ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this wide ranging conversation, the world famous astrophysicist, Director of the Hayden Planetarium, television host, author and all around badass talks to Michael about how his early years opened his mind to the universe and laid the path to his future success. In this candid interview the two discusses how he deals with fame, why he thinks NASA is so important, and how he approaches science deniers.

English
United States

TRANSCRIPT

00:00:01think about the nineteen sixties what a turbulent decade that was most turbulent in a hundred years on American soil with assassinations campus unrest a hot war in that Southeast Asia Cold War with the Soviet Union were there any jewels in our crown that you could point to yes
00:00:17there was we were going to the moon the moon it's how to be amazing on Michael Ian black I know my guests today a little bit and I want to make an observation about him I have never been around somebody who elicits so much joy from his audiences
00:00:45and not just joined but I have myself observed ladies audibly site in soon yes I will say it swoon in his presence and even though I am in arguably better looking I never get that kind of attention nor have I ever been named people magazine's sexiest astrophysicist alive
00:01:08like my guest today has Neil degrasse Tyson is part scientific swashbuckler part evangelize are for rationality and all astrophysicist he is America's most famous scientist he is also the director of the Hayden planetarium right here in New York City he is a lecturer he is a television host
00:01:28and author most recently of welcome to the universe in astrophysical tour which I would be remiss in saying he co authored with some colleagues from Princeton University and I am delighted to welcome him to have to be amazing loan you thank you thank you to see you again
00:01:43thanks for having me in there is that high need to bury the and I can hear the ladies soon Ross the in fact the areas that mines that mustache that vest actually in that vein that I think one of the highest compliments I ever got was in it
00:02:00Twitter replied this some years ago actually some guy wrote I'm as straight as a guy can get but if needed restoration showed up at my doorstep with a bottle of champagne and a Barry white CD let a man I just thought Ross you can cross sexual preference while
00:02:22I I'm I'm very flattered and honored by that but that that people magazine was was sixteen years and forty pounds ago our Honda just FYI well I'm in the room we can still work and I would look I I have to I have to tell the listeners I
00:02:37was not expecting the best meal you wore the vest today and if listeners know anything about Neil degrasse Tyson you can picture the vest in your mind yeah you can do it typically I don't wear it all the time if it's colder out all where it and if
00:02:49it's in the summer generally I just go to my ties now if you don't know the best and I'm talking about maybe of multiple of them but yeah I do I do yeah I got a half a dozen vests but the vast it it it's got celestial objects
00:03:00on it stars of various design constellations right exactly and it's got an artistic sort of Milan's to it yes so down in the the specialty ties I'm sure you you probably can picture as well galaxies and I mean the tortilla stuff you can possibly completely and here's the
00:03:16funny part if you go to one of my professional astrophysics conferences everybody's wearing I'm in California you don't know that I'm actually a timer flaws when that happens let us begin by talking about astronomy you have really great guests on your honor if I can live up to
00:03:34what you who you been pulled through your this microphone well try yeah I'll I'll expect you bring your a game if the vestigial occasion you have you began your interest in astronomy I have read at the age of nine after visiting the sky theater at the Hayden planetarium
00:03:50yes indeed which you now run with an iron fist yeah the scream and run away from the so here's a here's a quote from you said so strong was that imprint of the night sky that I'm certain I had no choice in the matter and that you're talking
00:04:05about why you decided to study the subject and then you say that in fact the universe called me what what was it about that moment of looking up at the night sky Hayden planetarium can you identify what it was that really struck you pretty much a lot of
00:04:20it was emotional so this it's less susceptible to word analysis is mostly just a feeling but the the immensity of the unknown vat seduced me I wanted but it nine I mean I feel like everything is unknown yes it's true the so this one even more so and
00:04:41yeah there's a plenty of unknown things but maybe you can rank them by their magnitude of the unknown sure I don't understand poly log a right how to become a frog or whatever it is that what they're called a friend I'm nodding like the house in Serbian check
00:04:57how you know that's a mystery pilot become to tackle the those are the type of rawbank you thank you so so I just explain something you'll regret it for the record so how does that happen so that's a mystery but in that list of mysteries you have to
00:05:13include looking up at the night sky and asking how did this all begin what is our place in the universe and for me that was a bigger mystery than wondering how it tadpole in a poly walk relate to one another and big enough for it to influence me
00:05:31in ways that I was not even conscious of so among them this guy comes out in the planetarium dome and I was certain it was a hoax yes a hoax too many stars I know how many stars are the nice guy there's twelve something you do apart from
00:05:48the Bronx that was back when I was not only light pollution is there still is today who's also air pollution all apartment buildings most apartment buildings would burn their garbage hoops so it would come out of their smoke stacks and it would settle down on your shoulders you
00:06:01would have to brush it off as you entered this is life I mean I I'm running the thinking is this bad to brief this no it's just this is home right and so meal like this set off your Neil you know just you know course I'm gonna wipe
00:06:18the sweat off my shoulder given this I had no idea that what was in the planetarium dome was that was an approximation of reality that I would later discover will be our the result of that was you began studying astronomy on your own I guess as a team
