Stephen Colbert Interviews Neil deGrasse Tyson at Montclair Kimberley Academy - 2010-Jan-29

Uploaded by teridon on 27.11.2011

Uhm, for those of you who may not know the Academy forum
is a program that is organized and funded by PAMKA. Uh, it is to bring
to campus outstanding speakers who will engage our students and our faculty
and our families and it is also our pleasure to be able to open it up to
the larger community. So we welcome you all. We're really delighted that you've
braved the elements to join us tonight
Before we get going, uh, with our program tonight there are just a couple people that i want to thank
for making it possible for us. Uh, first Amy South. Amy, where are you?
Amy's around somewhere. Amy is our community vice president
There she is, in the back
she is uh, ultimately, responsible for, uh, the entire event tonight
Next is Lucy [Botsick??]. Lucy is in the doorway up there. Lucy has
executed every single detail for tonight.
We have Trish Perlmutter
Trish has sheparded this program from the very beginning
And last but not least,
Judy Polonofsky and Debbie Kozak who make absolutely everything
happen for us here at MKA So thank you very much
So now, without further ado it's my pleasure to introduce
the headmaster of the Montclair Kimberly Academy, Tom Nammack
Good evening, and welcome. I'm delighted to welcome you to the Monclair Kimberly Academy
And I want to also thank again our parents' association.
They have made this evening possible for us
while the program
is free of charge
it's not clear expectations
for how we will conduct ourselves as an audience
I have a couple things I'd like to ask of you
Please, there's to be no
electronic recording
audio or video
please don't hold your phones up to take pictures
mostly because it distracts the people behind you
and we'd really like to focus on our very special guests this evening
it's my privilege to introduce our guests
i think they're well known to all of you
but I do want to say a couple things about them
Doctor Tyson
has been a frequent guest on the Colbert report
but, uh, or "Report" I guess is the proper
We're delighted that he's here
and we are also delighted and, uh
um... very grateful
that mr stephen colbert has agreed to interview him
for our benefit
Stephen Colbert
comedian, author
and host of the Colbert Report
is both one of the funniest
and possibly the bravest comedians of our time
I want you to consider his performance
at the national press club dinner in 2007
as he, uh, as he stood just a few feet from the President of the United States
known the rest of us as the most powerful man in the world
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson
astrophysicist, Director of the Hayden Planetarium
author of nine books, teacher, lecturer
host of Nova's four-part series "Origins"
and member of two presidential commissions
on United States aerospace industry
and the future of our country's space exploration
Dr. Tyson has a gift for working successfully
within the realms of research,
education, and policy formation
i owe you all an explanation about our theater tonight
what you see on stage
is the beginning of a set
for a seventh-grade production of "Romeo and Juliet"
this year's selection
for what is as i said an annual performance
and I think it's fitting that Dr tyson is going to warmup the stage
for the two most famous star-crossed lovers in all of American literature
it occurred to me that there are few things
that stephen colbert
and Neil Tyson have in common
and I wanted to comment on them
both of them
an over-arching purpose
to make sense of the world
They also share a common strategy
They often look to the stars
human or heavenly
for evidence of how things work
though Stephen Colbert is far tougher
on the objects caught in his gaze
Whereas Dr. Tyson is only known
to have obliterated Pluto.
they share methods in their respective fields, whether it is the search
for evidence that makes sense of the world and the universe
or the creative construction of questions and tests
by which the truth and significance of who
or what is before them are evaluated
Perhaps then,
they both have something in common with william shakespeare
the desire to provide their audience with a lens
to see the world
from the previously unconsidered
point of view
and not just as others would have us see it
So while the stars may be dazzling
training and instinct appear to have taught each of them
to look away from celestial bodies
i'm really sorry i had to get that bad cliche in there somewhere
and to consider the effects
that those celestial bodies have on everything
and everyone around them
In addition to the challenge of questions
that each of them
make us confront, their work
has given the world a little more of that very rare
and gem-like substance
known as the truth
Or in Stephen Colbert's case: "truthiness"
and we are very grateful. ladies and gentlemen
Mr. Stephen Colbert
and Doctor Neil deGrasse Tyson
"Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo"
Uh, I don't know
Neil, thanks so much for coming Yeah ... thank you.
Mr/Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson is
he's been on my show six times
and often when I come out
to brief the audience before I do my show
they ask me "who's your favorite guest of all time?"
and I say, not just for volume, but it's Neil DeGrasse Tyson
but because not only uh... do I love what neil knows
but uh, I love
that he loves what he doesn't know
always interested in the next thing to learn (Oh yeah) and always rolled to whatever
idiocy my character wants to throw on him
I think the only time i ever surprised you as you told me a
a little while ago
uh was i asked you should uh... should scientists go to Argentina or hike
the Appalachian trail
If they want people to talk about them
it's the universe talking there the universe [??]
Yeah that ... I missed that one Yeah you missed that news story
To go on his show
it's like the hardest interview ever
I have to, like, I'm laden with current events just
to mix with my science cause I don't know where he's gonna come at me
and I gotta be, like, ready with seven tennis rackets
to hit it back
And on set with that one news story remember with that guy, was it south carolina guy
who remembers
He goes to Argentina and becomes well-known for having done so and you ask me straight-out
should scientists
visit Argentina more often to become better known
and it just went.. I just
you aced me on that one (You're welcome)
Now, Neil, we've got a lot of talk about tonight (yeah) a lot of
subjects science is a big thing but i want to start off with
this is not a bribe (that's alright)
I want to start off with .. with these chairs I feel myself sliding
No, no
This stage is not level
oh welcome to the barn raising
Didn't realize we were speaking before the Omish tonight
That's gonna
make it tought to talk about science and technology
All right, Neil
i want to start uh...
i want to start, in a broad way
are you Tweeting now, or are you actually trying to interview me?
no, i'm just looking at ...
i'm just looking at photos of myself
get a little work done I need a little freshen up
let me ask you a very basic question: science
"scientia", Latin, meaning knowledge
I didn't take Latin but I'll take your word for it
is it better
to know
or not to know
i think
well my blunt answer is it's better to know (alright) but i think
that is debatable though
well I said "my" answer. Someone else might have a different answer
for instance, Oedipus might have a different answer
Yeah, I mean I think
is .. is knowledge always a good thing?
I have to say yes
because it empowers you
to react
and possibly even to do something about it
if something about it needs to be done
ok, but who we are
is what we know, right?
Part of who we are is what we know
and our identity
is often based on how we see the world
yes, and uh... personality for sure
and if we learn something
that does not jive with how we think about the world
won't we have to reexamine who we are? Yeah, it could mess you up
Once again I'll go back to Oedipus
He plucked his eyes out rather than know any more
Yeah, well, you know people back then you know, they did stuff like that
Yeah, people back then
not people today
so i think
there are people who would not know
who would rather ... remember the old days
I don't know if it still happens where a doctor would find out you had cancer, they wouldn't tell you
They wouldn't tell you (give it to me straight doc) Yeah and
why would even have to say
give it to me straight unless there was a day when they didn't give it to you straight?
If I have five years left I wanna know I have five years left
Cause I wanna, like
do something different in those five years if (Neil?) yeah?
I have some terrible news
so there are some people who don't
there are some people who don't value science
and if they don't value science
are they valuing ignorance? Yes, and.. but I will not pass judgment on them
what I will say is
if they have are at maximal comfort in their ignorance.. fine
except that they will not be the participants on the frontier of
of cosmic discovery
they will be disenfranchised
Hello .. hello
I'm sorry I've got a phone call... hello?
