What is Caveman Astronomy

And why is it here?

Caveman Astronomy is an idea I’ve been kicking around for a little over a year.

Ultimately, it aims to be a show. I have a cool idea about how it would work. (I think it’s a cool idea, which can sometimes be conspicuous.) But having worked in reality television for a few years, I know the show will be either expensive or really slow to make, at least, the way I have it in my head.

Here’s the elevator pitch:

Could you prove how the solar system works if you had to?

Probably not. But you know a lot about it. You might even have strong opinions about it, especially when confronted with a flat-earther or a moon-landing hoaxer. 

But could you start from scratch? How far could you get?

With the way this show approaches astronomy – from the perspective of a world with no school, no Neil Degrasse or Carl Sagan, no nothing. 

We will tour the night sky like never before – one discovery at at a time, in order, until we have the solar system.

…if the elevator hasn’t closed yet, I can say this next bit…

It’s not as hard as it sounds, because we can cheat. Observations that took precise instruments and entire careers dedicated to observations we can blow through in seconds.

That’s why the whole series, this introduction to how we know what we know, is only 5 episodes long.

Episode 1: The Wheel. What can prove in just 24 hours.

Episode 2: The Moon. What can we prove in one month.

Episode 3: The Sun. What do we notice in one year.

Episode 4: The Wanderers. We have a model now, but after 10 years wandering planets and other phenomena tell us our model isn’t perfect.

Episode 5: The Telescope. A closer look changes everything.

Production

For now, it’s all text online.

As a video, I can demonstrate the content by showing the sky move. 

For a rough draft, I can use software, like Stellarium, which is a star simulator that accurately shows the sun, moon, planets, and stars at any time. I can travel through time and to different locations on the earth to demonstrate how the sky works from our first-person perspective – not the perspective of an outside observer.

The north-star, final project features a charismatic host who tells us this story around a camp fire, who moves time (and therefore the moon and stars) around us like Minority report to illustrate the motions of the heavens.

But that would take a lot more production than I am singular capable of, so this project will go in phases.

Phase 1 is writing the damn thing.

Phase 2 is doing a lo-fi production that gets the point across and generates enough interest that I can beg, borrow, or fund some version of phase 3.

Phase 3 is the high production value version (if that’s where this go. Phase 1 might be enough!) 

Why am I publishing it before making it?

  1. Making it public will motivate me to update it.
  2. I tell a lot of people about this, and it’s easier just to give them a website to explain it.
  3. Content creating collaborators will improve this effort’s success, from writing critique, to ideas, to video production

Next Steps

  • Finish Chapter 2, RD 1
  • Write Chapter 3, RD 1
  • Write Chapter 4, RD 1
  • Write Chapter 5, RD 1
  • Decide on RD Production approach
    • Currently thinking of recording a rough, but functional version

Done

  • Publish online
  • Write Intro RD 1
  • Write Chapter 1
  • Write Web Intro (this document)
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