00:06:47astrophysics and hold today Mr physics as a teenager pre internet how do you even begin that that journey how is life even possible well it means you know what I mean I'm trying to think back on my childhood if I'd wanted this to I mean I guess I
00:07:03just go to the library a lot of reading and you know the Dewey decimal section that has all the books you're interested in and I knew and did you have a did you have a mentor at that time was not somebody that was all it was all self
00:07:15Jenny ideas outside and read in a book people always assume that such a person exists and everyone's like who was the person that made it the right way that we all have some people in that but for me the the the birth of their interest was entirely sort
00:07:26of organic with what was going on in my life in addition something you don't see much anymore maybe you do but I haven't seen it much bookstores all the big bookstores had a huge table in the back or on the side with marked down books these were the
00:07:40remainder books and heavily dropped in price to a dollar a dollar fifty this kind of thing my mother knew about it I knew about it anytime she passed a bookstore should go in if she knew my interest found books on math and physics and astro bottom all I
00:07:56had the biggest middle school library to hold a news ever Sears a book that nobody else wants a lot they're all on the remainder after that right so I I I I I must've had I don't know fifty Bucks or so in middle school and there are mass
00:08:15on physics and astronomy and on some generalized books like Isaac Asimov had many books just general introductions to the topic so of those are fun I particularly like the math books those seeing math is a language for how the universe wants to talk to us and was that
00:08:32a natural aptitude for you the mathematics portion of it yet depends what you mean by natural the fact that I'm reading math books all the time and then do well on a math test is that natural is it or my having fun studying right how are you going
00:08:45to distinguish those two cases and I don't think you can actually be you know study you don't even care walking the test and do well right I guess I mean it Eyefinity for it and and therefore I have decided to keep going yeah I had an affinity I
00:08:58did well in my math class so they were always my highest grades but that did not come from nowhere is what I'm saying right I've read books on math I read one of my favorite books in the day still to this day is a book by Edward Kasner
00:09:11and Newman Katherine Newman is called mathematics and the imagination oh my gosh this is mass it's a it's a math amusement park in that book mathplayground we think of math is this chore that you have to learn in school and here I'm learning about the power of mass
00:09:28in the cool things you can do with math like what is a mobile strip what are what is what our imaginary numbers what are and so these are things that are you know what is to apology when shapes and forms and so I just I read those as
00:09:43I had a a kind of mass baptism with these books and that our imaginary numbers I'm racking my brain trying to remember to mention our numbers are so I can tell you I know you're ready and that's what what's the square root of one this one when times
00:09:57when this one was a square to minus one not a problem yet I got a problem that has no answer scored a minus one is it might as well know because might want unless one is plus one is a minus one times plus one does not allow this
00:10:11not a square root gonna be the same number times itself no answer existed got invent a new part of the number one the called imaginary numbers very unfortunate name to no more imaginary the negative numbers are then fractions are it's just a new place to take the math
00:10:28so now we have a way to understand square roots of negative numbers and it uses the square root of minus one which we call our that's enough eyes a number right up it's no less of a number than negative two was a number right and it just feels
00:10:44weird and it's got a really unfortunate name the way you're describing the evolution of number systems I think aptly describes the beast to my layman's understanding the way one applies math to your field which is to say let's imagine that there is this entity called dark matter or
00:11:03there's an entity called a black hole and we need these entities these at least at first imaginary entities to describe what we're observing in the world so we're we're finding problems and then finding the solution so much a matter about hypothetical yes he's been hypothetically better work %HESITATION
00:11:21but without but in the beginning we didn't know for example correct that black holes exist and we didn't know that there was this thing called dark matter that we're supposing because of the information that we're cleaning and and that information is giving us problems so that works and
00:11:34that's a that's a sensible well worded explanation of what can happen it often happens in science by the way it doesn't didn't stop with negative numbers fractions and imaginary numbers are there also irrational numbers and again don't assign a motion to them were mental state it's just another
00:11:57word for another kind of number that we discovered is also transcendental numbers who pie is a transcendental number an irrational numbers that's that's cool yeah all transcendental numbers are rational internal and rational numbers are transcendental numbers most or not transcendental right and so but then there's another kind
00:12:15of math that came up Isaac Newton try to figure out how planets why planets were booted any lips is rather than perfect circles around the sun couldn't figure it out so he invents integral and differential calculus to get the answer and uses the kid wanted that right in
00:12:32his twenties that's bad **** if you can just not only to know that you can't solve it right but to then want to solve it enough to invent an entire branch of mathematics it's like when you so I know calculus is one of the most fundamental ways of
00:12:47gaining access to multiple things in motion in the universe and has unlimited other applications as well you yourself speaking about as you were lecturing on this stuff in your teenage years yeah I get my first public lecture %HESITATION when I was fifteen I just turned fifteen who you