I'm sorry I have to take .. I have to take this.. Hello?
My mic.. my mic isn't working?
that's better Now who's in control?
So they won't be in control of the next.. they won't be participants in the next cosmic discovery
No they won't they won't
not only will they not
be on that frontier making any discoveries
they're not in a position to enhance their life for having access to those
discoveries themselves
Can knowledge
ever be a bad thing?
i don't think so
what about actions that
knowledge takes us to? You think that Oppenheimer
when the bomb went off and he said
"I am become death, destroyer of worlds"
do you think he perhaps questioned for a moment
whether the knowledge they achieved that led to the creation
of the bomb perhaps should have been left undiscovered?
Do you know what he said in response to those kinds of questions?
he said
because people said "Have you ursurped the power of God?"
and he said
If God didn't want this power to be there he shouldn't have put it in the atom in the first place
kind of an interesting point, I think
What he was saying that the world is accessible to us
so would you say
"Don't smelt the ore and make iron
and make a sword out of it because you could cut yourself"?
back then that's what you would .. that's the counterpart
from the Iron Age.
And if you were around back then you'd be sitting in this chair saying
"Don't make the sword,
because you will unleash evil on the world"
OK, I'll step back from don't make the sword how about
"don't lick flag pole in February"
Yeah, that
You will learn something
you will learn something but at a price, Neil
that'd be data.. it's a data cost
That is a data cost for that, isn't it? Yeah
Also: Adam and Eve...
They ate of the tree of knowledge (of knowledge)
of good and evil (Yeah) and they paid a price (yeah)
so god does put things into atoms he doesn't want us to know about
Yeah, I ..
However, I think
I don't want to blame the knowledge
I want to blame
the behavior of people in the presence of the knowledge so maybe
we need better knowledge management
do you think that scientists .. you can applaud him.. he's the hero
Well how about this: do you think that scientists should be allowed to do with anything
they can
I heard a big "No" over here
someone just said "no"
you know, uh, people made fun of him for doing this but
uh... during one of President Bush's
State of the Union speeches .. Bush 1 or 2?
Bush 2
Uhm, he said
uh... we have to .. he spoke about ... he warned against man-animal hybrids
And a lot of people like me
made fun of that
by showing pictures of like senator alligator man going
"Boooo boooo"
"Yay man-animal hybrids"
but if scientists could make man-animal hybrids, wouldn't they?
there are scientists who want to make man-animal hybrids
should we make man-animal hybrids I ask you senator tyson
Or should there be any limits like that? i think there's some creepy things about
that and i've met some scientists who
who would think that would be an intriguing to do
yes okay
So i think
we as a society
as a .. as a
what we should do is
come to some
understanding of what the prevailing social mores are
and know science should not cross those barriers and not and by the way
scientists are often ones
to try to prevent that
Einstein among them for example he didn't want to make the bomb
after he first told Roosevelt he should make the bomb, he changed his mind
because his conscience, his moral conscious descended upon him
scientists are not without moral code here
so as a culture and as a society we decide what
should be the prevailing cultural mores and i think we should all be
beholden to those. What do you think of the portrayal of scientists
uh... in movies?
because often often
for instance the scientists who make, uh
the terminator
they're the bad guys
scientist leads to the terminator or they create the super bug that wipes out
the world
or or they enrage the monster at the bottom of the sea
When you part the curtains and
at the bottom of all that
there's a politician funding that research
Is this working again? It is? No..
He says yes, you say no
we're getting we're getting bad data
we're good .. That was good That's good? oooh yeah
So scientists don't
lead marching armies
scientists don't invade other nations
yes we have scientists who invented
the bomb
yes but somebody had to pay for the bomb and that was taxpayers
that was war bonds
there was a political action that called for it
so everyone blames the scientist. We are collectively part of the society
that is passing.. that is
that is
that is
using are not using
to it's benefit or to it's detriment
the discoveries made by science
and at the end of the day
a discovery
itself is not moral, it's our application of it
the takes that .. that has to pass that test
would you agree that there's a .. there's a distrust of science on a certain level
in our country
I mean unless it's, you know
can they grow my hair back? Yeah right
science.. or do other things to your anatomy yes, exactly .. exactly
science.. I've gotten those emails
science is sometimes distrusted because it is it is more complex than the average
person can understand. I think that is the core of it
the distrust is not because of what it can do but because of what it
because people don't understand how it does what it can do. And that .. that
absence of understanding or misunderstanding
of the power of science
is what makes people afraid of it
and so
i remember back when they first split the atom you know "shouldn't split the atom" or
or shouldn't .. you hear this at every discovery that happens in science
there's a mystery to it
for example irradiated foods in France they call it "frakenfood", alright
which is kind of a cute word when you think about but it makes food last longer and your
healthier for it, you don't get sick from it
and so.. from it turning bad, in fact
Nasa does it all the time.
Nasa can make a slab of meat you wouldn't necessarily
put this in your refrigerator but Nasa can make a slab of meat that will last thirty years
I tasted it and? delicious?
you know there's some rest.. it reminded some restaurants food reminds me of what
that tasted like but i'm just saying that
just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it's bad for you
go figure out how it works.
That's why we need a scientifically literate electorate so that when we go to the polls
you can make an informed judgement
and you can draw your own conclusions, rather than turning to a particular TV station
to have your conclusions handed to you.
Now you know Arthur C. Clarke .. Comedy Central excepted (exactly)
Arthur C. Clarke's famous dictum about sufficiently advanced technology.
Yes, it is .. Arthur C. Clarke had several, uhm
uh, laws of
culture and the world one of which was
any sufficiently advanced technology
is indistinguishable from magic.
if something gets too complex for the average person to understand
it's magic .. and you have powers that i don't trust
because I don't know what you're going to do with it next
whereas if you understood how it worked
you'd say "Hey, give me one of those" I mean, that's how that would work
That's how.. that's how that plays out
do you think that's where the debate over
i think that's where the debate over uh...
evolution and creation science comes
is that the
complexity of evolution
is so grand
that it is hard to conceive
of how the incremental changes come and once something becomes so complex
that I can't understand it
there's nothing between that
and God saying "Let it be"
Well one of the beauties of evolution is that
that complexity does not come about from complex ideas
the ideas are actually quite simple
and you can show on a computer how those simple forces
can generate complexity given enough time and enough variation in environment
which is just what the history of the Earth supplies
so so science literacy is an important part of what it is to be an informed
citizen of society
let's get away from our understanding of science, or lack thereof
and get to science itself ok ok I'm with you
here's a transition from talking about
us mixing science and religion
and getting back to science
"God is truth", people think
ok, some believe God is truth
Truth is beauty
is there anything in science
to you that is beautiful or rather what is the most beautiful thing
that you know of in science
E=mc squared
Really? Oh it's awesome, it is
so that equation doesn't just have a great publicist, it's actually..
because everybody knows it, everybody knows it but also, everybody knows Coke, you know
it's like the Coca-cola of science
You learn E=mc^2 before you even know what any of those symbols mean
you hear it in elementary school
oh, it's a gorgeous thing
it's .. what is beautiful about E=mc^2 first of all
tell everybody what all the pieces mean
Well "E" stands for "energy"
"m" is "mass"
"c"-squared is just the speed of light squared, that's just
ignore that for the moment. The thrust of that equation is that
energy and mass
are equivalent to each other
which means you can transmute one into the other
and back
would make's it extraordinary is that that hardly ever happens in our everyday lives
yet it's going on all the time in the rest of the universe
and so.. so
so we're in this little pocket where "E=mc^2"
never happens (is not visible) it's not visible it's not happening in our lives
no, no
but if it did the world would be really different
light coming from that bulb would all of a sudden pop into
a particle, and the particle would come by and it would pop back into light again
Would it hurt?
