The above clip is one of my all time favorite scenes from the seminal 1980 science series Cosmos, created and hosted by legendary astronomer Carl Sagan. This is also one of the most famous scenes from the show. In it, Sagan, who’s visiting a town in Italy called Vinci–the home of Leonardo da Vinci–explains Einstein’s theory of relativity and what happens when you travel near the speed of light. The explanation is augmented by a truly fascinating and charming movie-magic hypothetical, involving a super-fast moped and two Italian brothers who separate for a surprisingly long time.
This clip is absolutely mind-blowing. The whole concept of time and relativity is mind-blowing once you get thinking about it, and Cosmos, like the best presentations of science, certainly makes you think about it. As a storyteller and a fan of Italy, I think the setting and scenario here add quite a lot to the science and the presentation. I mean, how cool would it be to tool around a little Italian villa in a super-fast motorbike? (Yes, I have a thing for seeing Italy by motorcycle).
I’ve heard that there’s a remake of Cosmos in the works, supposedly starring pop scientist Neil De Grasse Tyson. If as much care and precision goes into it as did the 1980 series, it will be wonderful. I certainly hope they recreate the Vinci motorcycle scene. In the meantime, enjoy the original. it’s pretty cool!