Can understanding science make pop culture better, and can understanding pop culture make science more interesting? Absolutely.
Pop culture is a great way to frame new information. And a teacher like Neil can make a huge difference. Why spend hours explaining something in great detail when you can simply use what they already know? Pop culture is a great scaffold to build and hang information off of argues Neil deGrasse Tyson. For example: you need to understand basic laws of gravity in order to play Angry Birds, so why spend hours explaining Newton's Law when you can just fling a red bird at a pig? In this video, Neil uses a great anecdote about watching a football game and realizing that physics and science play a huge part in it whether the audience knows it or not. To prove his point, he does the math about the physics of the stadium, combined with certain factors like the angle of the rotation of the earth... to prove just how lucky a particular game-winning field goal was. On the other hand, Neil also explains that science-folk sometimes have a hard time understanding the relevance of pop culture. The two need each other, he argues, to make both fields more accessible to the other side. So, could Beyoncé factor into a discussion about string theory? Perhaps one day. But only if Neil does the talking.
There's something all of us—physicists included—are getting wrong about dark matter, says Neil deGrasse Tyson.
There's something fundamental we all need to understand about dark matter—it may not actually be matter at all. Neil deGrasse Tyson has a bone to pick with this misnomer that is distracting physicists and the public from the real discoveries to be made. Scientists know very little about "dark matter", and in fact it can only be observed indirectly by its effect on other objects. Tyson has a few suggestions for its re-naming: how about "Fred", he jokes, which is a name devoid of any implied meaning—suitable for our current level of knowledge. But if you want it to sound sexy and be accurate, then the way to go is dark gravity, according to Tyson. Why? Because when you add up everything in the universe—the stars, moons, gas clouds, black holes, everything—85% of gravity is unaccounted for. That is so-called "dark matter". What makes it so interesting isn't the wild-goose-chase question of whether or not it exists, but why it doesn't interact with ordinary, known matter? On the way to explaining that dark matter "doesn't give a rats ass about us," Tyson explores ghost particles, the essence of objects, and why we haven't found any dark matter planets. Tyson's new book is Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.
Everyone loves Europa, says Neil deGrasse Tyson. Why? It's a strong bet for finding life in our solar system, and it's even more amazing because it breaks all the rules.
Where there is water, there is life—and Europa’s got water alright: scientists believe it has twice the volume of Earth’s oceans swirling beneath its kilometers-thick ice crust. A moon in Jupiter’s massive orbit, Europa has captivated astrophysicists, including Neil deGrasse Tyson, because it has completely blown open the borders in the search for life in our universe. Europa is well outside of the life-supporting "Goldilocks Zone". Tyson explains how liquid water can exist in such a frozen part of our solar system, and how engineers might approach getting through all that ice to potentially come face to face/membrane with life, whether simple or complex. It won’t be too long before NASA’s ‘Europa Clipper’ mission makes its move to investigate the habitability of the icy moon: it will head for Europa in the 2020s. Tyson's new book is Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.
From Abraham Lincoln's founding of the National Academy of Sciences in 1863, to the US currently leading the world in the Nobel Prize count (a third of which we owe to immigrants), America was built on science. What happens when we doubt and defund it?
In 2017, science is a political tennis ball being served hard and fast. It's a buffet from which people on the left and right cherry pick their information. It's something to be believed in or doubted. Is Neil deGrasse Tyson worried? "Everyone should be concerned by this, not just a scientist," he says. The reality is, even if science research organizations have their budgets cut, and even if science loses its credibility, scientists will continue to do exactly what they're doing—it just won't be in the US. From jobs and innovation, to immigrants and global clout, Tyson expresses how an America without science will fade away. Science is not a partisan issue; it informs politics, not the other way around. So how can the US hold onto its long tradition as a scientific and economic leader? Tyson's solution is better education, and he pitches one class all schools should teach, but don't yet have. Tyson's new book is Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.
Neil deGrasse Tyson was born and raised in New York City where he was educated in the public schools clear through his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. Tyson went on to earn his BA in Physics from Harvard and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia. He is the first occupant of the Frederick P. Rose Directorship of the Hayden Planetarium. His professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of our Milky Way. Tyson obtains his data from the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as from telescopes in California, New Mexico, Arizona, and in the Andes Mountains of Chile.Tyson is the recipient of nine honorary doctorates and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal. His contributions to the public appreciation of the cosmos have been recognized by the International Astronomical Union in their official naming of asteroid "13123 Tyson".
Tyson's new book is Letters From an Astrophysicist (2019).