It can, yeah It can? Yeah it would sterlize you, yeah
The kinds of particles that would do that
they would sterilize you, yeah that'd be bad
I've had my kids
It goes on in the center of the sun it went on at the Big Bang
it goes on throughout the universe
wherever it's hot and heavy
But what is beautiful about it to you? It's simple
It's simple, yet it accounts
for hugely complex things and for me
that is where the beauty lies in the truth
Now if i had to give you a complex
theory to understand a complex phenomenon
You know, send me home
because what's the point?
Now there's no tablet in the sky that said
it had to be simple to end up being complex
it's just a remarkable fact about the universe
so why not celebrate it?
The fact that pi ...
pi ...
that ... pi right?
Let's say the numbers together
3 point 1 4 1 5 9 2 6 5 3 ..
we got a few geeks over here looks like we got a geek thing going on over there
not bad, not bad
The fact that you take a circle of any size
a circle the size of the universe itself
and divide it by its own radius
and you get that number
that's beautiful
i have to pause, and I get misty
Thinking of [???]
I'm sorry that's just ..
another one
.. another one that the atoms and molecules in your body
are traceable to the crucibles in the centers of stars
that manufactured these elements
over its lifespan
went unstable
on death
exploding its enriched guts across the galaxy
scattering it into gas clouds that would ultimately collapse
and make a star
and have the right ingredients to make planets
and people
which means, we are part of this universe
as i've said many times and this goes back not only are we in the universe
the universe is in us
that is a profound concept
and it was ... i think it's the greatest gift that astrophysics gave culture
in the twentieth century
it was a research paper in 1957 and i say that because one of the
authors just died like two days ago
Geoff Burbidge.. Burbidge, Burbidge, Fowler, and Hoyle
one of the most famous research papers that no one ever heard of
you know why? i think
because it had 4 authors, not just one and it took a decade to figure out
and it wasn't just somebody burning the midnight oil so it doesn't
lend itself to poetry or screenplays because it's a collaboration so nobody wrote
about it
but we knew that we are star stuff
we knew that we are stardust at the middle of the twentieth century
that connects us to be universe like no other fact
that's beautiful
sounds like you have written poetry about it
Well, once it gets in you have you know
the only way it comes out is poetically .. no
You write poety, you write sonnets
I don't know if they're sonnets but occassionally a word rhymes in it
and I don't know what to call it
but sometimes if if you feel deeply
about something
i think the greatest poetry
not that I'm.. I'm an astrophysicist alright, that's my disclaimer
but some of the greatest poetry
is revealing to the reader
the beauty in something that was so simple you had taken it for granted
that i think is the job of the poet
and so
the simplicity of the universe which started this
part of our conversation
i think
if it doesn't drive you to poetry it drives you to
bask in
the majesty of the cosmos
so what drew you.. you said that ..
the beauty of astrophysics or the gift that astrophysics gave us in the twentieth century
what drew you
to astrophysics? Take us
to Neil deGrasse Tyson
he's an astrophysicist take us to who you are now
I'm living in the Bronx
which in the vernacular would be "da Bronx"
and I'm in a building ... not a lot of stars
no There's like a dozen or so in the night sky
so you do not have a relationship
with the night sky
as a city dweller
my parents .. I have a brother and a sister ... they would take us
to.. each weekend we'd go to visit museums and other sort-of cultural things in the city
and one of those weekends we went to the Hayden plantetarium
the local plantetarium the one right there in Manhattan
and I.. you sit in the chair, the lights dim, the stars come out
and I said "well that's a nice hoax"
you know
That can't be real, that's
i'll enjoy it while there, but they think there's that many stars up there
what kinda.. they're pulling my leg
and a couple years later i go out to pennsylvania
in another trip we took
and I look up at the night sky and what
persists to this day
and what is an embarrassingly
urban thought
i look up at the night sky from the finest mountaintops in the world
and i look up and I say
"it reminds me of the Hayden plantetarium" I mean,
it's embarassing
I beg forgiveness wow
So strong was that imprint
that i'm certain
that i had no choice in the matter that in fact
the universe called me
and i wondered that if I'd grown up on a farm
and the universe and the sky was just always there
i wonder if that would just have become wallpaper to me
and I wouldn't have then been struck by it as I was at age nine
i'd never known anything of it
and then it just slaps you in the face
and from then on I was hooked
it took two years for me to figure out you can do that as a career
but starting at age eleven you ask me
you know that annoying question that adults ask kids
"what do you want to be when you grow up?"
I heard a comedian say "You know why they ask?"
"because they're looking for ideas!"
Paula Poundstone said that
So, if you had asked me from age eleven
What do you want to be when you grow up
i would have told you a flat-out: astrophysics
and my whole life aligned to that got a telescope, got a camera, photographed it
all my science fair projects .. one was getting the spectrum of the sun and analyzing
features in the spectra
I ...
built the spectroscope
so i was like Nerd Kid. card-carrying
But I was bigger than other kids so
I was insulated from a lot of what might otherwise happen to nerd kids
You wrestled, too. I was captain of my high-school wrestling team
I've seen you in that wrestling outfit
You can rock a singlet. well done. now..
"Singlet" is what you call the one-piece ...
they know
So, you became.. you wanted to become an astrophysicist
that leads me to another question which is
you know "Is it better to not know? it's better to know"
Can it be beautful? yes, it can be beautiful.
Is science
a thing
or is it a way to look at the world
Is it a verb, or is it a noun?
It is .. both.
the world is not just "is it this or that?"
"Is it a planet or not a planet?" It's sometimes
you must choose!
It's fuzzier than that
sometimes.. so if i know .. if I have a lot of facts in my head if i can absorb
a lot of facts, am I a scientist? Facts? no
No, you're a ... fact memorizer
In fact... I'll accept that as a compliment
our academic system rewards people who know a lot of stuff
and generally we call those people smart
but at the end of day
who do you want: the person who can figure stuff out that they've never seen before,
or the person who can rattle off a bunch of facts?
at the end of the day, I want the person that can figure stuff out.
and science say, if you were trapped on an island exactly
well you know the professor on gilligan's island
It's a not a matter of how many facts he can recite
like there's a coconut, and there's a thing and you have a ham radio
OK, you just (seawater) you're stirring the saltwater
you hook the wires up to Gilligan's fillings and you listen to his ears
so it's an understanding of the relationships
While we're on it: Ginger or Mary ann?
Totally Ginger
Ginger, completely
That was like .. she came around the wrong time in my life it was like
Ginger, all the way
for sure
so it is a way ... it is ..
it's a way of approaching the world
it's a way, not only of approaching the world
it's a way of equipping yourself
to interpret what happens in front of you
i think of science
the methods and tools that
enable it
as kinda like a utility belt that you walk around with
you know, and you come upon something .. Are you a superhero?
In your mind, are you Super Science?
Actually, when I was a kid, I wanted to be Mighty Mouse, when I was a kid
And I wanted to sing opera as I went to save..
"Here I am to save the day!"
