Neil deGrasse Tyson: Living and Longevity





The interactive transcript could not be loaded.


Rating is available when the video has been rented.
This feature is not available right now. Please try again later.
Published on Jun 3, 2011

New videos DAILY: https://bigth.ink

Join Big Think Edge for exclusive video lessons from top thinkers and doers: https://bigth.ink/Edge


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.



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).



Neil DeGrasse Tyson: I guess I'm lucky that my chosen profession is astrophysics because unlike so many other fields of study, especially academic fields of study, in my field we have an essentially completely transparent lexicon so I don't have to translate anything, hardly anything. If I show you a photograph of the sun and you see spots on the sun you say, "What do you call those?" And I say, "We call them sunspots." I show you a picture of Jupiter, "There's that red spot in the southern hemisphere of Jupiter what do you call that?" "We call that Jupiter's red spot." "There is this place for you to fall in and you don't come out and light doesn't escape what do you guys call that?" "Black hole." So I don't see myself translating anything. I don't have to. I celebrate discovery using all the language that is fundamental to my field and what it means is to the person listening they don't have to slog through, navigate through vocabulary to gain access to the interesting idea that's sitting on the other side of it. 

So let's take biology, for example. They discovered deoxyribonucleic acid. Now, if you don't know biology these are just syllables coming out of your mouth. Well, what is it? Well, it encodes to the identity of life and it's in the shape of a double helix. So fortunately - double helix - that's a word and there's nothing else really that's a double helix so that's kind of a translated term for deoxyribonucleic acid, but notice you spend all this time just getting through the word before you get to an understanding or a conversation about what it does and how it does it and why. So I'm lucky that my field does not have this lexicon challenge for the educator. But what I also do is I have come to recognize the obvious that everyone exists with a certain pop-culture scaffold that they carry with them. That's the definition of pop culture. So it's not everyone but it's most people. There's a common base of knowledge that we can all reference. We all know what football is in America. We know what we mean when we say football. What is baseball? Who is Beyoncé? Who is Donald Trump? Who is Hillary Clinton? What is the capital building? ...

For the full transcript, check out https://bigthink.com/videos/neil-degr...


When autoplay is enabled, a suggested video will automatically play next.

Up next

to add this to Watch Later

Add to

Loading playlists...