In 1980, the landmark series Cosmos premiered on public television. Since then, it is estimated that more than a billion people around the planet have seen it. Cosmos chronicles the evolution of the planet and efforts to find our place in the universe. Each of the 13 episodes focuses on a specific aspect of the nature of life, consciousness, the universe and time. Topics include the origin of life on Earth (and perhaps elsewhere), the nature of consciousness, and the birth and death of stars. When it first aired, the series catapulted creator and host Carl Sagan to the status of pop culture icon and opened countless minds to the power of science and the possibility of life on other worlds.The version of the series used seems to be the same as the 2000 DVD version; it's especially nice to have Ann Druyan's introduction at the beginning of the first episode, as well as the 1990 updates at the end of episodes like The Edge of Forever. (I'm guessing that the DVD music changes are still in there.) And unfortunately, the website is restricted to viewers in the United States.
Man, I can remember quite a few of the home video incarnations of the series, beginning back in the 1990s with occasionally seeing the humongous boxed set of the series on VHS (sometimes with a paperback of the book thrown in for good measure) in science museum gift shops and the like; being completely overjoyed to find a fraction of the show's run on 2-episodes-per-VHS tape at a Blockbuster; the DVD release in 2000 with gorgeous packaging, going for $100 or more; last year's iTunes release for $1.99 an episode; and now, finally, this. I wouldn't go quite so far as agreeing with John Scalzi's comment that "the Internet has just justified its existence" (and the hardcore fans have a copy already, although now they won't have to lend out their copy to friends), but it's definitely the next step.
And of course, the news kicks off another round of Sagan fans' reminiscing about the impact of Cosmos and Sagan (just as the iTunes release did a year ago), in blogs (I'm pointing to a blog search rather than try to pick out favorites) and comment threads like this one.