So it's a tool belt no, it's a .. utility belt
Utility belt, sorry.
because tools.. I'm picturing you in the singlet, with a utility belt
A tool belt .. the difference is a tool belt
you know if you have a hammer
as they say "you can hammer in the morning"
if i had a hammer, the problem is
If you start wielding a hammer, then all your problems look like nails
and maybe they're not
maybe it's more subtle than that
and so your tool kit has to be able to morph into what is necessary for
what it is that you confront at that moment
and so yes there .. you're equipped with
methods of mathematical analysis, methods of interpretation
you know some basic laws of physics so when someone says
"I have these two crystals if you rub them together you will get healthy"
rather than just discount it
because that's
that's as lazy as accepting it
both of those are just lazy-brain
what you should do is inquire?
So do you know how to inquire?
and every scientist would know how to start that conversation
start the conversation
they would say well "Where'd you get these?"
"what kinds of ailments does it cure?" "How does it work?" "What does it cost?"
"Can you demonstrate that it works"
And you go through this whole ... and at the end the person's in tears
because they weren't prepared
for that level of questioning
and, so, science literacy is ..
charlatans of the world that would exploit your ignorance
of the forces of nature
Neil, if you don't like the crystals I gave you you can just say it.
and they're not working for you because you don't believe
Is there any science fiction you admire?
or that you enjoy?
or do you see the holes in science fiction and go "i can't enjoy that of course
he would know the effects of a neutron star! He doesn't know tidal forces?"
Do you have that problem?
I only have the problem
if the movie is
marketed for its accuracy
number one. Number two .. they gotta get some basic science right. after that, I'm OK
so for example in the latest star trek movie the had this like ..
this red
this liquid .. the red matter ... the red matter thank you
release the red matter, and you drop it into the core of a planet
and it turns the planet into a black hole?
I thought that's kinda cool
Now what was a little weird was Why didn't it turn the ship into a black hole?
Because they had this special apparatus that surrounded it
this special device And the apparatus did what?
It's the anti-black-hole apparatus. hold on.. I'm OK with that
See, I was not losing sleep ...
That didn't bug you?
... over what held the black hole I didn't have an issue with that
Oddly, what I had an issue with was
they needed this drill, which is a very cool kinda .. that was the coolest thing I'd ever seen
(exactly) a drill that would drill to the center of your planet
and they drop the..
i'd say
If that would turn a planet into a black hole, from its center
it surely would turn into a black hole from its surface
but.. then what would Kirk and Sulu fight on?
I know, right, they had to fight on the platform
so, I'm OK
I got angry with Jim Cameron about "Titantic"
that's how i got angry
Did I ever tell you this story? You did not
I've never seen you this angry before
Hold me back
I can't wait to see what you have to say about "Avatar"
you might turn blue with rage go on.. so what was your problem with "Titantic"?
There's a colleague of mine who saw "Avatar" and he got home and he
he told his wife he wanted to paint her blue, and that didn't go over very well
is she ten feet tall?
So "Titantic", you may remember, was marketed as a film of "high accuracy" because
Cameron had funded this submersible to go down and
check out the state rooms
and the wall sconces and the china patterns and so they reproduced that
to detail
and so here they recreate the ship for the movie, can you double check that?
no because he had the submersible. You just have to trust him ok
You gotta trust him. So now
the ship sinks (yes) right?
Did I give away the plot to anybody here?
You see the movie yet? I'm sorry, ok
so the ship sinks I do, I remember you remember, ok
and there's Kate Winslet on the flow
remember that (yes)
and she's delirious This isn't the scene where she's naked
Oh sorry.. go on
No, she's on the flow.. on the.. whatever, the plank and
she's looking up
We know
the date, the day, the time,
the weather conditions, the longitude, the latitude
we know all of this about the sinking spot of the "Titanic"
There is only one sky she shoulda been looking at
and it was the wrong sky!
worse than that, worse than that
the left side of the sky was a mirror reflection of the right side of the sky
So it's not only wrong, it was lazy! And I was ...
So halfway through they went, "Just flip it, just flip it"
No one'll know
and so, I was livid
I got out my finest stationary
and i wrote a letter to Jim Cameron
no reply
Five years later I bump into him he was on a NASA committee
and my sort-of presence with NASA was growing by then
and I bumped into him in a meeting
and I said Mr. Cameron, I just want to .. I just have to ask
you know the sky that .. is not the right.. what? what?
and he says "Well actually, that happened in post-production"
So .. so he's absolving himself of guilt
but I wanted him to grovel in front of my feet which he did not do
wait, wait .. so, I was angrier after that
later on
Wired magazine honors him
for "Discoverer of the year" or "Explorer of the year"
and they want to hold their party
at the Rose Center for Earth and Space
you don't come into MY house and get the sky wrong!
my microphone working?
you're loud enough, you don't need a microphone
Can you hear me now? ok
he's in my house
and as a courtesy, they extended me an invitation to have dinner
with a small group of them after this award ceremony
So I said "yeah"
So, we go to dinner there's six of us at the table
the wine is pouring
So I said "Jim, I don't know if you remember but I brought this up some time ago
about the sky
and I wouldn't be so upset except that everything else you boasted was
so accurate
and we can't even check how accurate that is
but anybody can spend $50 for a planetarium sky program
and look at the sky and know that you got the wrong sky
What gives?"
And you know what he said?
he said "last i checked,
Titanic has grossed
one point three billion dollars
imagine how much more it would have grossed had I gotten the sky right"
Oh, I'm so sorry
that ... if i had a tail, it would have been like between my legs, and I would've
oh I think you won that conversation
No actually I did
no he retreated into his bank account
Here's what happened
but you know that money will all eventually be gone
and he would still have gotten the sky wrong
Oh that's an interesting point that's right the sky will..
Outlived even James Cameron
However, however as dejected as I was
two weeks later i get a phone call
forgot the guy's name he calls me up and said "Is this Dr. Tyson?" I said "yeah"
He said, I forgot his name, "Johnny Smith"
I work
in post-production
for Jim Cameron
He is releasing a ten-year director's cut anniversary edition of the Titantic
and will be adding new footage
from the deck and he tells me you have a sky that he can use
Not bad (so) Not bad you got your taste, right?
You got a little taste of that, right?
Yeah, it was good.. oh no no I'm a public servant, I don't need it
Me too
So I don't, you know if you're gonna make
if you're gonna claim it's right then I'm gonna hold you to it
If you're not, then I'll just sit back and enjoy it
(what is) you know what I don't like? I gotta.. you know what I don't like?
Is the people you go see a movie with
who read the book first
Get rid of them!
They don't belong in the movie theater
It's like "Oh no the book was better"
Well get the hell outta oh excuse me
Get out of the movie theater
go back to your book
Leave me alone
Those people I can't stand
Stay home!
we should not go to the movies together
Now, ok, what is the what is
I got three different things What is the latest discovery
in astrophysics that we should all know about?
Ah, one of my favorite
i gotta go back maybe six months for that, eight months? may I?
Uhm, okay
well we discovered water on the Moon, that's kinda cool
because where you're going, you want there to be water.
alright that's a good thing for life
but what struck me the most
Earlier, in .. 2009
we discovered
on mars
if you have a gas stove and you live in the city, chances are it's methane
it's a flammable gas, you say "well so what? who cares?" except that
is the byproduct
it's part of the gaseous effluences
of anaerobic bacteria which on Earth
operates deep in the intestinal tract of farm animals
That's a very scientific way of saying
there are Mars farts
That's what you're saying, right?
