overlooked German who, as Sagan describes, was "the first astrophysicist, and the last scientific astrologer". He details Kepler's search for harmony in geometry, his attempts to fit the structure of the heavens in terms of the Greek perfect solids, his contentious collaboration with Tycho Brahe, and his ultimate discovery of the three laws of planetary motion -- and manages simultaneously to take potshots at the political and religious establishments of the time. Episode four, "Heaven and Hell", begins his examination of the planets, looking at planetary catastrophes such as the Tunguska Event of 1908, astronomical lore, and the evolution of our understanding of the nature of Venus.
Episode five, "Blues for a Red Planet", examines the planet Mars as well as the history of the pivotal figures in its study, most notably Percival Lowell, whose name is synonymous with Mars, and Robert Goddard, co-father of rocket science. He talks about the Viking missions, and the question of how one determines the existence of a technical civilization from space. Episode six, "Traveler's Tales", looks at the nature of exploration, through the eyes of both 17th century Holland and the modern Voyager planetary probes.
Episode seven, "The Backbone of Night", presents the rise of the first scientifically inclined civilization, ancient Greek Ionia, and how the rise of scientific mysticism, led by mathematician-philosopher Pythagoras, snuffed this first budding of science, leaving the world to wait another 1500 years before Copernicus would trigger events that led to the Renaissance. Episode eight, "Travels in Space and Time", introduces us to the bizarre consequences of time and the speed of light, showing how stars drift to build and dismantle stellar constellations, telling the story of Albert Einstein, and going to the Italian village of Vinci, home of Leonardo, to demonstrate the queer consequences of general relativity. Sagan presents speculations on the nature of interstellar vehicles and the detection of extrasolar planets.
In Episode nine, "The Lives of the Stars", Sagan covers the massive numbers -- the googol, googolplex, and infinity -- necessary for astronomy, the chemical elements, and the lifespan of stars. Episode ten, "The Edge of Forever", contemplates the origin and possible demise of the Cosmos, through the discovery of the Big Bang by Milton Humason, and touches on Hindu cosmology (certainly coincidentally the only religion whose ideas coincide with scientific theories).
Episode eleven, "The Persistence of Memory", examines intelligence, first in whales, then in humans. He spins through brain biology and evolution, and concludes with a foreshadowing of a future topic, whether or not we'll survive as a species because of our intelligence. Episode twelve, "Encyclopaedia Galactica", picks up that thread, beginning with a skeptical analysis of UFOs and our desire to contact other civilizations. He goes back to another search for a civilization via Egypt and Champollion's decypherment of hieroglyphics, then forward to the search for extraterrestrial civilizations, the SETI program and the famous Drake/Sagan equation attempting to estimate the number of intelligent civilizations in the galaxy.
The final original chapter, Episode thirteen, "Who Speaks For Earth?", cover the other topic Sagan is most known for, the science and politics of "technological adolescence" in general, and nuclear war in particular, and examines a past destruction, the fall of the Library of Alexandria. He ends with a sweeping, panoramic summary overview of the history of the Cosmos.
In this videotape collection, the last volume is balanced out with a dialogue between Carl Sagan and, comically, Ted Turner. This constitutes the only unlikeable segment of this video collection, two Champagne Liberals discussing a hodgepodge of scientific and political topics. When Sagan starts pinning down Turner on how rich people should contribute more to society, during which Turner asks Sagan if he's a socialist (Sagan evades the question, but Sagan was indeed a socialist at heart), eventually they must get into uncomfortable ground for Turner has he abruptly changes the subject. The interview is a mildly interesting glimpse at Sagan, circa 1989, but not necessary viewing.
This boxed set, issued in 1989, also included a paperback copy of the book Cosmos, which is a wonderful companion volume to the series. But to be honest, it's not much fun to look at. The ideal companion book to the series is the oversized illustrated hardcover, reprinted in 1995. The book is particularly interesting in its expansion on topics that are only touched on in the series, and occasionally in its coverage of topics not discussed at all. I don't store the book in that last slot in the gift box -- that space is occupied by my copy of the movie "Contact", a fitting eighth volume.
It would be a true shame for this collection to remain out of print for long. Even twenty years after its debut, it remains the most compelling science series ever ....
on May 4, 2006
This landmark series narrated and co-written by astronomer, astrophysicist, professor, and author Dr. Carl Edward Sagan (Nov. 1934 to Dec. 1996) is the most watched series in public television history.
Sagan takes us on "a personal voyage" through the cosmos (from the Greek meaning universe, harmony) in his "ship of the imagination."
To me, this series is and was so popular for many reasons. One reason is the diversified scientific information (especially historical information) it presents. Along with this you have Sagan's narration with his deep, articulate, punctuating voice. As well, the background music (classical, electronic, and even some "Pink Floyd") is superb and all images (with some new footage) are mesmerizing.
There are many things Sagan says that makes you think. For example, the words that title this review are the first words Sagan utters. Other personal favorite quotations include:
(1) "The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion and politics but it is not the path to knowledge. And there's no place for it in the endeavor of science."
(2) "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe."
(3) "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
(4) "The Earth and every living thing are made of star stuff."
(5) "You have to know the past to understand the present."
There is no need to update this series. However, brief updates are provided for many episodes. Sagan narrates these updates that were recorded a decade after the original broadcast.
