Q & A with Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Way to deflate the sails of the doomsday crowd, eh? In case that wasn’t enough, here’s a point-by-point debunk you can use the next time some woo-woo fan in your life starts spouting off about Doomsday 2012.
Higher math intimidates many people, but Neil’s advice to a woman who’s taking the plunge may allay some of those fears. “Math is nothing more than the language the universe is using to speak to you,” he said. “Are you too stupid to learn Chinese? No.
That’s a beautiful way to think about it.
As to the rumor that he might become the next head of NASA, Neil said that it’s a “true lie. True that it’s a rumor, but that didn’t make my becoming the next head of NASA true. I haven’t put my hat in the ring.” He sees being on the outside as allowing him to be more nimble. Something tells me that Neil isn’t a huge fan of huge bureaucracies. Besides, NASA probably wouldn’t have let him demote Pluto so easily.
One of the attendees asked him about emotion’s role in science. “Emotions are a good recipe for driving you,” he answered, but warned that scientists have to be ready to abandon their emotions. “Emotion can’t drive data. Refusing to admit data means you’re delusional.”
Some of the other tidbits and awesome quotes from Neil’s Q & A session:
“String theorists aren’t that expensive to keep around.”
Rules in science: “You want your experiment to be finished before you die.”
The fastest rocket we’ve ever sent into space would take 40,000 years to reach the nearest star.
If you were unprotected in space, you’d freeze so hard your ears would crunch off like a potato chip – “But ignoring that complication,” Neil said, “You’d just die of old age” before reaching the nearest star if you were traveling as fast as that rocket.
Pluto is 30% ice, and ice is more than 1/2 of its volume. If its orbit took it close to the sun, it would grow a tail like a comet, which is “no kind of behavior for a planet as far as I’m concerned.”
Titan is so cold, water ice is rocks. Methane is liquid. (Imagine methane oceans lapping at water ice pebbles on a “rocky” beach.)
If you ever get a chance to ask Neil a question, I hope this has prepared you for the answer. He’s not only a fantastic popularizer of science and a damned good astrophysicist, he’s got a light-speed wit. Look him up next time he’s round your part of the world. You won’t be disappointed.