For more on Paul Newman check out my post on his life accomplishments…
For Today’s Post: I went through the amazing Ask Me Anything (AMA) Reddit Session with Astrophysisist Neil deGrasse Tyson and made it a little bit easier for the general public to see. I tried to leave the comments unedited and in the order in which they were upvoted.
So here it goes…
Neil deGrasse Tyson – Reddit Thread
– For a few hours I will answer any question you have. And I will tweet this fact within ten minutes after this post, to confirm my identity.
Q. Since time slows relative to the speed of light, does this mean that photons are essentially not moving through time at all?
A. yes. Precisely. Which means —– are you seated?
Photons have no ticking time at all, which means, as far as they are concerned, they are absorbed the instant they are emitted, even if the distance traveled is across the universe itself.
Q. What do you think it will take for the US to seriously reinvest in the space program?
A. A foreign threat. That seems to be the only thing around that motivates bickering political parties to act in harmony.
Q. What never fails to blow your mind in physics?
A. 1) The fact that an electron has no known size — it’s smaller than the smallest measurement we have ever made of anything.
2) That Quarks come only in pairs: If you try to separate two of them, the energy you sink into the system to accomplish this feat is exactly the energy to spontaneously create two more quarks – one to partner with each of those you pulled apart.
3) That the space-time structure inside a rotating black hole does not preclude the existence of an entire other universe.
MindBlown x 3
Q. If you could add one course to a student’s curriculum, what would it be?
A. Course title every university should offer: “How to tell when someone else is full of shit”
Q. Can we inspire more kids to pursue space-related science and research? If so, how?
A. Kids are never the problem. They are born scientists. The problem is always the adults. The beat the curiosity out of the kids. They out-number kids. They vote. They wield resources. That’s why my public focus is primarily adults.
Q. What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment scientifically? In life as a whole?
A. Made a prediction some years ago that there were 10x as many galaxies in the universe than had then been catalogued. based on a careful review of observation bias in how people obtained data on the universe. The actual number turned out to be about 5x as many galaxies. I got the wrong answer but for the right reasons, and it stimulated much further work on the subject.
Follow Up/Comment: Mad predictions are often the best. Especially Grade A ones. “Agreed.”
Q. What is your favorite short science fact you like to tell people to really make them think?
A. That our bodies atoms are traceable to supernova stars that scattered their chemical enrichment across the cosmos, spawning the birth of star systems that contain planets, at least one of them containing life.
Q. What seemingly far-fetched aspect of science fiction do you think humans will reach first? (For example: Time Travel, lightsabers, invisibility, etc.)
A. None of it. Not even the costumes.
Q. When will Cosmos series 2 air, and will it air in the UK?
A. Thanks for asking. Spring 2012. On FOX network. Likely primetime. UK will likely follow shortly thereafter.
Q. Do you agree with the idea (Carl Sagan was a proponent) that humans should prepare to, one day, forever leave the surly confines of Earth? In other words, should we plan to colonize other planets?
A. Because it would be fun. And because we will probably learn something new about ourselves and our own planet. But not as a place to escape from an incoming asteroid. For that I’d rather stay on Earth and deflect the damn thing.
Q. Will our minds ever be able to truly comprehend the vastness of the universe?
A. I lose sleep worrying that we, as a species, are indeed simply too stupid to figure out the universe. There’s even some YouTubes of me offering this lament. I other words, we are not as candid as we should be about our neuro-biological limitations.
Q. Who are the unknown scientists of the 20th Century that people should know?
A. M. Burbidge, G. Burbidge, W. Fowler, & F. Hoyle. Google them.
(Helpful Redditor supplied these links)
The paper they wrote together that made them famous: B2 FH paper
Q. If you could change one thing about how the sciences are taught to American children, what would it be?
A. Create a goal state for educational pipeline to see in broad daylight – some ambitious mission – like a voyage to mars – that is so compelling that the quality of your science teacher is irrelevant. Your consequent ambitions trump all other forces.
Q. What is your favorite sci-fi movie?
A. Three-way tie: The Matrix – The first one, of course. Contact Deep Impact.
And classical have: 2001 A Space Odyssey.
Q. You’ve always been an inherently funny guy. Will that transfer to your take on Cosmos, or will you seek to emulate Sagan’s more sober wonder?
A. Excellent question. Sagan’s “sober wonder” was a fundamental dimension of Cosmos’s gravitas. Something that we all in this new production deeply respect. But I can’t be something I’m not. Nor should I be. So right now we are exploring the best mix of sober wonder, charming humor, and intellectual depth. I think we’ll land in a new place, respectful of Carl’s legacy, but allowing me room to express my pedagogical enthusiasm for the subject.
