The acclaimed astrophysicist and cosmologist also discusses his big bone to pick with Whiplash, why he’s intrigued by The Walking Dead, and Indiana’s “religious freedom law.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson needs no introduction, but what the hell.
The 56-year-old astrophysicist and cosmologist is this generation’s preeminent scientific voice—a man who’s championed the sciences across a variety of modes, including publishing numerous books, serving as Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at New York’s Rose Center for Earth and Space, sitting on two government commissions dealing with the aerospace industry and space travel, and being awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal.
To a generation of youths, he’s best known as the host of various science-promoting programs, including PBS’s NOVA ScienceNow, the immensely popular TV series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, and the weekly podcastStarTalk. And StarTalk is now being converted into a late-night talk show for the National Geographic Channel, with its 10-episode season unspooling on April 20.
“When this was first announced, I think the press overreacted, saying, ‘Tyson’s going to take over late night!’” he exclaims. “No. There’s no band. I have a radio show that’s been successful, and it’s jumping species to television.”
The Daily Beast caught up with Neil deGrasse Tyson for a wide-ranging discussion on everything from the tenets of Scientology to the ongoing policy battle between science and religion.
What’s really grinding your gears these days in the world of science?
That’s a very open question! I’m thinking of the future of our space program and what role private enterprise will play in it, I think about the Higgs boson, I think about searching for life on Jupiter’s moon Europa, I think about how quickly all the people who were the first pioneers on Mars will die after they arrive. Things like that.
You said “searching for life on Jupiter’s moon,” so it would stand to reason, then, that you believe in the existence of aliens.
Well, it’s not a matter of “belief.” “Belief” implies that you feel something is true without evidence. I have a strong suspicion that something is true given the evidence, and that’s how I feel about life in the universe. You can look at how long the universe has existed. You can look at the ingredients for life as we know it. You can look at how common those very ingredients are throughout the galaxy and throughout the universe. You can look at how quickly life took hold on Earth—basically within a couple of hundred million years after it possibly could have formed, it formed—and that’s small compared with the age of the Earth, which is 4.5 billion years. And if you look at how many stars there are, and how many planets there are that are likely to be around them based on new data, you add all this up and say, “It would be inexcusably egocentric to suggest that we were the only life in the universe.” That is the posture that informed people take who study this. The prospect of there being life is not an exotic thought.
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SOURCE: Marlow Stern
The Daily Beast