I didn't want to say it
You got a "Dr" in front of your name
You can't say stuff like that I can't say stuff like that
but that means that
that is a possibility or is that or is that
"yeah there's life" and no one will come out and say it?
It means
while you can generate methane other ways
Such as?
well it's (sunlight?) it's
it's .. there
a combination of pressure, temperature, and energy source you can manufacture
methane (magic!)
so.. but
chemical magic, yes chemical magic
but it is a natural by-product of
bacteria that
thrive in the absence of oxygen.
And you don't have oxygen deep in your intestinal tract, neither do any farm animals
and and if you're down under the.. Mars doesn't have oxygen, so
it's tantalizing to think
that maybe there is
there are life reservoirs
in aquifers beneath the martian soils Speak.. as I was saying before about
is it better to know or not to know
and there are things about our own identity that we take from the knowledge
that we have, (yes we do) or the things that
or the things that we don't know
the assumptions of things that are not there to be known
And I .. instead of using the word "identity" I'd say: They have an impact on our ego
(yes) because the more we learn about the universe, the smaller we get
in time, and space, in size and so if you go .. except not the way you just described it
the way you described it
you're a supernova
(well I) that makes you bigger
well i think if you know about what's going on
then it's not mysterious and you're a participant in the
unfolding cosmos
you are consumed by it
and you fear it and you shun it
and you say "I don't want to know that I live on a speck called Earth
orbiting an undistinguished star, in the corner of an ordinary galaxy
in an expanding void of the cosmos
There are some happy thoughts in there, like
like understanding how that worked
recognizing that the human brain figured that out that's kinda cool
There's a lot we still don't know
but what we do know, I think we can sit proudly
and celebrate
what we know about the universe
maybe not everyone of us figured.. it took a few key people like Newton and Einstein
but we learn what they taught us and each of them stands on the shoulders of giants
that came before them
just as the quote goes
but celebrate
not fear it
but if we found out
that there was life
someplace other than Earth
what do you think that would do
to our identity
or our ego
It may
signal a change in the human condition that we cannot foresee or imagine
i think it would
now, i think the issue would be not if we find bacterial life
which is kinda what we're looking for now
bacterial life there's no question about
whether in our minds eye we
reign supreme over bacteria although it can win
do you know in one linear centimeter of your lower colon
lives and works
more bacteria
than the number of people who have ever been born in the history of the world?
so in fact we are just hosts
for bacteria to lead their lives so from the point of view of a bacteria
we're just a place to live
a dark, warm, place to live
but we're a planet
and they don't believe there's bacteria in any of the other planets
that'd be another that'd be interesting sci-fi
so the real issue is, if we find life on another planet
that's smarter than we are
that would totally mess with our ego
That'd be the last, like, nail in the coffin of our ego
that used to be, well, we're humans and we're on Earth and Earth is small
and the Sun, sun is insignificant
that'd be the last one and I don't know how we'd be able to handle that
do you think that there have been discoveries that have happened.. for instance
I have heard
discoveries that have changed our point of view about the universe that we are not aware of
that they've changed; in other words the change has been so gradual
we don't realize we see the world differently
Has E=mc^2, because
that's .. coming up on a hundred years
I'll tell you, yes it is actually well, no, we passed it
Last year was a hundred?
No, 1905, so, 2005 (OK)
So, I got one for you
in the 1920s,
which was a watershed decade in the history of science
in that decade
we discovered that
not only our galaxy, the milky way, is not the only
existence of anything in the universe that there are other
milky ways out there
that recently
1920s ... Was it just the optics didn't exist for that?
We needed a big enough telescope and Edwin Hubble
wielded all the glass that was necessary to accomplish that
back in the 1920s. He's ..
Hubble, before the telescope, was a man and
had his own telescope, the biggest of its day
and he made that discovery
that there were these spiral fuzzy things in the night sky
we thought they were just local to us
They were whole other
systems of stars
hundred billion stars unto itself
outside of our system
not only was that discovered in 1926 1929 he discovers that the
universe is expanding
which means
it may have had a (back then) it may have had a beginning
if it's expanding that meant it was little-er in the past
well there must have been a day when it was all together in the same place
thus was born
the Big Bang
okay so now
also in that decade
quantum mechanics quantum physics
was discovered that is the science of the small
the science of electrons, protons,
neutrons, particles, nuclei
at the time you'd say
this is just the this is just physicists
burning tax money
cause who cares about the atom
I got my horse to feed, I got
kids, I got.. you know you got issues in society
yet it's quantum mechanics
that is the entire foundation of our technological revolution
there would be no computers , there would be no
there would be none of what you take for granted
your iPod, your iPhone, cell phones
the space program ... without our understanding of the laws of physics as
they operate on that atomic and molecular and nuclear level
and so
the chemist has no understanding
of the periodic table of elements
without quantum mechanics
to them it's just a list of elements
quantum mechanics tells you why this column is there
and that's there, why this mates with that and why that makes a molecule with that
that's quantum mechanics and it's unheralded
you asked me if there is any discovery that has changed how we live
It is quantum mechanics
and I make.. I make this point because
I'm ready to
today you hear people saying
"why are we spending money up there when we got problems on Earth"
And people don't connect
the time delay between the frontier of scientific research
and how that's going to transform your life later down the line
all they want is a quarterly report that shows the product that comes out of it
that is so shortsighted and that's the beginning of the end of your culture
So it's
so it's better to know
That's a really long answer to my first question. My second question
Let's take some questions do we have time to do that?
Q and A?
you gonna hit me in the head with a rubbed band?
Ok, very quickly before we get to questions here
How many can I ask?
[???] Do we have microphones or are we going around the room?
We can repeat the question if there aren't enough microphones to go around
Uh, let's start right here with just one please, sir.
Is there a brown dwarf star approaching?
okay uh...
dare I suggest that i think i know much more deeply
about what's behind that question
he's asking about
"Planet X" (do share[???])
that would swing by Earth in the year 2012 and tip us on our axis
and have it be the end of civilization as we know it. Is that right sir?
I heard about that.
Yeah, yeah.
I'm digging a subterranean chamber
(yeah) me and my kids are gonna be fine.
Go on, when's it get here?
Uh, it doesn't exist
moving on, next question
Yes no, there is no "Planet X"
All gravity.. all principal sources of gravity in the solar system
are present and accounted for
anything discovered now would be tiny and insignificant, like
Pluto's relatives
What do you have to say about Apophis?
an asteroid the size of the Rose Bowl
discovered december 2004
headed towards Earth
it's not alone, among asteroids headed towards Earth except that this one
is headed, excuse me
there's a whole set of asteroids that cross Earth's orbit
that alone is not a problem. You cross the street all the time
but at different times than trucks drive by, OK
so the issue is
are you crossing the street, when the truck is driving there at the same moment
that simultaneity is what matters
Apophis when you ran the calculations showed that there was a chance of it hitting us
in the year 2036
with a close approach in the year 2029 on april 13th
a Friday, by the way
but here's what's significant about that.
we've had close approaches before
but none this close
this is the size of the Rose Bowl and on April 13th, 2029
it'll come close enough to Earth to dip below our orbiting communications satellites
Do you think 2.5% is a big number, for that asteroid to come to Earth?