Q. If you could impress one thing on young people today, what would it be?
A. That adults are not all they’re cracked up to be. And most of them are wrong most of the time. This can be quite revelatory for a kid – often launching them on a personal quest of exploration, rather than of Q&A sessions with their parents.
Q. What is your opinion of the Symphony of Science videos?
A. Only when creative people take ownership of cosmic discovery will society accept science as the cultural activity that it is.
And so I applaud all such efforts of artists.
Q. Have you fixed your time machine yet?
A. Yup. That’s what happens when I let Stewie touch my stuff.
(Later in thread) – Yup. Stewie was meddling with it. But he’s gone now.
Q. Your thoughts on the upcoming Cosmos series? And thanks for all you do, you are like a rockstar in our household!
A. Loooong overdue. Last one was 31 years ago. A generation, that it.
Q. What is your favorite fact about the Universe?
A. That is will never end. That it’s on a one way trip of expansion. Something that many find to be philosophically unsettling. My view is that if your philosophy is not unsettled daily then you are blind to all the universe has to offer.
Q. Not a question, just a thank you for inspiring thousands of teenagers like me to pursue science.
A. Keep it going. Thanks.
Q. If you appeared on the game show Jeopardy, how do you think you would do?
A. I’ve appeared on the Jeopardy board (a video clue) about three or four times. I think one was even a daily double. If I were a contestant, I’m sure I would make the first few rounds, but would surely lose in any tournament. The people who win these things have a different brain wiring than I have. Part of me echoes Einstein’s edict: never memorize what you can look up in a book.
Q. How was it being a guest star on The Big Bang Theory? Do you think the show hurts or helps the perception of physicists?
A. The funnest 24 hours I ever spent in my life. Flew to LA from NYC in the AM. Returned on the RedEye. It’s mainstreaming the culture of science. Note to those who criticize it: Where were you when scientists were always portrayed as lab-coat donning crazy people hell bent on destroying the world?
Q. Just checking in today me and the wife adore you and we are thankful for all you’re doing for a better understanding of science. Cheers from Brazil.
A. Gotta love Brazil: Soccer. Mardi Gras. Thong bikinis. And the third largest aerospace industry in the world.
Q. What do you think will be the biggest scientific breakthrough upcoming in the next 50 years?
A. Life elsewhere in the solar system. Mars, most likely.
Q. 1. What exactly do you do these days? 2. Are you a fan of cats?
3. What do you think of the current space-travel situation?
A. 1) My life is not especially private of late. So everything you see me do it what I do.
2) cats can be cute, and all. But in the end, I think there’s no substitute for a dog. I walked dogs for money as a kid to pay for a telescope and my first SLR camera.
3) Current space travel situation is fine, if you are not American.
Q. What are your thoughts on the reports of neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light?
A. Three options:
1) Mistake in the data
VERY DISTANT 2) New particle traveling backwards through time. No need to modify relativity.
EVEN MORE DISTANT 3) Need to modify Relativity.
Q. What do you think about Ancient Aliens?
A. It’s what people say when they can’t figure out how ancient humans accomplished something.
Rather than say, “I’m too stupid to figure this one out on my own”, they say, “I am smarter than these ancient humans, and since I can’t figure out what’s going on here, they must have had help from aliens.”
We need more hubris in this world.
Q. What one improvement would you make to the way our society as a whole approaches science if it were within your power?
A. Society needs to see science not as a luxury of funding but as a fundamental activity that drives enlightenment, economics, and security. Science agencies should never have to go hat in hand to congress.
One idea would be for the USA (or any other country for that matter) to earmark 10% of its budget to R&D. Like a good startup company might do. That way everyone knows what to expect annually. And long term research projects will have some hope of funding stability.
Q. Neil- As a new social studies high school teacher, how can I best impart a love and respect for science and the importance of learning to my students who see school as a waste of their time? I struggle with this aspect of teaching more than any other.
A. I thrive on exploring all the ways science impacts life, society, and culture. It’s the founding principle of StarTalk radio: http://startalkradio.net/
So a goal as teacher, perhaps ought to include knowing as much as you possibly can about pop culture and referencing it at every turn as you teach the syllabus. I am there with my Tweets:http://twitter.com/#!/neiltyson Takes a while to build up that utility belt of songs, TV shows, harry potter, etc. But it pays great dividends.
Q. I just want to say that I can’t wait for your new Cosmos series. And I also love it whenever you appear on The Daily Show. That is all.
