Category Archives: Neil Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Sheer Illiterate Fantasy of Star Wars (Thank you Neil!!)

“Star Trek – all versions of the series – have made admirable attempts to do the right thing within the laws of physics. And, where they’re on the frontier? That’s where the imagination of the writers and the creativity of the science fiction themes come in. But you can’t undo the well-tested and well-known laws of physics that oughta serve as your foundation for what you’re doing. Otherwise the whole thing just becomes fantasy – and you might as well just write a story no different from Lord of the Rings or Star Wars.”

Star Wars…it was to…I, I never got into it…I donno…maybe because they made no attempt to portray real physics. At all.

We aren’t really fans of either – viewing their reliance upon interstellar space-travel as having set-back exploration of our own solar system – now, with humans – with real, doable, nearly-off the shelf technology. Not warp drives or Xwing absurdities. …But we are definitely fans of Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Case in point…for reasons beyond comprehension 32 geniuses spent 17,336 hours of semi-conscious human life constructing a replica of a vehicle which has never and will never fly, anywhere. Even if it were made of something else other than 5 million legos. Why don’t these wizards volunteer at SpaceX or Blue Origin for 4 months – sweeping shop floors would have been more noble. Or help Bill Gates eradicate polio. This is shameful…(really):

Anticipating Advancement Into a Frontier Now, on Earth

“Make our ambitions in space so tasty, so seductive, so enticing, that people will be beating down the door to get into the science classroom. That people won’t be mindlessly disconnected from the advancing frontiers of science and technology because those discoveries will be writ large in the daily papers.”
“Tips on Presenting Complex Scientific Ideas to a General Audience: Sure you can say spatial and temporal, but why not just say space and time?”

Neil Tyson’s Advice to Young Science Communicators: Write

Tyson’s central point: the pathway will be different for different people–but it all comes back to knowing how to write.

Point of Inquiry interview, from about minute 28:15, with some ellipses:

“It’s not a predetermined path….Look at for example Phil Plait. Phil Plait is a professional astrophysicist, and then he had a blog, and the blog became a book, and a lot of interest in the book, and he saw the need for skepticism to be addressed in society, and he became a big part of that movement–you don’t pre-script that. It’s hard to prescript it.

My career path–you just don’t pre-script it. You do what you do best, and what you like the most, and you figure out along the way how that best fits into the opportunities of culture and the greater society.

So in graduate school, I wrote a question and answer column for StarDate magazine, out of the University of Texas, and that became a book, and when you have a book, TV shows want your views on things–one thing leads to another. But in all cases, the common denominator is that it starts out by writing.

So my advice to someone who wanted to be a science communicator is, you write. Writing is the excuse you can give yourself to organize ideas in coherent sentences in ways that make sense not only word to word, but sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph. And that is the art of communication, being clear and succinct. And the proving ground for that is writing.

Today, blogs–if you get a popular blog, you can gain some weight in that way, and in an earlier day, I would have said you write op-eds, letters to the editor. A way to get your name out there with your point of view, that others might not have.

But regardless, it’s writing. And initially, you’re not paid for the writing, you’re just writing because you can’t not write, or because the urge is so strong you just have to. And eventually, people take notice, if you say interesting things and you say them well, or humorously, or perceptively, then others take notice of it, and one thing leads to another.

So you can’t pre-script it, you just have to do what feels right, and express what inspires you, and then watch where the chips fall at that point.”

"The Most Astounding Fact" Neil deGrasse Tyson

What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe?

Neil deGrasse Tyson:
The most astounding fact is the knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on Earth the atoms that make up the human body are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures. These stars, the high mass ones among them went unstable in their later years they collapsed and then exploded scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself. 

These ingredients become part of gas cloud that condense, collapse, form the next generation of solar systems stars with orbiting planets, and those planets now have the ingredients for life itself. So that when I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up – many people feel small because they’re small and the Universe is big – but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. 

There’s a level of connectivity. That’s really what you want in life, you want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant you want to feel like a participant in the goings on of activities and events around you That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive…

Neil deGrasse Tyson: "Audacious Visions"

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
Antoine St. Exupery

Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Audacious Visions”:

Currently, NASA’s Mars science exploration budget is being decimated, we are not going back to the Moon, and plans for astronauts to visit Mars are delayed until the 2030s—on funding not yet allocated, overseen by a congress and president to be named later.

