August 21, 2010

Cosmos Episode 11: The Persistence of Memory

It's going to be tough to write about Cosmos because I will run out of superlatives pretty soon. Anway, we'll see about that when we come to it, I guess!

It was breathtaking to see Sagan start this particular episode talking about whales with all the confidence and panache and more of a marine biologist.

He talks about the amount of information in our genes and then moves on to our brains — one particular theory posits that the brain evolved in layers: the brain stem, the Reptilian-complex, and then the cerebral cortex.

He lucidly shows how the brain contains more information than contained in our genes and how that accounts for all that we have accomplished as a species and he extrapolates about species that might have more neurons and neuronal connections than are present in our brains. He speculates about intelligent life forms whose neurons may not be physically connected like they are in our brains. What creative thoughts!

Astonishingly enough, Sagan draws parallels between how a city like New York evolves and how our brain has evolved! And he does a marvelous job of it of course ...

And yet as powerful as our brains are, mankind has advanced so much in the last few centuries although it has had pretty much the same brain for the last ten thousand years. Sagan leads us to understand how critically important books have been, the technologies of paper and printing and all the related stuff.

And of course, late in his life, Sagan would have witnessed the incipent Internet and would have visualized the end of printed books as well.

My thoughts were that every educated person should watch this series ... at least, this is much easier than reading all his books. This should be part of the curriculum in all streams of education.

And it makes me shudder when I hear politicians proudly go on about the Sunday Bible schools they had attended as kids.

The amazing truths about the real universe discovered by science are far more awe-inspiring than any religious truths contained in any of the religions of the world. Think of the fact of the expansion of the universe first discovered by Hubble and his assistant whose name I was not familiar with so far until Sagan mentioned him.

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