A. Thanks. We’re all working hard on it right now. Except, at this moment, me.
Q. When do you think we would be able to explore Europa, given the current pace and funding of space exploration?
A. Europa is not on the planetary scientist’s priority list, for an obscure combination of reasons that relate to cost and whether we are technologically prepared to undertake such mission versus missions to other tasty targets in the solar system.
Q. What are you feelings on religion and the afterlife, and are you scared to die?
A. I remain unconvinced that anything other than rapid decomposition is the fate of my body and mind after death. I’ve accomplished enough in life so that I do not fear death. In fact, I’ve left instructions for my Epitaph – a quote from the educator, Horace Mann: “Be Ashamed to Die, Until You Have Scored Some Victory for Humanity”. That’s the creed I live by. And will die by.
Q. Do you think that Humans in our lifetime will achieve the technology to be able to live forever?
If so, what is your greatest dream that you may someday be able to do that we don’t yet have the technology to do?
A. Yes, I think it’s inevitable. But that would eventually make for a very crowded Earth. So perhaps that’s what we need to jumpstart the space program.
Would love to live long enough to know what dark matter and dark energy actually are.
Q. What is your opinion on the whole idea of the technological Singularity and do you think such a monumental leap in science and technology is ever likely to happen to the degree that Moore’s Law supposedly dictates (according to Kurzweil)?
A. I find the entire movement to be entertaining, in spite of my skepticism that the singularity will have the meaning ascribed to it. I’m primarily pissed off that they stole a perfectly good word from black-hole physics.
Q. No question, I just want to say thank you for sharing your breadth of knowledge with us and the rest of the world while being generally cool about it.
A. it’s really a two-way street. If people didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t do it. I’d just stay home and work.
Q. What is the simplest thing in your life that makes you happy?
A. Watching a person learn something new – not simply a new fact (those are cheap and easy) — but achieve a new understanding for how the world works. That’s the only reward a (true) educator ever seeks.
Q. If a taco and a burrito are traveling near the speed of light and collide, will the result be delicious?
A. The result would be an explosion large enough to destroy a small village. high speed collisions do that, whether or not they are made of Mexican food.
Q. What are you most proud of at the Hayden Planetarium? What current exhibit should a visitor absolutely not miss?
A. Birthing a scientific research department of Astrophysics. You don’t see them but it’s a thriving department with faculty, postdocs, graduate students, research publications etc. In this world administrative victories are always the greatest.
Q. What do you prefer NASA to explore more of?
A. Asteroids that might one day hit us.
Q. What are some very interesting DIY science experiments that a person can do as hobby?
A. There’s no substitute for Oobleck. Easy to concoct in the kitchen. Weeks of amazing experiments on the counter. Google it. For the lazy
Q. Holy crap. I don’t know what to ask you but I.. I just wanted to say hi Neil.
Edit: What is one thing that you recently learned and blew your mind?
A. Yo. I suppose you can live vicariously for these next few moments.
Q. What issues or ideas keep you up at night? Also, are you a Queen fan?
A. That America has lost its technological and scientific compass.
Gotta love Brian May and his PhD in astrophysics.
First heard Bohemian Rhapsody on the radio when I was only half asleep. An incident like that can accidentally alter your brain wiring.
Q. What are your thoughts on cryogenic preservation and the idea of medically treating aging?
A. A marvelous way to just convince people to give you money. Offer to freeze them for later. I’d have more confidence if we had previously managed to pull this off with other mammals. Until then I see it as a waste of money. I’d rather enjoy the money, and then be buried, offering my body back to the flora and fauna of which I have dined my whole life.
Q. Hello! What inspired you to be an astronomer? How old were you when you decided to do this career path?
A. That’s why I wrote this book: :”The Sky Is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist”http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/tyson/buy/books/the-sky-is-not-the-limit
it all started at age Nine. And it was the universe that called me.
Q. What is one of the most common misconceptions about space/time/astrophysics that you encounter, and how would you clear up that subject?
A. That the north star is the brightest in the night sky. I’d guess about 9 out of 10 people think this. But it does not require a grant from the National Science Foundation to learn the answer. The North Star is not even in the top 40 in the night sky. It’s the 49th brightest star. Rather dull and boring by most measures.
Q. Do ever feel pressured into being the figure-head for promoting people into supporting astronomy? That’s how I view you. 😀
A. No pressure at all. Instead, I feel compelled to get people to support science for their own survival.
Q. what is the key to rooting out the anti-science view in America, especially in regards to things like evolution and climate change?
A. I don’t mind anti-science views. We’ve all bought into America being free – which means, above all else, freedom of speech. What concerns me is when those who are anti science, try to prevent others from doing science. When that happens, that’s the beginning of the end.