No, right now the best estimates are seven in a million that it will hit us
in 2036
and if it does, it will likely hit the Pacific Ocean
plunge into a depth of three miles
explode, cavitate the ocean send waves of tsunamis
the first one from the impact
the second one because the water splashing back into the cavity
goes high into the air, drops back down and sends another pulse
this will go on about forty times
there will be multiple tsunamis, I was just on the Santa Monica beach
two nights ago, because Santa Monica
is the first city to get hit
because it's
it's the bee-line right up from Santa Monica 600 km into the Pacific
five-story tall tsunami would take out the entire west coast of the United States
but nobody has to die
because we know this well in advance
but i think two people will die
the stupid surfer who wants to surf that tsunami
you know, we know people like this, right? you know, you see them!
And you know who else of course, the
weatherman who wants to bring the camera guy closer
"Can you see the waves hitting the shore?"
OK, take him out too. we don't need either one of them.
That would make a great James Cameron movie.
Ah, yes.
Tonight there's a wolf moon can you explain what that means?
"What's a wolf moon?" OK, each full moon of the year has a name
and there are regional variations among those names
and the wolf moon
it's when it's snowing
and the wolves howl
You can see the wolf
in the light of the moon because the whole landscape is white
and the wolf doesn't.. the wolves don't turn white
so you can see them against this and
so depending on where if you live in a region where there are wolves
that would be what you'd call it other full moon names you've heard of
the harvest moon is one of them
the honey moon is one
that's the moon that's in June. The honeymoon
because that moon actually never gets very high in the sky
and it's amber the entire time it takes on the color of honey
and it's call the honeymoon and you get married in june -- that's where we get the name "honeymoon"
Anyone over here? No?
Yes sir
Uhm, the I think, yeah, in astronomy probably dark energy was sort of a real game changer
about 10 years ago, the discovery that the expansion of the universe is speeding up
If there's a game changer in the next 20 years
What is it?
The question is dark energy
he said ten years ago was like a game changer -- can I foresee any game changers
on the horizon?
Well, turns out dark energy
was not as much of a game changer as you might think
because that .. we already had a slot for it in Einstein's equations
we already had a placeholder no one had ever measured
it before so we just assumed it was zero and got on with life
the moment it was discovered
we said, hey
now we can stick it in the equation it was like whoa,
its presence in the equation shows that there's this force
there's this pressure operating against the action of gravity making the universe
accelerate in its expansion
and that's extraordinary because it means the day will come
when these galaxies that Hubble discovered
will expand
will move away from us
with such speed
that they will disappear beyond our horizon
and the total known universe at that time
will only be the Milky Way
restoring the state of mind of our universe that existed before 1920
that's a spooky time, we'll have to hand down the annals of cosmology
from previous centuries
to hear about the galaxies that were once
in the night sky
so game changers going forward: if we discover
the dark matter particle
that'd be kinda cool
if we ... if dark energy, and dark matter, cause we don't know what's causing either one
of them but we measured them so
they are real in their action on the universe
we just don't know what it is
as distinct from the ether a hundred years ago we never measured it
we just assumed it was there there was no data, it was just
dark matter, dark energy, we could call it "Fred" and "Wilma"
don't think it's matter or energy we don't know what it is
don't let the name fool you
I'll for henceforth call it "Fred" and "Wilma"
So, "Fred" and "Wilma"
these two things
it may be
a game changer once we figure out what it is
it's a new particle
that then we can exploit to our benefit in the same way our
understanding of quantum physics
enabled us to exploit the behavior of atoms and nuclei
to our benefit so a new kind of physics would transform how we live
that's one way I think it might go
Will Pluto not only be humiliated by Neil deGrasse Tyson
That's not the word she said she didn't say that word
Excised from
from the family of planets
Neil was on the group
that gave the recommendation
that Pluto be demoted, correct?
We, uh, we..
we thought differently about
Pluto's identity than Pluto did
and other supporters of it.
we just grouped it with other icy bodies in the outer solar system
that at the time
were being discovered
you know, don't shoot the messenger
Pluto was alone for sixty-five years
and so you can't have a category of one
that doesn't work in science, you need a few things to make a category
it was in a category it was a planet
well yeah. My very elegant mother just sat upon nine porcupines
Now she just sits upon nine it doesn't make any sense
Yeah, it doesn't make any sense
Where's the porcupine?
If she's that elegant, she wouldn't have sat on a porcupine, I don't think
but, so once we found other icy bodies we .. what we did is group them together
we said
Pluto, we found family for you
in fact, we think you're happier there cause now you're one of the biggest icy bodies
Rather than a pipsqueak planet
You sent Pluto to a farm upstate to run and chase rabbits, is what you did
It's much happier there, kids
It's happier there and I didn't do this alone
is there a super-giant beyond pluto that that pulls comets in? is there
is there a chance there is something out there that's drawing
There was a hypothetical star
which is related a little bit to what led to this
invention of this 2012 , the 2012 brown dwarf (the brown dwarf that you won't talk about)
there was a come down to the bunker, too
There was a suggestion that there was a companion star to the sun
provisionally called "nemesis"
that had this elonged orbit that would
jostle comets in the outer solar system
and send them raining down on Earth
creating mass extinctions
accounting for the extinction
episodes in the fossil record
but.. it was an interesting hypothesis that was never supported by data
and so when you're not supported by data you discard the hypothesis
that's how science works
you don't believe something just because you want to
or think something's true just because it feels good. at some point
you've gotta confront the data so getting back to the point
You've never been in politics
so getting back to the point
the recognition that Pluto's made half-ice
and ice evaporates
so won't Pluto one day disappear? no, Pluto's too far away from the sun
for that to ever meaningfully evaporate and disappear completely
What was the point of the Large Hadron Collider?
"what was the plan", did you say? "The point?" "what was the point?" he speaks in past tense
as though we're done with it
well we just turned on the switch
the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland
the point of the the Large Hadron Collider was to embarrass America
to make us feel bad that we didn't have our collider built
back in the 1980s when it was first funded
That's the whole point of the Large Hadron Collider
It's Europe saying "Ha! Gotcha this time!"
now apart from that ego bit,
uh, it's to probe nature
on levels of energy never before seen
and right now it's hard
practically impossible to discover a new law of physics on your tabletop
we've been there
we've done that
and almost
the entire history of physics
is: go to the edges,
of your points of exploration and then take a step beyond that
you're bound to discover something new
it's like one climbing the next mountain, crossing the next valley
so the large hadron collider the energy inside that particle accelerator
will exceed the energy of all the accelerators
that have ever been built before
probing nature as never previously imagined
What is the Higg's boson?
Higg's boson
that's a particle
that you can think of it as a kind of uh...
it's like a
think of it like
well, ok, not molasses, uhm
it's a field through which all particles move,
and the interaction of those particles with that field
endows them
with the mass
that we measure for them
it is granting them
the property of mass
we have yet to find this particle but if we do .. so mass is not explained presently
That's correct, we just measure.. we don't know why
we get fat
we don't know why something has mass right now (correct)
and so we
now, may I ask you something if you have.. if you build
let's say you build an equation this way you've got an equation over here, you've built it
and it's a house, ok?
and you've got another equation over here that works, it's another house
but in your mind you think
these two houses are actually probably shoudl be one house
you invent something that fits into the shape between the two houses, right?
(yes) [??]
