Cosmos in the Classroom

Sagan's Personal Voyage & Tyson's Spacetime Odyssey

by Dean Baird

My video question sets with answer keys for Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage are available at Teachers Pay Teachers in my Lessons of Phyz store.

My video question sets with answer keys for Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey are available at Teachers Pay Teachers in my Lessons of Phyz store.

The commentary pages were written by Professor Steven Dutch at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay. I don't get the sense that he's the president of the Carl Sagan Fan Club. But his notes flesh out the episodes quite nicely.

I own both series on optical discs (DVD and BD). In the past, both series have streamed on Netflix. Sometimes it's possible to find episodes streaming for free. Free streaming is a fickle, turbulent, ever-changing churn. You can nearly always find what you're looking for if believe you can find it. Such is the nature of the Internet.

The titles of each episode initiate a Google video search. The results are as reliable as any search result, and come with no guarantees. Some links might, in fact, take you to a streaming episode. Others most surely won't. Consider it an adventure. But if you're determined to see an episode online, it is most likely possible.

COSMOS: A Personal Voyage - Carl Sagan - PBS 1980 [Scroll down for Tyson's COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey]
Search-Linked Title and Description
Student Note Prompts
Episode Commentary
The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean Video+Transcript
At the beginning of this cosmic journey across space and time, Dr. Carl Sagan takes us to the edge of the universe aboard a spaceship of the imagination. Through beautiful special effects, we witness quasars, exploding galaxies, star clusters, supernovas and pulsars. Returning to our solar system, we enter a re-creation of the Alexandrian Library, the seat of learning on Earth 2,000 years ago.
TPT: The Lessons of Phyz
Steven Dutch's Cosmos 1 Notes
One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue Video+Transcript
Dr. Sagan's cosmic calendar makes the history of the universe understandable and frames the origin of the Earth and the evolution of life. We see the evolutionary process unfold, from microbes to humans. Our understanding of how life developed on Earth enables us to venture to other worlds for imaginative speculations on what forms life might take elsewhere.
TPT: The Lessons of Phyz
Steven Dutch's Cosmos 2 Notes
The Harmony of the Worlds Video+Transcript
This episode is a historical re-creation of the life of Johannes Kepler, the last scientific astrologer, the first modern astronomer and the author of the first science fiction novel. Kepler provided the insight into how the moon and the planets move in their orbits and ultimately how to journey to them. It's also a story about the scientific process of discovery, and how the search for truth is never easy but always worthwhile.
TPT: The Lessons of Phyz
Steven Dutch's Cosmos 3 Notes
Heaven and Hell Video+Transcript
A descent through the hellish atmosphere of Venus to explore its broiling surface serves as a warning to our world about the possible consequences of the increasing greenhouse effect. Then Dr. Sagan leads us on a tour of our solar system to see how other heavenly bodies have suffered from various cosmic catastrophes.
TPT: The Lessons of Phyz

Steven Dutch's Cosmos 4 Notes
Blues for a Red Planet Video+Transcript
Is there life on Mars? Dr. Sagan takes viewers on a tour of the red planet first through the eyes of science fiction authors, and then through the unblinking eyes of two Viking spacecrafts that have sent thousands of pictures of the stunning Martian landscape back to Earth since 1976. Though based on older Mars missions, Sagan's analysis still holds true.
TPT: The Lessons of Phyz
Steven Dutch's Cosmos 5 Notes
Travellers' Tales Video+Transcript
Dr. Sagan compares the exhilaration of 17th-century Dutch explorers who ventured in sailing ships halfway around our planet in their quest for wealth and knowledge to an inside view of the excitement around Voyager's expeditions to Jupiter and Saturn. The newly acquired treasures of our present golden age of exploration are the focus of this episode.
TPT: The Lessons of Phyz

Steven Dutch's Cosmos 6 Notes
The Backbone of Night Video+Transcript
Humans once thought the stars were campfires in the sky and the Milky Way "the backbone of night." In this fascinating segment Dr. Sagan takes us back to ancient Greece, when the basic question "what are the stars?" was first asked. He visits the Brooklyn elementary school of his childhood, where this same question is still on students' minds.
TPT: The Lessons of Phyz

Travels in Space and Time Video+Transcript
A voyage to see how star patterns change over millions of years is followed by a journey to the planets of other stars, and a look at the possibility of time travel. This takes us to Italy, where a young Albert Einstein first wondered what it would be like to ride on a beam of light.
TPT: The Lessons of Phyz

The Lives of the Stars Video+Transcript
Using computer animation and amazing astronomical art, Dr. Sagan shows how stars are born, live, die and sometimes collapse to form neutron stars or black holes. We then journey into the future to witness "the last perfect day on Earth," 5 billion years from now, after which the sun will engulf our planet in the fires of its death throes.
TPT: The Lessons of Phyz
Steven Dutch's Cosmos 9 Notes
The Edge of Forever Video+Transcript
Dr. Sagan leads us on some awesome trips to a time when galaxies were beginning to form, to India to explore the infinite cycles of Hindu cosmology, and to show how humans of this century discovered the expanding universe and its origin in the big bang. He disappears down a black hole and reappears in New Mexico to show us an array of 17 telescopes probing the farthest reaches of space.
TPT: The Lessons of Phyz