Q. What do you think about the state of science reporting? Is there more of a burden on the scientific community to articulate their findings to the media, or on the media to be more informed before they report? Or should one side just step up?
A. It’s much better than a few decades ago – in quality and especially quality. Documentarians have raise the bar on the depth of science that gets talked about on television. And there’s no end of science on line. In the 1970s you could go months before you saw any news or treatment of scientific discoveries. Now you’re treated to them weekly, if not daily.
Q. Would you run for president?
Q. What do you think needs to be changed to the current education system in the US?
A. Not enough space or time here to rant on that one.
Q. Hi Neil, I’m a massive fan! I’m currently a junior in college studying physics and want to pursue a PhD. Do you have any advice for the next generation of scientists like me?
A. There are street artists. Street musicians. Street actors. But there are no street physicists. A little known secret is that a physicist is one of the most employable people in the marketplace – a physicist is a trained problem solver. How many times have you heard a person in a workplace say, “I wasn’t trained for this!” That’s an impossible reaction from a physicist, who would say, instead, “Cool. A problem I’ve never seen before. Let’s see how I can figure out how to solve it!”. Oh, and, have fun along the way.
Q. Do you believe that we will see civilian trips into space during our life time that aren’t millions of dollars to book?
How about a manned trip to Mars?
A. No. But millions of dollars is a good start. I’d buy a lottery ticket for that.
Q. If you think 5 and 10 years from now, what are you most looking forward to in science? Any expectations?
A. Cure for Cancer. Fully funded space exploration. Physics recognized as the foundation of chemistry. Chemistry recognized as the foundation of biology. And free market structured in a way that brings these discoveries to market efficiently and effectively.
Q. If there is one single accomplishment you’d like to see in space exploration or discovery within your lifetime, what would it be?
A. Search for aquatic life in the oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa.
Q. What do you think of the current downfall of the History channel and it’s onslaught of psuedo-scientific programming on ancient aliens, monsters, ghosts and other ridiculousness?
A. Do we blame them or the viewers who watch it?
Q. How does it feel to be voted ‘Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive’?
A. I always wanted to be respected for my mind…
But seriously, it turned out to be much more harmless than I had feared. More a fun novelty than either a curse or a burden to carry
Q. What are your views on Mars? I read that a few volunteers in Moscow took part in a year-long experiment to replicate the time it would take to get to Mars.
Would it be worth it? Can it become a ‘second’ home of sorts in the foreseeable future? Or is it unfeasable? (Can America do the same would be secondary, after all the Cold War has ended, but that too would be cool)
A. Gotta love Mars. But it’s colder and dryer than Antarctica. And I don’t see people lining up to build condo’s at the South Pole. So until we perfect Terraforming, I see colonizing Mars with civilization as a fun fantasy.
Q. What are you scared of?
A. I’m too rational to be deeply scare of anything. But I’m deeply worried for America.
Q. Who do you look up to?
A. My parents. Still alive and married 59 years.
Q. What is your opinion about science/math education in high school? It seems to me like we emphasize far to much on facts that most people will never need, rather than encouraging people to think creatively and logically.
A. Agree 100%. Any time we are answer-driven rather than idea driven, we have lost the true meaning of education.
Q. Don’t really have much of a question, just wanted to say that you visited my undergraduate university (Western Kentucky University) and gave an electrifying discussion about how religion holds back scientific progress, while not making religion out to be the problem.
A. Just to be clear…
It’s not that Religion holds back science, it’s that dogma-in-charge holds back science. And since Religion is a form of dogma (almost by definition of the word), then if religion is ever in charge of a political state, it will most assuredly hold back science.
Q. Favourite Star Trek character?
A. I’m old-school: Kirk. Then Spock a distant second. Then the tribbles.
Q. Hey Neil! Saw your post on Twitter (Il_Cattivo_666 on there)
Following the massive downsizing of our space program here in America, who do you think is going to fill the gap that we’ve left, over the next 10 to 20 years? Will we see Russia re-emerge as the major space-goer? Or do you think the ESA will expand it’s role in operating the ISS?
A. Forgive the cheap plug, but I just wrote a whole book on this, to appear in Feb 2012, titles “Space Chronicles”.
I originally called it “Failure to Launch” but the publishers nixed the title, citing it was too depressing. Here’s the listing for a pre-order, if interested. http://www.amazon.com/Space-Chronicles-Facing-Ultimate-Frontier/dp/0393082105
Q. Does the future scare or excite you? Why?
A. I love the future. Or rather, I love the future we might invent for ourselves that I have not yet dreamt of.
Q. What advice would you give to someone who wants to go into a STEM field but is discouraged by the limited job prospects and America’s lack of commitment to science?
