Cosmos #5

This episode explores the wave theory of light as studied by humankind, noting that light has played an important role in scientific progress, with such early experiments from over 2000 years ago involving the camera obscura by the Chinese philosopher Mozi.

Tyson describes the work of the 11th century Arabic scientist Ibn al-Haytham, considered to be one of the first to postulate on the nature of light and optics leading to the concept of the telescope, as well as one of the first researchers to use the scientific method.

Findings of William Herschel in the 19th century showed that light also consisted of infrared rays.

Joseph von Fraunhofer would later come to discover that by magnifying the spectrum of visible light, gaps in the spectrum would be observed.

This since has led to the core of astronomical spectroscopy, allowing astronomers to make observations about the composition of stars, planets, and other stellar features through the spectral lines, as well as observing the motion and expansion of the universe, and the hypothesized existence of dark matter:


Cosmos #4

Tyson begins the episode by explaining the nature of the speed of light and how much of what is seen of the observable universe is from light emanated from billions of years in the past.

He describes how the work of Isaac Newton, William Herschel, Michael Faraday, and James Clerk Maxwell contributed to understanding the nature of electromagnetic waves and gravitational force, and how this work led towards Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, that the speed of light is a fundamental constant of the universe and gravity can be seen as distortion of the fabric of space-time.

Tyson describes the concept of dark stars as postulated by John Michell which are not visible but detectable by tracking other stars trapped within their gravity wells, an idea Herschel used to discover binary stars.

Tyson then describes the nature of black holes, their enormous gravitational forces that can even capture light, and their discovery via X-ray sources such as Cygnus X-1.

Herschel’s son, John would be inspired by his father to continue to document the known stars as well as contributions towards photography that play on the same nature of deep time used by astronomers.

Animated sequences in this episode feature caricatures of William and John Herschel. Patrick Stewart provided the voice for William in these segments

John Herschel


The Slaughtered Virgin of Zenopolis
(Inspector Capstan #1)
by David Blake (2017)
Detective Inspector Capstan investigates a murder at Bath’s almost famous Basin Museum, a hapless armed robbery, the theft of ancient Roman weaponry and the answer to “one across” in the local newspaper. Meanwhile, the city is under threat of Roman invasion and their leader, Becky Philips, is taking no prisoners.

After reading all of the Inspector in the future, it’s back to the present for his first outing. And it’s a riot !

The story starts off with a murder. The police investigate, and just when things settle down into a police procedural, things take off in a different direction. The main character of this book is Becky Philips, and she drives the story forward in a crazy way, causing mayhem.

By the end the police play a small part, but it’s all in the service of the funniest book I have read in a long time. Sure, most is based on the stupidity of men in charge, but in our post-truth times that is always the case.



The Distance
by Jeremy & Hilaree Robinson (2016)

When August Finn rises from the depths of the dark matter research facility where he works, he discovers that the human race has been turned to dust. For August, life becomes one grueling test after another as this man of science, unaccustomed to the natural world, must fight to survive, against the elements and against despair.

Hanna Dearborn is alone. She’s the last person living on Earth, hidden away in her parent’s sophisticated bunker. She’s been alone for weeks and can no longer stand the solitude. Gun in hand, she intends to end her life. Then, he calls.

Unique among Robinson’s writing, this is first person from two protagonists, his wife  Hilaree writing one of the characters.

It does fall subject to one of the problems inherent in first person writing; long portions of inner monologue (the book is 119,000 words). Fortunately the story pushes things along  as the two characters move closer together. The ending was a bit disappointing as it was not entirely clear what had happened any why. Still, as they say – It’s all about the journey.


Jurassic W2

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a 2018 American science fiction adventure film and the sequel to Jurassic World (2015).

Directed by J. A. Bayona, it is the fifth installment of the Jurassic Park film series, as well as the second installment of a planned Jurassic World trilogy.

Chris Pratt as Owen Grady, A Navy veteran and former dinosaur trainer for Jurassic World.
Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing.
Toby Jones as Gunnar Everso (An auctioneer)

A PG13 Monster movie. You can see where the editors cut back the gore to keep within the classification. So while there is a lot of action, it isn’t scary, or horror. There are a lot of generic bad guy minions getting killed and eaten. There is some science fiction themes, but by the third act, it’s just evil industrialist vs the good guys.

Enjoyable while it lasted, but ultimately forgettable.


The Biggest
(Court Theatre)
Written by Jamie McCaskill
Directed by Ross Gumbley
They’re out of their depth

It’s been a while since Walter, Pat and Mick have seen Stu. He’s been absent from the local working men’s club since Stu wrote off the new boat he spent his life savings on and landed himself in a wheelchair.

Reunited, the men seize the opportunity to enter the local fishing competition to win Stu a replacement boat. All they have to do is catch the biggest fish.

Easy, right?



Cat Flaps

Enemy at the Cat Flap
(Space Police #5)
by David Blake (2018)
The Mayor of London’s cat has gone missing, and it’s up to Capstan and Dewbush to find it. But when they discover an ancient cat flap that for centuries has been used as a gateway to another planet, what starts off as a bog-standard missing pet case soon becomes something altogether more sinister.

Not much to add without giving away the plot. Yet again Capstan & Dewbush prove themselves to be the Laurel & Hardy of future crime fighting. David Blake just keeps writing new books without any reduction in quality.

Cosmos #3

The episode begins with Tyson describing how pattern recognition manifested in early civilization as using astronomy and astrology to predict the passing of the seasons.

The origin of comets only became known in the 20th century due to the work of Jan Oort and his hypothesis of the Oort cloud.

Then the collaboration between Edmond Halley and Isaac Newton in the last part of the 17th century in Cambridge is described. This would result in the publication of Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.

Halley’s contributions are mentioned, including determining Earth’s distance to the sun, the motion of stars and predicting the orbit of then-unnamed Halley’s Comet using Newton’s laws.

The episode ends with an animation of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies’ merging based on the principles of Newton’s laws.

Edmund Halley

Cosmos #2

Tyson describes both artificial selection via selective breeding, using the example of humankind’s domestication of wolves into dogs, and natural selection that created species like polar bears.
The Ship of the Imagination shows how DNA, genes, and mutation work, and how these led to the diversity of species as represented by the Tree of life, including how complex organs such as the eye came about as a common element.

He covers the five great extinction events that wiped out numerous species on Earth, while some species, such as the tardigrade, were able to survive and continue life.

The episode concludes with an animation from the original Cosmos showing the evolution of life from a single cell to humankind today.