Ok, there's something in universe that is the shape
of the space between these two houses (yes)
does that necessarily mean that thing is there
the history has shown that
almost every time
we propose something that connects one house to another .. if those two houses
themselves .. work
there's something in between them connecting the two
for example
for example
the 1930s, we had this experiment .. 1930s
quantum physics is in place
we start probing the atom
we find out there's an atomic reaction, a nuclear reaction
where there's some missing
we account for all of it and there's something missing
there's this much energy here and then it's missing here
and we swear we've accounted for everything
Fermi comes up (a famous physicist) said
I bet there's a particle
that came out of that reaction
that escaped with the energy before you got a chance to measure it
That would've endowded that particle with it's energy to do so.. the mass to do so
E=mc^2 is in every one of these
it's all over the place
it's writ with E=mc^2 the point is
he hypothesized a particle
gave it the properties that is would have to have
to account for what was seen
that's your conduit between the two houses
then he said, it's gotta have this much energy
and it's gotta be pretty hard to detect because we surrounded this in lead
and it went straight through the lead
I'm gonna propose a particle that's hard to detect
and it's gotta be little, cause there's not that much mass, and it has no charge
so it's neutral
so, he called them neutrinos "little neutral ones"
he hypothesized, he said let's look for them
twenty years later they were found, neutrinos
and now we [kept?] them coming out of these reactions
he built the porch
the walkway between the two houses
practically every time you have two working
understandings of the world
at they have to coexist in the same universe there's something that's going to connect them
it's like
electricity and magnetism
previously discovered as separate things
until Faraday and Maxwell said hey, wait a minute
this works, and that works
and they kinda smell like each other a little, maybe they're the same thing
so a whole theory came out
to put the two together, and it is the theory of electromagnetism
you know this word, you just take it as a single word, but those used to be separate concepts
so, we're going good with this
we're on a roll here
so why not continue
Yes, right there
Do parallel universes exist?
Do parallel universes exist? we don't know,
parallel universes are losing favor to the multiverse
we have some cogent theoretical
that our universe might be just one of many
spawned from this, sort of, this hyper-dimensional
medium which we'll call the multiverse there's no data to support it
but we have good theoretical
to think that it's there and we have philosophical precedent
we used to think Earth was special and
unique. It wasn't, we got 8 .. 9 .. 8 planets
we thought the Sun was special
it's one of a hundred billion suns, the galaxy's special, no there's a hundred billion galaxies
we have one universe
or do we?
The track record said
why should there only be one?
be open to the possibility
that you don't live in the majority [looking?] universe that's out there
Would a separate universe .. when you say "different universe"
slightly different laws of physics which (that's what I'm asking)
oh this is the fun part
because if you find, if you manage to get a portal to another universe
don't be the first one to volunteer to go through
because your atoms are working in this universe
if a slightly different law of physics.. you could implode, explode
come out with three heads who knows?
There's a different exchange rate over there Yes
someone .. let's go in the back
in the middle of
and I think.. you have a white sweater on
Is it possible to tunnel through a black hole, like, quantum mechanically speaking?
Can a black hole be used to travel how about that, can we say that? No
no, it's a little different
Steve, get with the program tunnel through a black hole
(yes, quantum mechanically ) as if it creates a tunnel, in space or time?
quantum mechanically is what she said
quantum mechanically, can you tunnel through a black hole?
I'm not gonna try to interpret this one
Well I have to ask, did you want to land someplace else when you're done
or are you content with being dead when it's over?
I need to know before I answer
I guess it's ok if I die
It's ok if you die
For science Stephen Hawking showed just recently
that, and for me this is kinda spooky/amazing
that black holes
remember everything that they have ever eaten
which means, it's not a tunnel to anywhere
everything that it ate is sitting there at the singularity at its center
now the spooky part, that's not the spooky part
the spooky part is
Stephen Hawking showed forty years ago
that black holes can actually evaporate
the matter that's within a black hole
rise up out of the gravitational field that surrounds it
and spontaneously birth a pair of particles
that's just E=mc^2 doing it's thing
the gravity field has high energy density
out of that pops particles
and those particles escape
matter away from the black hole
from the
from the gravity field of the black hole
doesn't that fly in the face of.. how we think of a black hole
in a black hole, gone forever
because nothing escapes, because nothing has
nothing can surpass the energy needed to go faster than the speed of light
except quantum mechanics
quantum physics from the 1920s gets you out of that problem
that's a classical understanding of black holes you layer quantum mechanics on it
weird stuff happens
completely legitimately weird stuff happens
so you birth these particles outside the thing now here's what happens
That sounds like
science is making magical exceptions for itself
quantum physics
is kind of magic
because none of it issues forth from your common sense
particles pop in and out of existence
one time it's a wave, the next time it's a particle, and it interacts with itself
and you measure here but it shows up there
if we were forged in that world
then all that would be common sense
And E=mc^2 would be a daily phenomenon
you wouldn't need Einstein to figure it out
You'd be learning it in elementary school
but that is a foreign universe to us
as to what goes on there, you are prone to say: that doesn't make sense
you know something -- it's of
no obligation to make sense to you because your senses
didn't come out of that universe
out of that universe of tiny particles we don't live there
if you let something go and it drops you say "that makes sense"
if you let something go and it goes up you say "that doesn't make sense"
in quantum world, that happens all the time
it would make sense in the quantum world
so I submit to you
that if I take your body and dump it into a black hole, what Stephen Hawking showed
is that
all the particles that went into the black hole let's say
it's Stephen Colbert black hole ok, no other contaminating bodies
but your atoms in the center of this black hole
and i wait around and out here
in the gravity field
particles pop into existence
and I check, make a check, how many protons
how many neutrons
how many electrons, how many neutrinos
by the time this black hole has evaporated
it would have been every single particle that you were
having fallen in in the first place
extracted out of the energy field of the black hole so it remembers who you
were, even out in the gravitational field
that's spooky to me
Is the black hole now gone? gone
disa .. pops out of existence
evaporated. it takes .. by the way
it takes several trillion years for that
so don't wait around for it
that young man right there
How do you figure all this out?
it's an excellent question yeah, it's a good one
Isaac Newton
did it all by himself
he was like, really, really
really smart
a quick Isaac Newton story
he discovered the laws of motion, the laws of gravity
shows that planets don't orbit in circles as Copernicus had thought
but in slightly flattened circles we call ellipses
and some friend of his said, "Ike, why ...",
[ thought maybe he'd be called Ike ??]
"why that shape, and not some other shape?"
he couldn't answer that question, he said "I'll get back to you"
goes home for two months, comes back, here's why it's that shape
the conic section that cuts through the thing
and said well how did you figure that out he said, well
i had to invent integral and differential calculus to figure it out
so some people invent their own
tools and methods
to discover the world
most people
learn the tools from someone else
and then apply them to make incremental changes some people make huge changes
like Isaac Newton and
and and and
Einstein and others
Isaac Newton once said, "if i can see farther than others
it's because I've stood on the shoulders of giants
who have come before me"
But I've read Issac Newton
and his stuff makes the hair .. if I had hair there
rise up on the back of my neck how plugged-in he was to the universe
and i'm saying to myself that quote cannot have possibly have been honest
what it really meant if [i could re-give] that quote to him
If I can see farther than others it's because i'm standing
among midgets, that's why he could see farther than everybody else
in the case of Isaac Newton
I'm afraid we only have time for one more question, yes sir
Actually that was a great segue to my question
we organized this all for your question
earlier in the evening you brought up
the ideas of scientific literacy and technology [???] management
I'd like to hear your opinions of where the policy needs to go to make a positive impact in that area
alright Neil could you repeat that for everybody
the question is
we were talking earlier about scientific literacy and our approach toward science
as a nation
in your opinion and you you serve on science advisory panels
where do you think
we need to go as a nation what do we need to do to increase of scientific literacy
I'll answer it two-pronged
one is: what do you do with your kids?