A. Study STEM, but then do anything else — and when you do, you’ll be scientifically literate. A form of brain wiring that improves the depth and strength of every decision you will ever make in life.
Q. What do you think about companies sponsoring private space missions in return for getting their logo on the craft? Could that be a new way of funding private space missions? There is enormous publicity surrounding each launch and so the sponsoring company would automatically get enormous publicity.
A. We are a capitalist nation, of which ads on the side of space craft are an inevitable consequence of free-market exploitations.
Q. What food do you never get tired of eating?
A. Strawberry Malt.
Q. What is the best way, in your opinion, to have the whole world realize that we are just a blip on the radar of the universe?
Do you think that the world would benefit from being able to experience the “overview effect” or “space euphoria” that astronauts have claimed to experience?
A. This should cure that problem: http://youtu.be/c8CgDGhYKe8
Q. I just want to thank you for inspiring me to love science and the stars. Thank you for being part of my childhood.
A. Happy to have been there — and made a difference. Although I still think of myself as a child.
Q. What is your favorite celestial body? Why? (BTW just have to say I ❤ the vest)
A. Saturn. Without a doubt. Just one peek at it through a backyard telescope and you might just agree with me.
Q. When I start feeling overwhelmed with school I watch your lectures and to put things in perspective. Thank you.
A. All good. If you are unfamiliar, The Teaching Company has 12 of my lectures, titled collectively “My Favorite Universe”. They’re on DVD, but I think they might also have an audio version for commuting. http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/Course_Detail.aspx?cid=158
Q. What things encourage/discourage you about the roll science plays in American classrooms?
A. When people (teachers and parents) don’t understand science, they have the urge to teach it alongside other things that are not science. And since education is funded locally, a community can unwittingly disenfranchise an entire generation of its youth from the scientific enterprise. it’s the seeds of America’s collapse as a sic-tech leader in the world.
Q. Is it possible for humans to ever discover the “edge” of the universe? Is there really any “end” to it?
A. No edge. Any more than the horizon at sea is an edge to the earth.
Q. Where are the aliens?
A. We are too stupid to interest them. So they go elsewhere.
Q. If the idea of a minimum amount of energy in space is true, how can that cause the acceleration of the universe?
If the space was already at minimum energy then how can it impart that energy on to the universe? Wouldn’t that imply a lesser state of energy?
PS. You have made a profound influence on my life.
Thank you for your dedication to the public understanding of science.
A. A state of negative energy means that you are essentially getting something for nothing. Confounds common sense, but so does most of 20th century physics. Modern science is under no obligation to satisfy the expectations of your five senses.
Q. what do you think of ronald mallett and his search for time travel?
A. In physics, opinions don’t matter, only demonstrated experiments. The day the fellow succeeds, if ever, he won’t need anybody else’s opinion.
Q. What would you say the greatest inspiration that keeps driving you to continue educating the world in science is? Oh much has Sagan’s work influenced you in your career decision?
A. I remain daily inspired by the depth of appetite the public expresses of the cosmos. That keeps me going. And it grants me the confidence that success is within reach.
Carl Sagan had no influence on my career choice. I was already formed when he went public. But he influenced me in important other ways: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeqrN3Bfro8
Q. Do you think Pluto not “clearing its neighborhood” is reason enough to declassify it as a classical planet? Or is it that we have to pick somewhere to stop at in case we discover more “planets”?
A. Clearing the ‘hood turns out to be a quantifiable statement that I detail in “The Pluto Files”http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/tyson/buy/books/the-pluto-files
I think the argument is sensible, cogent, and not likely o require further adjustments.
Q. I’m really looking forward to your upcoming Cosmo show. Sagan’s is one of my favorite television broadcasts ever. Can you tell us what we can look forward to in yours?
A. Still baking the episodes. Trust that the “franchise” is in good hands and that we want to have the same impact on a next generation as the original Cosmos had on its generation.
Q. How did you know space was your thing!?!? BTW Huge fan!!!!!!
A. It called to me. I had no say in the matter.
Q. What do you think is the single most important thing for people to understand about space?
A. Space wants to kill you every opportunity it can get.
Q. How do you think we can encourage people to study science, when many college classes at the introductory level are considered to be “weed-out” classes?
A. The consequence of professors who would in a perfect world have no students at all.
Some colleges are changing that. And they know who they are.
Q. What aspect of the universe do you find most exciting? and which part is the most mundane?
A. Mundane? Any place devoid of cosmic collisions. How dull is that.
Exciting? See earlier post.
