Cosmos: The San Fran Nebula

CARL SAGAN: Hello, I’m Carl Sagan. You may remember me best as someone who worked tirelessly to promote and popularize science, especially through my Cosmos series.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: And I’m Neil deGrasse Tyson. You probably know me best for my pedantic “well, actually” tweets from hell.

SAGAN: Alas, I am dead now, but my spirit remains and has recorporealized long enough to present a very special episode of Cosmos: A scientific examination of the cluster of stars in the sky known as the 8-0 San Francisco 49ers. What are they made of? What does their future hold?

TYSON: Carl, if you’re actually dead, you shouldn’t be able to talk.

SAGAN: Thank you, Neil. And now, Cosmos: The San Fran Nebula.

*Opening sequence: Shots of waves crashing into an empty beach interspersed between still images of distant galaxies, the planet Earth, and Kyle Shanahan looking pensive*

SAGAN: The San Fran Nebula. At 8-0, it makes you think that it must be majestic and magical. How can you reach such a point without being so wonderful? I look out at their place in the cosmos and think that I must be looking at something beyond comprehension.

TYSON: And yet, like so much of our universe, appearances are not always as they seem. In fact, when you apply the scientific method to your view of the stars in the San Fran Nebula, you find that, actually, it isn’t that impressive.

SAGAN: Here is Jimmy Garoppolo, the star that shines the brightest. Or at least it should be. But what we find instead is a star that looks like a light bulb on one of the lowest dimmer switch settings.

TYSON: This star is duller than solid chlorine kept at -150 degrees Celsius. That one killed at the last Chemists Association banquet, by the way.

SAGAN: Very dull, indeed. How can a team succeed despite being hampered by a limitation at the most important position? This puzzle has kept scholars up at night for millennia, from Archimedes of Syracuse all the way to Matt LaFleur of Green Bay today.

TYSON: We have to use very powerful instruments to detect the shine from any of these offensive stars, except for George Kittle.

SAGAN: Imagine for a moment that you are standing on a shoreline of this enormous, mysterious Earth of ours. The water laps at your feet, brought to you from some far off ocean current. You close your eyes and consider the world around you. Think of how much distance is between you and the sun. Between you and the beginning of the universe. Stand there and listen. What do you hear? In those moments, when you feel so small against the vastness of the unimaginably large cosmos, you might hear the lamentations of fans that their teams did not draft Kittle before San Francisco did in the fifth round.

TYSON: Actually, if you hear anything but the sound of waves hitting the shore, that probably comes from your own mind. Sound doesn’t carry like…

SAGAN: Please, Neil, we’ve talked about this.

*clears throat*

The defense of this team is one of the greatest of all time. Or so we’ve been told. A common mistake in science is to declare the results before the end of the experiment. We’re only halfway through the experiment known as the 2019 season. The story has yet to be truly written.

TYSON: That kind of mistake doesn’t happen often enough to say it’s common.

SAGAN: *irritated sigh*

TYSON: Sorry. We must ask the question, though. Is anything great if it has Nick Bosa?

SAGAN: Sometimes, the cosmos makes a mistake. Its scale is so immense, we can find many examples of terrible things if we look for them. In the case of the Bosa star, we have one that is malformed and odious and does little to hide these traits.

TYSON: We have a few astronomers regularly examine it, but this star seems most enraged when I am the one doing the observation. There are many possible reasons for this. I suspect it’s because it’s unhappy to be a part of that nebula.

SAGAN: That’s one theory, sure. When you look out at the San Fran Nebula, though, it’s hard not to see the Robert Saleh constellation that encircles the whole defense. Stars are constantly being formed, broken up and moved about in the great universe. The Saleh constellation did that. It changed itself, made itself more grand, confusing us. It always takes science time to catch up to these seismic changes.

TYSON: But catch up we do. And when we figure it out, the mysteries created by those changes disappear along with our ignorance. We already have a better idea of this constellation’s new blitz packages, for example. That’s what science does.

SAGAN: You can’t help but look at the Richard Sherman star though, can you? The eye is drawn to it. It twinkles in such a provocative but ultimately pleasing way. You get a sense of familiarity, but also of loss.

TYSON: Stars don’t really “twinkle”, that’s a product of…


TYSON: I am afraid I cannot, for I am a broken man. What does the future look like for the San Fran Nebula?

SAGAN: In my 62 years of life, I saw billions upon billions of nebulae. There have been many, many better and longer lasting nebulae in the universe than this San Fran Nebula. In the grand scale of the cosmos, nebulae such as this one burst into our view with a flash and then dim with surprising speed. It’s tough to see this one lasting longer than three more weeks, tops. It could very well start to fade right away. What do you think, Neil?

TYSON: I think the plural of ‘nebula’ is ‘nebulas’.

SAGAN: After these moments with you, I’m rather looking forward to going back to death. I’ll be watching the San Fran Nebula’s collapse, though, from wherever I am. From all of us at Cosmos, thank you.