and kids
need to be able to explore freely
and if you look at most households
they're not designed for that
they're designed to have the kid not explore
the kid come into your kitchen and pulls out the pots and pans
and starts banging on them, what's the first thing you do as a parent?
stop that, you're getting the dishes dirty
yet these are experiments in acoustics
that's what that is
whatever the kid is doing, if it has the chance of breaking something
you're gonna to tell them to not do it
without thinking that that's the consequence of an experiment
that they are conducting
and every time the kid wants to do something provided it doesn't kill them
it's an experiment
let it run its course
even if it makes something messy
you agreed to have a kid in the first place, fine, clean up after them
when they're old enough
Because it's those seeds of curiosity
that is the foundation
of what it is to become a scientist
i don't want everybody to be a scientist that'd be a boring world. i want the poets
and i want
we need that and I don't have a ...
but I'm talking about promoting science literacy
and so the first step
for the parents is to get out of the way
allow the child to explore
they start playing in the mud "don't do that in the mud I just cleaned those pants"
you're getting in the way of another experiment
they start plucking the petals off the flowers you just bought
from the florist
and you say "stop that I just paid $10 for the flowers"?
had you let that continue they'd find in the middle the stamen, and the pistil
and they'd learn something about the flower
for 10 bucks that's cheap
Derek Bok, one-time president of Harvard once said
if you think
education is expensive, try the cost of ignorance
and so
that's so.. that's gotta start at home. in the schools,
I don't have a problem with the fact memorizing
but don't equate that with what it is to be wise
what it is to be smart
smart should be some combination
of that yes, but also
what is your lens on the world? how do you figure things out?
and you promote that by stimulating curiosity
and I don't see enough stimulated curiosity
in this world. this is a famous school right here, I saw the banner in the opening
corridors, so you probably don't have that problem here
all right, but the whole world is not educated in this building
so a lot of change would need to happen in that regard
now getting back to policy
I've tried
you do a simple Google like "youtube and tyson" well, put "Neil" so you don't get "Mike", all right
dining on someone's ear
half of what ends up thrown onto youtube
are talks I've given
where I am trying to convince people
not only the public
but lawmakers
and people in power that
investing in the frontier of science
however remote it may seem in
its relevance to what you're doing today is
a way of stockpiling the seed corns of future harvests of this nation
and those seed corns what they do is
whether or not you know it today
advancing a frontier history has shown has advanced the culture
ever since the industrial revolution got underway
and we can speak more
hegemonistically about it that anyone who has embraced
the powers of technology has enjoyed economic wealth the likes of which the
world has never seen attendant with
strength strength of security
and so people say today
they'll say suppose the next attack
terrorist attack is like a chemical attack
do you call out the marines, or do you get your best chemists
to figure out what to do about that
there's a point where your weapons are not as useful
as the brain of the scientist who you could bring to bear on the problem
and so
i see science and technology and creative investments in it
as the most significant
to our economy that could possibly be conceived
the problem is, it's not going to boost the economy next quarter
it's got a time horizon longer than most people have the patience for, and most
politicians have the re-election cycle to be tolerant of
so what we need is a longer view
on those investments
I don't want to have to have NASA going hat-in-hand trying to get money to stimulate
the frontier of cosmic discovery
and that frontier now involves biologists in the search for life
chemists, in understanding the soils of Mars
uh, aerospace engineers. you know what I don't want to do, I don't want to
stand in front of eighth-graders and say "who wants to be an aerospace engineer
so you can design an airplane that's
fifteen percent more fuel efficient than the one your father flew?"
That's not going to get them but if I say
who wants to be an engineer
and design an airfoil that will fly in the rarified atmosphere of Mars
I'm going to get the best students in the class and you know it
because that's an exciting project for smart people work on motivated people to work on
and when you have them, they invent stuff they discover things, they transform the
culture in which we live, on a time horizon that is not be easy to just
tell someone
in a one-sentence sound bite
and what i want is a level of science and cultural literacy
that will allow the public
to be able to think beyond the election cycle
to think for themselves and say this is a good investment
how many times have you heard people say if you're not among us here
why are we spending money up there when we have the problems down here.
Have you ever asked how much money were spending up there?
ask that question
you know what the answer is?
I've asked people how much money do you think we're spending there
here's your tax dollar
how much is it? ten percent? fifteen percent? those are the kinds of answers I get
you know how much is getting spent the rovers, the space station, the
the space shuttles, all the launch vehicles all the NASA centers, is 6-10ths
of one penny
on your tax dollar
6-10ths of one penny pays for it all
and you're telling me, why are we spending there [not] down here
if you need that money to solve these problems, you got some other problems going on OK?
That's a whole other problem with society
I'm sorry, I'm spitting I'm getting all ...
so my point is I think the greatest
the greatest
is to be able to have the foresight necessary
to make investments on the frontier of science
even if at the time you make those investments
you cannot figure out how that might
make you rich tomorrow
Michael Faraday in 1840s was the first one to pass a wire
through a magnetic field
and it made a little meter
tick on .. it moved uh, a meter
he hooked up to it
[now this guy?] you do this, and this happens. That's kinda cool
if you're nerdy .. to a nerd that's a cool thing right you do this and this happens
and so what was happening is
it induced a current through the wire
he showed his colleagues, it looked like just kind of a curiosity, a toy
showed it to Parliment, they say why? this is what we're funding?
we're funding this toy?
this may be apocryphal but it is said of Faraday
in response to this inquiry said
because they asked, what value is this to the british empire
and to the King he said i don't know
without value it is today
but I know, one day, you're going to tax it
and in fact that is the foundation of how all electricity is made today
and it would take another sixty years before electricity would come to homes
but who could've known it at the time?
I don't want to be left behind
I will not leave you behind
last thing I'll say
the biggest news story last year to me
was not the methane, uh, flatulence
the biggest news story
happened december 22nd, something like that
I forgot what day
a press release comes out
Russia says
they want to send a mission to deflect Apophis
the killer asteroid (oh yeah)
by the way, I said if that hits it's gonna hit the Pacific
which affects us
ok, Russia says
we're gonna launch a mission
we're gonna start designing it now and we're gonna fund it. oh by the way
the United States is welcome to join us and people say oh that's nice
a little international thing, I'm saying wait a minute
something's wrong here
aren't we the ones
who are supposed to be starting missions and then advising other people to join us?
isn't that how it's been?
so that was a sign
one of many
that our significance and meaning on the world stage
is fading
and it's fading fast
and it's not a cliff
it's just a fade
and the day will come, where the rest of the world just makes their own decisions
about the future of their own space exploration and technologies
and we're sitting back saying
Hi fellas, can we join along
we already proved
we can deflect asteroids in the movie "Armageddon"
so there's our fantasy: we don't do it in the real [world], we do it on the silver screen
and we're happy about that
maybe we gotta fix that disconnect. last question
why is there something
instead of nothing?
ten words or less
just because
So, I gotta do this in haiku then
ok, five seven five
words that make questions
may not be questions
at all
I am well-rebuked
Neil deGrasse Tyson, it is an honor to have you here and an honor always to talk to you
please, come on get up for Neil deGrasse Tyson
Uhm, Dr. Tyson is going to be down here he will signing books until 9:30 so
if you'd like to come down and have then signed, feel free
For the rest of you, thank you all for coming and get home safe