Q. What books are you reading at the moment?
A. “Burgundy”, by Robert Parker and “the Myth of Science Literacy” by Morris Shamos and back issues of Skeptical Inquirer magazine: http://www.csicop.org/si/
Q. Thank you. Just… thank you. You’re one of my personal heroes. …no pressure. ^_^
A. You should chose your heroes a-la carte. Picking and choosing from one and then another, thereby assembling a kind of composite hero. That way when you discover something reprehensible about any one of them it matters nothing to you because that’s not the part of them that piqued your interest.
Q. What are some of the best research opportunities for undergraduate students in physics?
A. None. They are all in astrophysics.
Q. With the world population growing exponentially in recent years, how do you suppose humans go about organizing space settlement missions to other worlds?
A. Gotta exploit space resources and learn to terraform first. Without those two elements, we will stifle and starve ourselves.
Q. What is one specific point you would make to convince someone that believes astrophysics is a bunk science into actually recognizing it is a very valid science?
A. Send the person back to school.
Q. In all seriousness, who do you find as the most qualified Republican presidential candidate? why?
A. I typically vote Democrat, but if i had to pick a Republican from the current spate, I’d be Newt Gingrich — primarily because deep down inside he’s an academic sympathizer. He is genuinely curious about the natural world and the role science can play in those paths of discovery. (FYI: I know this first-hand). Also, he is probably least likely to resort to prayer to solve America’s problems.
Q. I love you, just thought you should know.
A. Thanks. But it’s probably the universe you love.
Q. Do you see it feasible for us to set foot on Mars by 2050?
Do you envision a colonization on the Moon? Under what circumstances, if any, do you believe mankind will be ready to start exploring the cosmos in person?
A. 1) No. Unless China threatens to put military bases there. Then we’ll be playing golf there in 18 months. 2) No. Too supremely hostile to biology. 3) See link to my upcoming book on space exploration – in an earlier entry.
Q. Who is your favourite pokemon?
A. I’m a simpleton there. It would have to be the the yellow fellow with the electric tail.
Q. When will you and Stephen Colbert go to the moon together?
A. Sure. And do a show from one of the craters.
Q. Hi! I really appreciate you pointing out how flawed our education system is nowadays! What, in your opinion, are some significant changes that could be made to fix it? Thanks!
A. Some suggestions made earlier. But I’m thinking of writing a book on the subject. But it’s back burnered at the moment due to other priorities in the queue.
Q. Why are you so amazing at everything you do?
A. I don’t do the things I am not amazing at, leaving people with the impression that I’m good at everything. A common selection bias that afflicts us all.
Q. Any chance you’ll come visit Georgia Tech some time?
A. I show up wherever this page tells me: http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/tyson/upcoming-appearances
Q. Who is your favourite Canadian?
A. Of those who I know are Canadian – because, of course, so many try to pass as Americans — I’d say Peter Jennings and Alex Trebek.
Q. Neil, can you confirm that Finland is pretty sweet?
A. Never been there. But my fondest memories are of Olympic distance runners from decades past.
Q. With NASA continually having budget cuts, how big an impact do you feel commercial space travel can have on future exploration?
A. All in my Feb 2012 book. Sorry to make you wait that long, but part of the (occasionally snarky) value of writing a book is not having to repeat anything that’s in it.
Q. I got really high one day and woke up a few hours later with “Gravity is like an ocean we swim in.” written on a piece of paper on my coffee table. I know nothing about physics. Does this make any sense?
A. Okay, from a poetic-high point of view. But you can’t drown in gravity. So the analogy breaks down fast.
Q. What’s it like to be so awesome?
A. No. It’s the universe that’s awesome. I’m just revealing that fact to all who will listen.
Q. You know what reddit is and are doing an AMA?
Watch out guys, we’re dealing with a badass over here.
A. I’ve always admired the intensity of arguments that unfold on these pages. Happy to partake, even if only briefly. In fact it is here that I must resume my day and part ways with the Redditverse. Farewell to all. Maybe we can do this once a month. In the meantime, my tweets are live:http://twitter.com/#!/neiltyson
As always, keep looking up.
-Neil deGrasse Tyson
Note: The Reddit community came through with great questions! I hope this post serves as a resource for people that may not know what Reddit even is!
Neil deGrasse Tyson is a personal hero of mine and just the fact he did this shows how cool he is! Hope you found this interesting and come back to Philosophical Swag in the near future!
Carl Sagan would have been 77 today. Out of all the people I have ever read about in school, watched videos about on TV, or just surfed for on the internet, Carl Sagan takes the cake as my favorite scientist/person of interest in current culture. Yeah, there are awesome actors like James Franco, or talented athletes I enjoy watching, but none of them have provoked me to think about my surroundings and appreciate the beauty of the Cosmos like Carl Sagan has.