During the late 1950s through the early 1970s, every few weeks an article, cover story, or headline would extol the “city of tomorrow,” the “home of tomorrow,” the “transportation of tomorrow.” Despite such optimism, that period was one of the gloomiest in U.S. history, with a level of unrest not seen since the Civil War. The Cold War threatened total annihilation, a hot war killed a hundred servicemen each week, the civil rights movement played out in daily confrontations, and multiple assassinations and urban riots poisoned the landscape.

The only people doing much dreaming back then were scientists, engineers, and technologists. Their visions of tomorrow derive from their formal training as discoverers. And what inspired them was America’s bold and visible investment on the space frontier.

Exploration of the unknown might not strike everyone as a priority. Yet audacious visions have the power to alter mind-states—to change assumptions of what is possible. When a nation permits itself to dream big, those dreams pervade its citizens’ ambitions. They energize the electorate. During the Apollo era, you didn’t need government programs to convince people that doing science and engineering was good for the country. It was self-evident. And even those not formally trained in technical fields embraced what those fields meant for the collective national future.

For a while there, the United States led the world in nearly every metric of economic strength that mattered. Scientific and technological innovation is the engine of economic growth—a pattern that has been especially true since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.  That’s the climate out of which the New York World’s Fair emerged, with its iconic Unisphere—displaying three rings—evoking the three orbits of John Glenn in his Friendship 7 capsule.

During this age of space exploration, any jobs that went overseas were the kind nobody wanted anyway.  Those that stayed in this country were the consequence of persistent streams of innovation that could not be outsourced, because other nations could not compete at our level. In fact, most of the world’s nations stood awestruck by our accomplishments.

Let’s be honest with one anther.  We went to the Moon because we were at war with the Soviet Union. To think otherwise is delusion, leading some to suppose the only reason we’re not on Mars already is the absence of visionary leaders, or of political will, or of money. No. When you perceive your security to be at risk, money flows like rivers to protect us.

But there exists another driver of great ambitions, almost as potent as war. That’s the promise of wealth. Fully funded missions to Mars and beyond, commanded by astronauts who, today, are in middle school, would reboot America’s capacity to innovate as no other force in society can. What matters here are not spin-offs (although I could list a few: Accurate affordable Lasik surgery, Scratch resistant lenses, Cordless power tools, Tempurfoam, Cochlear implants, the drive to miniaturize of electronics…) but cultural shifts in how the electorate views the role of science and technology in our daily lives.

As the 1970s drew to a close, we stopped advancing a space frontier. The “tomorrow” articles faded. And we spent the next several decades coasting on the innovations conceived by earlier dreamers. They knew that seemingly impossible things were possible—the older among them had enabled, and the younger among them had witnessed the Apollo voyages to the Moon—the greatest adventure there ever was. If all you do is coast, eventually you slow down, while others catch up and pass you by.

All these piecemeal symptoms that we see and feel—the nation is going broke, it’s mired in debt, we don’t have as many scientists, jobs are going overseas—are not isolated problems. They’re part of the absence of ambition that consumes you when you stop having dreams. Space is a multidimensional enterprise that taps the frontiers of many disciplines: biology, chemistry, physics, astrophysics, geology, atmospherics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering. These classic subjects are the foundation of the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math—and they are all represented in the NASA portfolio.

Epic space adventures plant seeds of economic growth, because doing what’s never been done before is intellectually seductive (whether deemed practical or not), and innovation follows, just as day follows night. When you innovate, you lead the world, you keep your jobs, and concerns over tariffs and trade imbalances evaporate. The call for this adventure would echo loudly across society and down the educational pipeline.

At what cost? The spending portfolio of the United States currently allocates fifty times as much money to social programs and education than it does to NASA. The 2008 bank bailout of $750 billion was greater than all the money NASA had received in its half-century history; two years’ U.S. military spending exceeds it as well. Right now, NASA’s annual budget is half a penny on your tax dollar. For twice that—a penny on a dollar—we can transform the country from a sullen, dispirited nation, weary of economic struggle, to one where it has reclaimed its 20th century birthright to dream of tomorrow.

How much would you pay to “launch” our economy?

How much would you pay for the universe?

#Penny4NASA Petition and Facebook Page

#Penny4NASA’s purpose is to organize Americans to the increase NASA’s annual budget to a vast, yet comparably minuscule, penny on the taxpayer dollar. 1% of the total. In just one year, the U.S.’s military budget is equivalent to the entire 50-year running budget of NASA combined. (And we’d win more battles with assbackwards ideologies by sending Americans to Mars rather than Afghanistan.)