Neil DeGrasse Tyson: ‘We Will Know Whether There’s Life On Other Planets’:
He’s the legendary astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. Tyson’s new TV series, Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey, will premiere on Sunday, March 9 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, and again on March 10 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel.
Popular Science: Would you rather have a jetpack or flying car?
Neil deGrasse Tyson: What I would rather have is a transportation system that requires neither: a wormhole.
PS: What incredible thing will we see in our lifetime?
NDT: I think that we will know whether or not there’s life on planets other than Earth. And I think the best location would be on Mars or on Jupiter’s moon Europa.
PS: When we find life on other planets, is it going to come and eat us?
NDT: No. People’s first thought every time scientists discover something new is, “Oh, my gosh, you created a virus, so there’s gonna be a killer virus.” I’m not more afraid of something I might find on Mars than I am of a polar bear who’s pissed off because his ice floe is melting.
PS: What technical advance do we really need in astrophysics?
NDT: The ability to observe a spectrum of light passing through the atmosphere of an exoplanet. It would be able to tell us if there are biomarkers indicating that life thrives on the surface.
PS: What technical advance do we really need in space exploration?
NDT: Ways to shield us from cosmic rays from the galaxy and from the sun. Also, we’ll never travel to the stars unless we understand the fabric of space-time better or find out how to make a wormhole.
PS: China put its first rover on the moon in December. How will this affect the U.S. space program?
NDT: China says it wants to put stuff on Mars, and there’s no question that they are going to follow through with their plans. I don’t claim any deep geopolitical insight. But I do know that if we go back into space in a big way, it will not happen unless we feel militaristically motivated. Or, unless we feel we can make scads of money.
PS: What would a space program with only scientific goals look like?
NDT: If I put on my pure scientist hat, you wouldn’t send humans into space. You have to feed them and keep them warm. A robot couldn’t care less. We can design robots to do what humans can do and better.
This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Popular Science.
In our print magazine this month, Hanna Rosin tells the story of her son Jacob’s diagnosis with Asperger syndrome, in the context of the psychiatric community’s recent change in the definition of the disorder to part of what’s now known as autism spectrum disorder.
We received a lot of thoughtful responses from readers who have experience with the disorder in their own lives, themselves or their families, about how the diagnosis has affected them, and what the changes in definition mean to everyone. Here are excerpts from some of those stories.
Read more. [Image: Barockschloss/flickr]
- At the amateur boys hockey state tournament in Crosby last week the Fargo team, which was the worst team in the league, hired a ringer to join the team and he scored like nine goals before everyone started questioning why the Fargo team was suddenly really good and someone connected the dots. Fargo had to forfeit the rest of the tournament.
- In Dickinson, which is a biggish city in southwest North Dakota, overnight on Sunday a fire inside a high school basically destroyed the building and on Tuesday police got evidence that the principal started the fire so they arrested him and he’s going to court next month.
- That’s all.
(Art by Aaron Sechrist)
Yes, when I was a kid I had some Chief Wahoo-emblazoned memorabilia and didn’t think there was anything wrong with the logo. Yes, the Cleveland politician who wants to get rid of Chief Wahoo has some DUIs and DUIs are bad. Yes, “political correctness” is a thing.
None of that matters.
Naming the team the Indians and implementing the Chief Wahoo logo were part of a time in America when anyone who wasn’t white received unequal treatment in every aspect of life. The Civil Rights Act did not yet exist. Baseball’s major leagues were still entirely white. The native inhabitants were still rapidly dying off from the Indian Wars and were the caricatured subject of countless similar cartoons. It is absolutely certain beyond doubt that the team’s intent was to dehumanize and make mascots out of them.
The particular people that the team claims to be celebrating, the Penobscots, have still to this day never given the team permission to use their likeness, and yet the team continues to make millions of dollars every year by selling merchandise with a symbol that depicts, without permission, a group of people who receive none of those profits.
It is not illegal to do so, but it is also not admirable, and that is the reason the team should get rid of Chief Wahoo.
That the caricatured people in question already suffer tremendously today from the consequences of centuries of genocide and white supremacy is further reason to get rid of Chief Wahoo.
The embodiment of the highest ideals of the nation in one hand, and in the other, the Constitution of the United States of America. A good painting.
I’d like to get on my soapbox in response to a report I found on America’s literacy levels being really not good:
Although Americans are reading more words today than they ever have, there is evidence that the content of that reading—much of it now done on the Internet—has become less and less challenging, and that student reading lists made up mostly of “fun,” lightweight fiction are accelerating the trend.
Online the result is that the most viral Internet “stories” tend to be BuzzFeed lists and Zimbio quizzes rather than news or any other sort of high-quality literature. This is not to say that if you like BuzzFeed lists you’re a bad person — BuzzFeed is great. But as a journalist, I think it’s a bummer because there’s so much great work being done by journalists who uncover fascinating stories and none of it’s getting attention, which I think happens because (1) a lot of small-town newspapers are frankly so lousy that people could justifiably assume that all journalism is uninteresting, and (2) it falls in a gray area of being too short to catch the eye of book readers but too long for people who surf the web on their phone.
This is also not to knock fiction, which is also great and has the appeal of creativity as limitless as the writer’s imagination. But my guess is when someone likes a work of fiction it’s not because it’s fictional but rather because it’s an interesting narrative. Well, true stories often have an interesting narrative too — and, at the same time, they’re a way to better understand the world. One need only look at the success of movies that are based on true stories; although they often take a few more liberties with the truth than I’d prefer, a ton of them end up getting much-deserved acclaim and accolades. Nonfiction journalism, by contrast, gives fact-checkers the final say, but that doesn’t make the work any less worthwhile.
Since this is Tumblr, some good curators you can follow are Longreads, Longform and The Feature (or, to a lesser extent, NPR or Newsweek). This "Reading on the Internet 101" on Medium is a good list of journalism aggregators, curators, newsletters, apps, bookmarking tools and more. Obviously reading every single story they share would be a difficult time commitment. My modest proposal is, next time you’re out of books to read, next time you think you’ve been playing a bit too much Flappy Bird, etc., consider taking a look at even just one or two things from the latest impressive nonfiction.
Please trust that my reason for this post about nonfiction is because I truly feel it’s deserving of wider attention and not because my career depends on the public continuing to support a financially struggling journalism industry.