Posted below is a great compilation of footage following Carl Sagan’s death.
“Human history can be viewed as a slowly dawning awareness that we are members of a larger group.” – Carl Sagan
Thanks for stopping by Philosophical Swag! Also, don’t forget to check out my post from September when I labeled him, “Patriot of the Week.”
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David J. Rothkopf has Philosophical Swag. Mr. Rothkopf is a well-respected author and foreign policy analyst who is also a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and contributor to Foreignpolicy.com.
I choose David Rothkopf for this week’s Patriot of the Week because he has hit the nail on the head. How do you describe the Kardashian Divorce, the Arab Spring, and the Occupy Wall Street Movement? I urge you to take a look at Rothkopf’s most recent article over at ForeignPolicy.com.
The cleverly titled piece, “The Kardashian Era: Forging an identity for our times,” goes on to poke fun at the ridiculouslessness of the Kardashian Fascination and describes what important events transpired during those sacred 72 days.
My favorite excerpt,
“And in that time, this simple beautiful act, this daring leap into love, elevated and distracted us and allowed us to cling to hope. Because if these two virtual strangers with no education and almost no talent other than ambition itself could will themselves into a marriage that made them millions — even if it did last no longer than the Tweets by which they announced each of their carefully calculated mood-swings and spats — then maybe riches were not just for Wall Street geniuses who went to Harvard, maybe TV shows were not just for the beautiful or the gifted, maybe marriage was not just for those who found real love. Maybe sub-average, sub-interesting, sub-useful people could fake their way through this mess just like the big time financial fraudsters and get loads of good gifts, press coverage, and big fat checks for their efforts.”
In another recent article by Rothkopf, he states why energy policy has hit such a road bump,
“But of course, the reason an energy policy is so essential is because real energy policy is not just about green jobs, it is about every single job in the United States. Every business depends on access to energy. So do individual citizens and the economy as a whole. Energy, the largest industrial sector in the world, touches every other sector in profound ways. Interruptions in supply, spikes in prices, changes in regulation, shifts in demand, and innovations in technology have ripple effects that go from border to border, from the top to the bottom of the economy.”
Rothkopf went on to explain that President Obama should initiate an inter-agency effort to develop a national energy policy and lead the way just in time before the next election. I also agree that America can no longer wait for a revamp in energy policy. It would put so many people back to work and be the best investment this nation could possibly make at the current time being.
Rothkopf not only provides the best description of what is going on right now, but he does it with comedy and grace. My hat’s off to you sir. Keep the great insight coming and keep it funny!
Don’t forget to check out Rothkopf’s upcoming book, Power, Inc.: The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government–and the Reckoning That Lies Ahead.
Confession: I may or may not have a poster of Kim Kardashian in my room… regardless, I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Rothkopf.
Thanks for checking out Philosophical Swag!
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If this is anything remotely close to what computers begin to do within the next five years… I’ll be quite the happy camper. Notice the potential for advancements in teaching games for young children! I’m just trying to wrap my head around an updated version of my generation’s games like Where is Carmen Sandiego or Reader Rabbit!
And in other fantastic tech innovation news…
Thanks for checking out Philosophical Swag!
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Since Halloween is right around the corner, I thought it might be helpful to provide some possible options for costumes this year.
Albert Einstein – crazy white hair.. white apron
Leonardo Da Vinci – paint brush, old clothes from renaissance era, maybe have coffee stained plans for inventions in your back pocket?
Michelangelo – paint smock and paint brush, you get the idea…
Thomas Edison – era appropriate clothing with a light bulb
Pablo Picasso – (see Da Vinci and Michelangelo) maybe try the one ear thing
Louis Pasteur – something with milk?
Any philosophers – I know it’s general but… wear a toga?
Other Individuals to consider:
Nikola Tesla, Immanuel Kant, Aristotle, Thomas Jefferson, Plato, Marie Curie, Elizabeth I, Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Golda Meir, Jane Adams, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, William Shakespeare, Wolfgang Amadeus, Mozart, Socrates, Sir Isaac Newton, Martin Luther, John Locke, Charles Darwin, Salvador Dali, Sigmund Freud, Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington, Rumi, , The Wright Brothers, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jim Henson
Hope this helps! Thanks for reading Philosophical Swag!
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I was fortunate enough to hear Dr. Michio Kaku speak last night and all I can say is he is an extremely entertaining, intelligent human being. Many have called him one of the best “popularizers” of science since Carl Sagan, and for good reason! After seeing him give an hour and a half long lecture on the future of technology in the next 20 years; I really can’t deny it.
