Tag Archives: Neil degrasse tyson

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Neil deGrasse Tyson rants about scientific illiteracy in the US: ‘A threat to the nation’

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Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Last Tuesday, renowned astrophysicist and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson held a special presentation at the Greensboro Coliseum, North Carolina. Besides talking about Voyager or Carl Sagan, Tyson also took a few minutes to address the audience about one of the biggest perils the nation is facing. It’s not terrorism. It’s not Russia. It’s not occult vested interests. It’s plain old ignorance.

“Americans overall are bad at science. Scared of math. Poor at physics and engineering. Resistant to evolution. This science illiteracy, is a threat to the nation,” Tyson said.

“The consequence of that is that you breed a generation of people who do not know what science is nor how and why it works,” he added. “You have mortgaged the future financial security of your nation. Innovations in science and technology are the (basis) of tomorrow’s economy.”

Tyson illustrated why such concerns are no trifle nor without precedent.

“Just look back 1,000 years ago at the Middle East, where math and science flourished in Baghdad. Algebra and algorithms were invented in the Middle East. So were Arabic numerals, the numbers we still use today,” Tyson said as quoted by Scientific Literacy Matters, an organization which stands for a more educated general public

“But when a new cleric emerged during the 12th century, he declared math and science to be earthly pursuits, Tyson said, and good Muslims should be concerned about spiritual affairs. The scientists drifted away, and scientific literacy faded from that part of the world. Of 655 Nobel Prizes awarded in the sciences since 1900, Tyson said, only three have been awarded to Muslims.”

“Things that seem harmless can have devastating effects,” he said.

The dusk of science literacy in the Arab world sits in stark contrast with Europe’s scientific enlightenment, a continent which has produced scientists of incredible caliber every generation since the days of Newton. Tyson mentions European money — such as the new discontinued Deutsche Mark which used to bear the portrait of mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss and his most famous contribution, the bell curve — to highlight how scientists are valued in Europe versus the US.

“It is a not-so-subtle message from the government that math matters,” Tyson said. “If it’s on your currency, it is part of your culture. You think it. You feel it. Whether or not you’re a scientist or a mathematician, you’re not going to be the person to stand in their way when they’re trying to get math and science done.”

So, what’s to be done? Obviously, we need more science reaching the public. This means less so-called ‘UFO sighting’ in the media and more real science in the news. It means actively involving children in school with science instead of feeding them creationist bullcrap like they do in some schools in Texas, and elsewhere. It means having genuinely capable people leading and organizing the nation’s educational system instead of having a religious nut like Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. It means fostering critical thinking. It means honoring real values instead of superficial platitudes — or worse.

We each have a part to play else we risk diving into another dark age for science.

 

Could the movie ‘Mad Max’ ever foretell our future? Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson discuss

StarTalk’s Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye The Science Guy sat down with Sally Le Page of General Electric to explore the science behind whether the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max Fury Road is actually a likely scenario. You know, the movie where the world is turned into a desert and bands of lightly dressed people continually try to kill each other. While the scientific accuracy of Mad Max is highly debatable since the movie doesn’t give us much to chew on, the discussion was inevitably drawn to the risks of climate change.

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The reason why we haven’t heard from aliens yet is encryption, Edward Snowden says

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Photo: Carlos Valdes-Lora.

The biggest pariah of the century, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, had a “geek to geek” hour long talk with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, part of the StarTalk radio show. The two had an interesting discussion about lots of stuff from science, to chemistry, to space. Even 9/11. It’s worth mentioning that Snowden made his presence felt through a robotic telecomm machine which he remotely controlled from Moscow, his asylum. Perhaps, the most interesting moment from the episode is their chat on encryption, a topic where Snowden is particularly an expert. It’s so obvious I’m surprised I’ve never heard this idea before: the reason why we’ve yet to pickup any messages from an intelligent extraterrestrial species might be because this data is encrypted.

“When you look at encrypted communications, if they are properly encrypted, there is no real way to tell that they are encrypted. You can’t distinguish a properly encrypted communication, at least in the theoretical sense, from random noise,” says Snowden.  “So if you have an alien civilization trying to listen for other civilizations, or our civilization trying to listen for aliens, there’s only one small period in the development of their society where all of their communications will be sent via the most primitive and most unprotected means.”

“When we think about everything we’re hearing from our satellites, or everything they’re hearing from our civilization, if there are indeed aliens out there, all of their communications are encrypted by default. So what we’re hearing — which is actually an alien television show or a phone call or a message between their planet and their own GPS constellation, whatever it happens to be — is indistinguishable to us from cosmic microwave background radiation.”

