The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you
I was waiting for someone to GIF-ify Neil deGrasse Tyson’s tribute to Carl Sagan and how we make an impact on others from this week’s episode of It’s Okay To Be Smart, but I guess I gotta do everything myself! :)
I want this on a poster. Someone should make it into a poster.
I went to Washington D.C. last week to attend an event honoring the late Carl Sagan. I met Bill Nye. And Neil deGrasse Tyson said some wonderful things, because that’s what he does.
Here’s a video about it.
Who are we, if not measured by our impact on others? That’s who we are! We’re not who we say we are, we’re not who we want to be — we are the sum of the influence and impact that we have, in our lives, on others.
Neil deGrasse Tyson on Carl Sagan at yesterday’s Library of Congress event celebrating Sagan.
Neil captured it perfectly yesterday. So lucky to have been in that room. Gave me chills.
Sagan was so good, so passionate, so dedicated to delivering and defending the beauty of science. If we are measured by our impact on others, and I believe that we are, then Carl Sagan stands with his head grazing the stars themselves.
How many times do you think Neil deGrasse Tyson has sat in front of his mirror and practiced that “we’ve got a bad ass over here” move that put him in the GIF Hall of Fame so that he can do it on command for the camera?
I think the answer is, at the very least, 13.
Read this from chels (my comments are below):
Because we don’t all have the education or knowledge to be able to imagine ourselves in space the way a cinematic masterpiece can place us there. It’s not that mysterious, you pretentious windbag.
I have so many problems with Neil deGrasse Tyson’s approach to science communication, and usually I just pass it off as “eh, this guy ain’t for me,” but this tweet really makes me angry. Sometimes he knows how to spin a soundbite, but more often than not, he comes off as condescending and pedantic. So why do we enjoy this “make-believe space” more than the reality of manned space missions?
How about this: how about the notion that film has the capability to show us realities outside our own, to take us places most people will never go.
How about the fact that our government and our public education system place little emphasis on the importance of science and the endeavor of spaceflight, making it hard for people to really understand what it takes to put humans on the International Space Station.
How about the idea that a filmmaker can say more in 90 minutes than NASA can say in 10 years of press releases.
Or how about this: art is the lens through which science transforms into wonder. We can do all the most amazing science in the world, but if we don’t have eloquent, engaging, inclusive science communicators (even if they happen to be film directors in disguise) then the work will remain a mystery to the public.
I’ve heard there are scientific inaccuracies in this movie, and I hardly care. If the most talked about movie of the season is one that centers on astronauts, a spacewalk, and satellites, I’d say we’re on the right track. I’m seeing the film on Tuesday and I can’t wait to be wowed.
(See also: the best response to this tweet)
In general, I like NdT a lot. Certainly more than Chelsea does. But I have to agree with her here. I’m pretty sure that Neil was really just trying to fire up support for our manned space program in a time of epic governmental nincompoopery, this is kind of a clumsy way to do it, and he sounds like a bit of an ass.
Someone’s love for a sci-fi movie that is set in space does not preclude them from also loving actual people in space, and Chels lays out some excellent reasons (I particularly like the “art is the lens through science…” part). Especially when the director of that movie goes to such great lengths to get things scientifically right. Plus there’s that response tweet at the bottom, which is the sickest burn.
There’s also the fact that NdT is just plain wrong. Gravity set a record for October movies with a $55.6 million opening weekend haul. With an average national ticket price approaching $9, this means that a hair under 6.2 million people went to see Gravity this weekend. That’s way more people than would ever watch real people in space right?
Wrong. To date, more than 9.1 million people have watched Chris Hadfield wring out a washcloth from the ISS. And that’s just one video. I’m not an astrophysicist, only a humble biologist, but I am pretty sure that 9 million is more than 6 million.
I’ll forgive NdT for this, because I sense that his heart was in the right place, but loving Gravity does not a space-hater make. To me, the fact that this movie exists at all is proof of how many people are looking up.
If you want another way to fire up support for our space program, maybe this is a good time for me to plug my YouTube video about that?
So if we use the logic of Philip K. Dick and Neil deGrasse Tyson, science = reality.
I’m down with that.
More on Dick’s philosophy at Brain Pickings.
Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Art of the Soundbite
On August 28, the American Museum of Natural History hosted IFLS Live, a panel discussion on the wide, wild world of online science communication from I Fucking Love Science's Elise Andrew, io9's Annalee Newitz, Mitch and Greg from ASAPScience, Emily Graslie of The Brain Scoop and Maria Popova of Brain Pickings (and still the most interesting person on the internet). I’m sure my invitation to the panel got lost in the mail :)
A surprise visitor showed up near the end: none other than Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of AMNH’s Hayden Planetarium. Maria asked him how on Earth (or how on any other planet) he manages to craft such information-rich soundbites, polishing away the jagged edges of the science without dulling its shine. It’s a skill that Tyson has mastered perhaps better than any other living science communicator (incidentally, “science communicator” is a term I am growing to dislike, because it’s very clunky and weird).
Neil’s full answer is over at Brain Pickings in video form (I highly recommend checking it out in full), but this GIF by Maria captures the tasty essence quite well. I mean, isn’t the GIF really just the soundbite of images?
When you’re done, sit down with your beverage of choice, get comfortable, and take in the full IFLS Live panel (video below):
Great read from Rachel Edidin about how Cosmos is not about “us” and “them”, not about elitism and cynical ignorance, but about experiencing discovery together.
And so, above all, Cosmos is an invitation: to wonder, to explore, to ask, and to discover. It’s an outstretched hand, welcoming watchers to a universe extending beyond the outer limits of their own experience and knowledge.
Cosmos isn’t about berating people for their ignorance; it’s about offering them something worth learning, and the means to reach it. It was never an argument. It set out to share, not to convince.
Carl would approve, I think.