Dr. Kaku spoke about a variety of cool technology we should all be excited about, but his lecture mainly focused on Moore’s Law and how as time progresses computer processing and technology (in general) gets cheaper and cheaper. He had one particular point that was really wild, about the little computer chips in a birthday card that sings to you, you know the kind that is disposable these days, yet is still more advanced than what all the Allied forces were using during WWII! He also explained that technology will be layered into almost everything, so we will have products like a tech-enhanced toilet that will allow us to find out if we have cancer cells in our body ten years earlier than currently possible. The possibilities are mind-boggling.
I have also posted a video of Dr. Kaku explaining how America manages to compete in the scientific community, even though our public school system is failing to produce a high enough volume of competitive, scientific minds these days.
I will post a much more in-depth look at Dr. Kaku in the near future. Thanks for reading!
Alright, you’ve got “Tea Partiers,” “Occupy Wall Streeters,” “Environmentalists,” “Joe the Plumbers,” and everyone in-between. What is going on right now? I’d like to try to explain in laymen terms. So if you want to drop some knowledge bombs in your next random conversation… I urge you to read on.
One of the best minds to look to when trying to figure out these crazy times is New York Times columnist and best-selling author, Thomas Friedman. He wrote “The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century.” < SYNOPSIS: It’s all about globalization (national, cultural lines are becoming irrelevant in the 21st century, mainly because we are all so interconnected via technology, inter-webs, high-speed … everything.)
Anyways, he just did a fantastic column where he seemed to stray from allying with any particular movement and instead simply choose to play neutral. He describes two other brilliant guys’ takes on what is going on in the world. Of course they must have catchy names so we sound legitimate when dropping them at… wherever you drop these sorts of things. The two theories on what is going on are titled, “THE GREAT DISRUPTION” and “THE BIG SHIFT.” So here is my Spark Notes version for you busy kids that don’t care for fluff. (remember my interpretation)
THE GREAT DISRUPTION – Current system is too off balanced and breaking down. Examples: debt crisis, climate change, inequality… all products of this integrated system in which everything is overloaded and its “eating itself alive.” We let pollution go unchecked along with corporate cronyism and reckless speculation.
it’s a theory that is threat-based
THE BIG SHIFT – Right now we are in the beginning of a new era, where globalization and the Internet are fundamentally shifting everything in our culture and seriously affecting how we perform. New stress, new opportunities; yet the playing field is leveling. The monopoly on once hidden avenues of information is deteriorating. The global flow of ideas, resources, and people will win out or at least seriously compete with the corporations that once had all the power.
it’s a theory that is opportunity-based
So Friedman says both… yes the system is overloaded; things are going unchecked and a lot of people… A LOT of people are feeling cheated. Yet, in this new era where we have iPads, Broadband, and access to almost anything, the people may still prevail. It’s feasible that we may re-align with the world we find ourselves living in, without it collapsing.
I’m still deciding on which theory is more accurate. Either way I hope you enjoyed my spark notes version on the analysis of the 21st century transformation.
What do you care about? Are you simply a passenger in this game of life or do you demand more? Are you a victim of the hand you were dealt or do you demand to play with more than just the original deck?
What matters to me? What am I passionate about? When I ask myself these questions, I simply look up. In my opinion, not many things can even begin to compete with the accomplishments of landing on the Moon or that of the Mars robotic rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.
Back in 2003, the Mars Exploration Rover Mission began by sending two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity to go and explore the Martian surface.
Analyzing samples of the rocky terrain and taking unbelievable pictures, the rovers were initially planned to remain active for 90 days. Surviving 6 years, 2 months and 19 days, Spirit’s mission finally ended after getting stuck in an area of soft soil. Keep in mind this is over 25 times longer than originally projected!
As of 2011, Opportunity remains active, still performing extensive studies on the Martian surface. The amazing video below combines a series of 3 years of daily photos taken by Opportunity and compiles them into a fluid video.
So ask yourself… what do you care about? Do you dream for something more? Both Spirit and Opportunity serve as impressive testaments to the human race’s ability to adventure further and search for more. The cosmos hold the answers to so many questions and they also pose so many questions. I will end this post with a popular photo, titled, Pale Blue Dot. It’s one of my favorite pictures… it puts things into perspective. Pale Blue Dot was taken from about 6 billion kilometers from Earth. The tiny dot in the brown vertical band on the left of the image, well, that’s EARTH. Everything you have ever known… all in that tiny spec. My hero and past Patriot of the Week, Dr. Carl Sagan once said,
“all of human history has happened on that tiny pixel, which is our only home.”