Neil deGrasse Tyson: Why Do We Have to Be Shocked Into Being Motivated to Lead?

How might we apply the notion of a "Sputnik moment" to our own lives, as we look for those occasions that compel us to invent for tomorrow?

"I don't like Sputnik moments," says the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. After all, if you experience a "Sputnik moment," it means you are playing catch-up. That's the situation the U.S. faced after the Soviet Union launched the first satellite into space in 1957. NASA was created in response. The U.S. is facing a similar situation today, trailing China in the 21st century race not only to space, but to create energy independence.


And yet, Tyson takes issue with President Obama evoking the notion of a "Sputnik moment" when it comes to energy. "That’s not a Sputnik moment," he says. "We should have those things anyway. Sputnik moments, you reserve those for grand visions that take your mind, body and soul to places that no one had previously dreamed."

In the video below, we asked Tyson how we might apply the notion of a "Sputnik moment" to our own lives, as we look for those occasions that compel us to invent for tomorrow.

Watch the video here:

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

How to make a black hole

Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.

Videos
  • There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
  • CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
  • Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
  • Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.

10 paradoxes that will stretch your mind

From time-traveling billiard balls to information-destroying black holes, the world's got plenty of puzzles that are hard to wrap your head around.

Big Think
Surprising Science
  • While it's one of the best on Earth, the human brain has a lot of trouble accounting for certain problems.
  • We've evolved to think of reality in a very specific way, but there are plenty of paradoxes out there to suggest that reality doesn't work quite the way we think it does.
  • Considering these paradoxes is a great way to come to grips with how incomplete our understanding of the universe really is.
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China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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