To get an idea of the wide-range of topics covered, I will give the names of the chapters or scenes of each episode. Note that each episode begins with an "opening" and finishes with "end credits." (The exception is episode #1 that has an "Ann Druyan Introduction"-Druyan was Sagan's third and final wife as well as the co-writer of this series along with Steven Soter-before the opening.)
Also, I will provide additional information in [square brackets] where I feel it is necessary to do so.
(1) The Cosmos (2) Spaceship universe (3) Spaceship galaxy (4) Spaceship stars (5) Spaceship solar system
(6) Planet Earth (7) Alexandrian library [great ancient library in the Egyptian city of Alexandria] (8) Ages of science (9) Cosmic calendar.
(1) Spaceship cosmic matter (2) Heike crab [crabs with curious markings on their backs] (3) Artificial selection
(4) Natural selection (5) Watchmaker (6) Cosmic calendar (7) Evolution (8) DNA (9) Miller-Urey experiment [experiment in 1950s where the stuff of life was made] (10) Alien life (11) Update
(1) Astronomers vs Astrologers (2) Astrology (3) Laws of nature (4) Constellations (5) Astronomers
(6) Ptolomy/Copernicus (7) [Johannes] Kepler (8) Kepler and Tycho Brahe (9) Kepler's laws [of planetary motion] (10) The Somnium [one of the first works of science fiction written by Kepler]
(1) Heaven and Hell (2) Tunguska [a place in central Siberia] Event (3) Comets (4) Collisions with Earth (5) Planetary evolution (6) Venus [second planet from the sun] (7) Descent to Venus (8) Change (9) Death of worlds (10) Conclusion (11) Update
(1) Martians (2) [Percival] Lowell (3) Edgar Rice Burroughs (4) [Robert] Goddard (5) Inhabited Planets (6) Mars (7) Viking Lander [probe that landed on Mars in 1976] (8) Life on Mars? (9) Mars' rover [a roving vehicle] (10) Terraforming [changing an alien landscape for one suitable for humans] Mars (11) Update
(1) Voyager, JPL [respectively, spacecraft that surveyed our solar system & eventually became interstellar and Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA (2) Traveler's routes (3) Dutch renaissance (4) [Christiaan] Huygens (5) Huygens-conclusion (6) Traveler's tales (7) Jovian [or Jupiter, fifth planet from the sun] system (8) Europa and Io [two moons of Jupiter] (9) Voyager ship's log (10) Saturn and Titan [respectively, sixth planet from the sun and its largest moon] (11) Update
(1) What are the stars? (2) Brooklyn schoolroom [Sagan was born in Brooklyn] (3) Mythology of the stars (4) Ancient Greek scientists (5) Science blossoms (6) Democritus [lived 430 BC] (7) Pythagoras [lived in the sixth century BC] (8) Plato and others (9) Distance to the stars (10) Evidence of other planets [beyond the solar system]
(1) Constellations (2) Time and space (3) [Einstein's] Relativity(4) Leonardo da Vinci (5) Interstellar Travel (6) Time travel (7) Solar systems (8) Cosmic time frame (9) Dinosaurs (10) Immensity of Space (11) Update
(1) Apple pie (2) The very large (3) Atoms (4) Chemical elements (5) Nuclear forces (6) The stars and our sun (7) Death of stars (8) Star stuff (9) Gravity in Wonderland (10) Children of the stars (11) Update
(1) Big Bang [leading theory for the origin of the universe] (2) Galaxies (3) Astronomical anomalies (4) Doppler Effect [important effect of sound and light waves] (5) [Milton] Humason (6) Dimensions (7) The universe (8) India
(9) Oscillating universe (10) VLA [very large array of radio telescopes] (11) Update
(1) Intelligence (2) Whales (3) Genes and DNA (4) The Brain (5) The City (6) Libraries (7) Books (8) Computers (9) Other brains (10) Voyager
(1) Close Encounters (2) Refutations (3) UFOs (4) [Jean Franscois] Champollion's Egypt (5) Hieroglyphics (6) Rosetta Stone (7) SETI [Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence] (8) Arecibo [Radio/Radar Observatory located in Puerto Rico] (9) Drake Equation [equation formulated by Frank Drake for estimating the number of advanced technical civilizations in the Galaxy] and contact (10) Encyclopedia Galactica (11) Update
Episode #13: (my personal favorite)
(1) Tlingit and Aztec Indians (2) Who speaks for Earth? (3) Nuclear war and balance of terror (4) Alexandrian library (5) Hypatia [the last scientist who worked in the Alexandrian Library] (6) Big Bang and the stuff of life (7) Evolution of life (8) Star stuff (9) What humans have done (10) Who speaks for Earth? (11) Update
The DVDs are practically perfect in picture and sound quality. All the DVDs are remastered, restored, and enhanced.
Finally, there is a book titled "Cosmos" (1980). Sagan elaborates in this book: "The book and the television series evolved together. In some sense each is based on the other...[the] book goes more deeply into many topics than does the television series...each episode of the television series follows fairly closely the corresponding chapter of [the] book; and...the pleasure of each will be enhanced by reference to the other."
In conclusion, if you want to learn something and be entertained at the same time, then you must see this landmark series!!!
(First broadcast on PBS in 1980; updates recorded 1990; 13 one hour episodes; full screen; 7 discs)