The Persistence of Memory Video+Transcript
The brain is the focus of this fascinating portion of our journey as Dr. Sagan examines another of the intelligent creatures with whom we share the planet Earth whales. Then we wind through the maze of the human brain to witness the architecture of thought. We see how genes, brains and books store the information necessary for human survival.
TPT: The Lessons of Phyz
Steven Dutch's Cosmos 11 Notes
Encyclopedia Galactica Video+Transcript
Are there alien intelligences? How could we communicate with them? What about UFOs? The answers to these questions take us to Egypt to decode ancient hieroglyphics, to the largest radio telescope on Earth and, in the Spaceship of the Imagination, to visit other civilizations in space. Dr. Sagan answers questions such as: "What is the life span of a planetary civilization?" and "Will we one day hook up with a network of civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy?"
TPT: The Lessons of Phyz
Steven Dutch's Cosmos 12 Notes
Who Speaks for Earth? Video+Transcript
Through the use of special effects we retrace the 15-billion-year journey from the big bang to the present. We also hear the tragic story of the martyrdom of Hypatia, the woman scientist of ancient Alexandria. This is the famous episode on nuclear war in which Dr. Sagan argues that our responsibility for survival is owed not just to ourselves, but also to the cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.
TPT: The Lessons of Phyz
Steven Dutch's Cosmos 13 Notes

COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey - Neil deGrasse Tyson - FOX 2014
Title and Description Student Note Prompts


Standing Up in the Milky Way Transcript (Google Docs)
The Ship of the Imagination has been idling for more than three decades, and yet it has never been overtaken. Its global legacy remains vibrant. Now, it's time once again to set sail for the stars.
TPT: Lessons of Phyz


Some of the Things That Molecules Do Transcript (Google Docs)
Life is transformation. Artificial selection turned the wolf into the shepherd and all the other canine breeds we love today. And over the eons, natural selection has sculpted the human eye out of a microscopic patch of pigment.
TPT: Lessons of Phyz


When Knowledge Conquered Fear Transcript (Google Docs)
There was a time, not so long ago, when natural events could only be understood as gestures of divine displeasure. We will witness the moment that all changed, but first--The Ship of the Imagination is in the brooding, frigid realm of the Oort Cloud, where a trillion comets wait. Our Ship takes us on a hair-raising ride, chasing a single comet through its million-year plunge towards the Sun.
TPT: Lessons of Phyz


A Sky Full of Ghosts Transcript (Google Docs)
An exploration of how light, time and gravity combine to distort our perceptions of the universe. We eavesdrop on a series of walks along a beach on summer nights in the year 1809.
TPT: Lessons of Phyz


Hiding in the Light Transcript (Google Docs)
The keys to the cosmos have been lying around for us to find all along. Light, itself, holds so many of them, but we never realized they were there until we learned the basic rules of science.
TPT: Lessons of Phyz


Deeper, Deeper, Deeper Still Transcript (Google Docs)
cience casts its Cloak of Visibility over everything, including Neil, himself, to see him as a man composed of his constituent atoms.
TPT: Lessons of Phyz


The Clean Room Transcript (Google Docs)
The little known but heroic story of a guy from Iowa that can't really be told without going all the way back to the time long before the Earth was formed - to the origin of the elements in the hearts of stars.
TPT: Lessons of Phyz


Sisters of the Sun Transcript (Google Docs)
The constellation of the Pleiades provides a vehicle for us to explore a series of paradoxes and epochal discoveries for humanity.
TPT: Lessons of Phyz


The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth Transcript (Google Docs)
The Ship of the Imagination takes us on a journey through space and time to grasp how the autobiography of the Earth is written in its atoms, its oceans, its continents, and all living things.
TPT: Lessons of Phyz


The Electric Boy Transcript (Google Docs)
Our world of high technology and instantaneous electronic communication with each other and with our robotic emissaries at the solar system's frontier is demystified.
TPT: Lessons of Phyz


The Immortals Transcript (Google Docs)
Life itself sends its own messages across billions of years.
TPT: Lessons of Phyz


The World Set Free Transcript (Google Docs)
Our journey begins with a trip to another world and time, an idyllic beach during the last perfect day on the planet Venus, right before a runaway greenhouse effect wreaks havoc on the planet.
TPT: Lessons of Phyz


Unafraid of the Dark Transcript (Google Docs)
Science savors the fact that even bigger mysteries, mysteries like dark energy, await us.
TPT: Lessons of Phyz

Links to keep you in touch and in balance. This list is by no means comprehensive. It's just a few sites I've found useful in my skeptical wanderings.
Dean's Phyz Website
James Randi Education Foundation
Bad Astronomy (my favorite blog)
Skeptic's Dictionary
The Blog of Phyz
Skepticality (my favorite podcast)
Snopes - Urban Legends - Truth or Fiction
Break The Chain

Posted December 20, 2006. Updated January 4, 2015
Dedicated to the spirit of Carl Sagan and the energy of Neil deGrasse Tyson.