This also qualifies as a possible solution to the Fermi paradox. Confronted with a nearly limitless universe billions of years old with an almost infinitely vast number of opportunities for life, the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, sitting for lunch at Los Alamos with three colleagues in 1950, asked a question that still perplexes everyone who looks up at the night sky: “Where is everybody”?

The question is a valid one when considering:

  • There’s nothing special about our sun – it’s young, medium sized and similar to billions other in our galaxy.
  • It’s believed there are between 100 and 400 billion planets in the Milky Way. Considering intelligent life appeared in one of these (Earth), it’s reasonable to consider there should be at least some other kind of intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy.
  • Millions of years of technological progress means that an intelligent species should have the capability to travel to distant stars and even other galaxies. Just look at how our worlds has changed in the past 100 years.
  • According to mathematicians Duncan Forgan and Arwen Nicholson from Edinburgh University, self-replicating spacecraft traveling at one-tenth of the speed of light — admittedly a quick speed — could traverse the entire Milky Way in a mere 10 million years. This means that a civilization could potentially colonize the whole galaxy in a mere couple million years.

 

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Mars One won’t get backing

Neil deGrasse Tyson, the internet’s favorite astrophysicist, doesn’t have high hopes for Mars One – the private enterprise that plans to send people on a one way trip to Mars. Mars One plans to create a Martian outpost with a crew to land in 2024, sending people 2 by 2; they recently announced the 100 finalists to be the first Martian astronauts.

“So you (a private company) ask ‘who’s with me?’ Answer: No one’s with you. Maybe I’m just out of it, but I just don’t see a business model to sustain journeys to Mars.”

Image via NewsWalle.

The idea is crazy ambitious (or some would say just crazy) – send volunteers on a one way ticket to Mars, establish a permanent colony there and conduct scientific experiments. It’s not something NASA has in mind, but something that a private Dutch company called Mars One planned. Of course, there are some crazy risks, but people seem willing to take them. But what about  the financial costs?

The company estimates it will cost $6 billion to put the first four people on Mars, but that estimate may be well off, even by a factor of 10. Speaking to Business Insider, Tyson explained that this idea seems more like something a government (or even a group of governments) decides to do – not a private enterprise.

“Governments do big expensive things first that have no obvious immediate return on investment,” Tyson said. “Governments can take those risks, so governments go to Mars. Once the costs are understood, the risk factors are contained, then you can establish whether that’s something you can make money on. Now if NASA wants to go to Mars and they pay SpaceX for the space vessel, sure.”

Theoretical physicist and futurist Michio Kaku was even harsher when speaking about the project:

“This has the atmosphere of a circus, where you have amateurs simply raising their hand, volunteering to be the first person on Mars. They have set impossibly unrealistic deadlines, and the amount of money that you have to have to go to Mars is incredible, perhaps 50 to several hundred billion dollars.

“And given the fact that this will be untested technology, I would assume that the failure rate would be about 90 to 95 percent for a mission of this magnitude. In other words, it’s a tragedy waiting to happen.”

But the risks don’t seem to deter neither the company nor the volunteers. In 2014, a crowdfunding IndieGoGo campaign done by Mars One raised $313,744 for a Mars lander and satellite mission scheduled for 2018. Mars One’s goal for the IndieGogo campaign was $400,000. The 2018 landing is said by the agency to be a “demonstration mission” that provides proof of concept that the technology necessary for a human mission will work. As for the 100 shortlisted volunteers… they’re eagerly fighting for a one-way trip to Mars.

 

 

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Neil deGrasse Tyson gets his own Late Night show

Following the success of his 2014 Cosmos, the famous astrophysicist and science communicator just nabbed a weekly late-night series for National Geographic Channel called Star Talk. The format and name have existed for some time online as a podcast, where Tyson regularly talks and debates science and major topics concerning it, often featuring celebrities, comedians and scientists as guests.

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Image: National Geographic

“Cosmos allowed us to share the awesome power of the universe with a global audience in ways that we never thought possible,” said Tyson. “To be able to continue to spread wonder and excitement through Star Talk, which is a true passion project for me, is beyond exciting. And National Geographic Channel is the perfect home as we continue to explore the universe.”

“This is kind of low-risk, I think, for National Geographic,” Tyson told the crowd at the Television Critics Association press tour. “Star Talk exists as a thriving podcast right now.”

According to Tyson, the show will be faithful to his podcast’s format with some obvious small changes to accommodate the TV audience. For instance, he’s been quoted as saying it might be possible that Bill Nye will have a platform for a minute-long rant in each show, much as Andy Rooney had for many years on CBS’ 60 Minutes.

The weekly series, inspired both in name and context by longtime radio show Car Talk, will tape before a live studio audience from the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium in New York City, where Tyson is based.

