Neil deGrasse Tyson on Living and Longevity
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 Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (2017).
Question: Does a fixation on longevity detract us from living a full life?
DeGrasse Tyson: rather think that we’d be spending more energy learning how to live better. I’d rather start there and then worry about the longevity thing a little later.
Part of knowing that you’re going to die, not to get all philosophical on you, but knowing that you’re going to die creates a certain focus on your activities in life in the present.
If you knew you’re going to live for a thousand years, then, at any moment, you would say, well, what’s my hurry, why should I finish this manuscript today or why should I work late in the lab. I can just go home and watch the game. A
nd so, knowing that you lead a finite life creates a certain urgency to the minutes that you live that I value greatly. I don’t know what would mean if we live forever or live a really long time. I don’t know what would mean for my focus. Maybe it’s, you have to be careful what you wish for here. They would live a long time, people become less productive than they do when they don’t live very long at all.
I think of the mayfly that live no more than 24 hours. What is life like to them? They will never see a sun rise if they’re born in the daytime. The things that we take for granted that they never see. So every minute of their life, it’s a wall. It’s a ceiling. It’s a moon. It’s a grass. Everything is this life experience that’s captured and presumably valued in their little brain.
So, I like to take my 75 years on this planet and be like the mayfly, thinking they’re only living for a day and just take it all in.
Recorded on: February 9, 2009
The astrophysicist wants to shift the focus from avoiding death to living a full life.
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Famous physicists like Richard Feynman think 137 holds the answers to the Universe.
- The fine structure constant has mystified scientists since the 1800s.
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- Relativity, electromagnetism and quantum mechanics are unified by the number.
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