“After the global success of Cosmos as one of the most watched series in our history, we are thrilled to be partnering with Neil again on Star Talk — his wildly popular podcast that transcends science and crosses over into pop culture — once again satisfying the audience’s passion for adventure and exploration,” added National Geographic Channel CEO Courteney Monroe. “We continue to bolster our programming with series and event specials that are brand definitional, and Star Talk is the perfect opportunity to offer our audience an edgy, late-night alternative with the credibility and authenticity that are the hallmarks of our network.”

Tyson and his guests will discuss such topics as space travel, extraterrestrial life, the Big Bang, the future of Earth and breaking news on the cosmic front. Of course, expect a lot of rants poking fun at science haters. The show is slated to premiere in April, 2015.

“We orchestrate a conversation around them that constantly detours into science and all the ways science has influenced that person’s livelihood. In this way we bring science to people who didn’t know they liked science, or maybe thought that they didn’t like science.

This is definitely one late-night show I’m going to watch!

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Neil deGrasse Tyson is tired of this $h%t

An established astrophysicist, but more known thanks to his popular science programs, Neil deGrasse Tyson is a sensation on the web and a hallmark figure that has inspired many to question, reason and pursue science. It’s no coincidence that this is exactly ZME Science‘s mission and as you might imagine, we appreciate and greatly cherish Neil’s keynote and programs. One of the reason he’s so popular with the skeptic and science enthusiast community is his relaxed and humorous style of delivering speeches, as well as his witty and subtle bantering of ignorance.

Last week we showcased a very funny meme that’s circling the web dubbed #overlyhonestmethods. That was really well received (1,000 shares on facebook; thank you!), so we thought we continue this week with a new science humour post – you guessed it, centered around Neil deGrasse Tyson. We had a blast reading these macro captions in the office today, hopefully these will brighten your day too. Also you might consider a previous post we written that features Neil’s 8 books every intelligent person should read. Photos courtesy of img.ur.

DISCLAIMER: these captions do not quote Neil directly. These were made by other people on the internet. Please take all of this with a grain of salt and remember this is a satire. 

 

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BONUS

 

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Neil deGrasse Tyson 8 Books Every Intelligent Person Should Read (FREE to Download)

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Yesterday was Neil deGrasse Tyson’s 55th birthday, an astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium, and popularizer of science. Nearly two years ago, during one of his Ask Me Anything’s on reddit, deGrasse Tyson answered one of the questions posed there by a fellow redditor asking “Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on the planet?” . In reply, the scientist gave his personal top 8 books, followed by a short commentary for each book, so I thought, even though this list may be old and some of you know it already,  to share it again. Each book in the list can be downloaded for free – the links come courtesy of the ever awesome Open Culture. Happy birthday, Neil!

 

1.) The Bible (eBook) – “to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”

2.) The System of the World by Isaac Newton (eBook) – “to learn that the universe is a knowable place.”

3.) On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (eBook – Audio Book) – “to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth.”

4.) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (eBook – Audio Book) – “to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos.”

5.) The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (eBook – Audio Book) – “to learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world.”

6.) The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (eBook – Audio Book) – “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”

7.) The Art of War by Sun Tsu (eBook – Audio Book) – “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.”

8.) The Prince by Machiavelli (eBook – Audio Book) – “to learn that people not in power will do all they can to acquire it, and people in power will do all they can to keep it.”

Tyson concludes by saying: “If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.”

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson explains why “we stopped dreaming”

Neil DeGrasse TysonAn emotional video collage of talks made by Neil Degrasse Tyson dissing the current poor attention NASA has been receiving, financially-wise, from the US government has recently hit YouTube, which can also be seen embedded above. His speeches on the subject are powerful, to say the least, and addresses the concerning issue that once with the slowly, but ultimately predictable, abandoning of ambitious NASA missions,  citizen of the US, and the world alike, will lose what’s left of their once great faith in man’s ascent towards the stars. His arguments are strong, mentioning how technology and scientific thought among the populace has grown once with the first manned missions in space and on the moon, among other. Heck, I felt compelled to reach for my wallet more than on one occasion while watching this.

Worth noting that this video wasn’t made or uploaded by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, but by a YouTube user Scrunchthethird . Good one, mate!

The symphony of science

I was quite stunned to stumble across this video. As the name says, it’s a… well it’s not quite a symphony, but it’s definitely musical, and you can definitely learn a lot of things, or re-hear them in an unique way, if you already know them. Did I mention it’s featuring Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson & Bill Nye?

LATER EDIT

This following video was published just a few hours ago and… it’s even better than the first one!