00:13:06lecturing a college audience at the City College of New York and there was a actually it was an extension school so they were adults getting further education after hours is what that was how do you get a gig like that it fifteen gig because my I had a
00:13:24good agent my kids fifteen I can get him to vacuum the carpet so someone knew or heard so at the time just to put this in context and to remind you how old I am others a comment that was coming around that winter will come ecotec and it
00:13:43was discovered very far out in the solar system interview discover comment as far out as we discovered this that meant it was bright out there by the time he gets near the sun is going to be a kickass comet just in time for Christmas so this comic got
00:13:59a lot of media attention in anticipation of this I brushed up on it that summer I'd been honest in astronomy camp where there are a lot of city other geeky kids as as was I and I took photographs of the night sky with my telescope in my camera
00:14:14so I have all these beautiful night sky photos in it so I prepared a whole talk back in the days of slide projectors prepared a whole talk on the universe and with special topic on the comet and so I was invited in to give that talk and I
00:14:28was just talking about what I know and then they offered me money for like what the bomb was it was the member how much yeah yeah completely out so they gave me they said to do this quote demand for you is strong will you come back and give
00:14:41another and for these two talks here's fifty dollars that's up and I was like fifteen and is in nineteen seventy fifty dollars might have been infinite infinite that's an infinite amount of money you know when you're in ninth grade what's the ninth grade Neil degrasse Tyson spend is
00:15:00fifty dollars on I thought I might aboard another lands no but I think would be ideal not not that you get rich off of fifty dollars but that why the paying the fruit just talking sharing what I know about the universe it's just not just like anybody talking
00:15:18about with the furniture is in their living room or you know what kind of car do you drive right well what's the universe doing today to me it was it was content of that nature because it was something I just knew on a very fundamental level then use
00:15:34notes I wouldn't sweat I didn't bleed there I was just chatting about the universe and people valued what I was giving them enough to then write me a check and so that was weird I felt kind of after that I'm I don't know and I had to learn
00:15:53that society values more than just your sweat and toil who also values what you can contribute intellectually that was it turn a transitional point for me understanding what society cares about the end of the day the public speaking aspect of it didn't frighten you oh no but I
00:16:11think people are I don't know because I don't I wasn't ever deeply frightened by but let me also venture a guess that public speaking can be frightening because you're on the spot and there might be people in the audience who know more about what you're talking about then
00:16:25you do so I just knew how long ago when I fifteen and so I've been studying universe for six years for goodness sake so I was good I and I had all these books since I was nine so I was comfortable in that information at that point when
00:16:44you we're fifteen a new made this discovery that society value your intellect did you have an idea about where you want to take that no no no I just I just knew I just want to go on for a PhD in astrophysics I'm talking all birds today water
00:17:11they are all birds comfy shoes made from flying sheep no they are not despite the misleading name all birds are made from Jess normal down to earth sheep these are wheel shoes which means you put them on and then they're just so soft and cozy I own a
00:17:32pair of old birds I wear my pair of all birds I got the black with a black heels I can vouch yes they are so comfortable in they look good they look good you know in their design so simply they don't have any of the the logo's and
00:17:51you can wear you wear them anywhere you want you went to work to win to play you wear to the office or out on the town and you just feel good about them all birds will easy Q. certified which means it's grown on sustainable farms where they treat
00:18:05the sheep nice in conclusion go to all birds dot com find your pair of soft cozy comfy shoes made from the happiest of sheep the Wall runner from all birds six Neil degrasse Tyson isn't interested in being the smartest guy in the room although surely he is in
00:18:36most rooms he is interested in encouraging teaching in being available to anyone who shows interest in learning while his best selling books so that speaking engagements as popular TV shows and podcasts of all helped make him a star that's not the point sharing his passion for science and
00:18:55space is after all this is the guy who said and I'm quoting Jerry is that we spend more time congratulating people who have succeeded in encouraging people who have not unquote coming up we talked more about outer space and I finally get on equal intellectual footing with him
00:19:13when we talk your road to the PhD lead you to Harvard for your undergraduate studies before that got out undergraduate green physics only six so you recorded by none other than Carl Sagan to come to court now yeah yeah and let me let me read what you wrote
00:19:32about that you said I already knew I wanted to become a scientist but that afternoon meeting the afternoon that you met Carl Sagan I learned from Carl the kind of person I wanted to be calm what kind of person was he what's the so there I am just
00:19:45a kid and I'm not thinking about what kind of a on what I think about my morality or what my I'm just you know just do what feels good at that point in your life but as an adult and as a as a parent as a husband as
00:19:59an academic what what are the forces that will shape vat profile separate from what you are intellectually and to be greeted by Carl Sagan to be asked to visit Cornell and be hosted by him to help me decide whether I will choose to go to Cornell for college
00:20:16and I think he got wind of it because my application was dripping with the universe the admissions office solve this and I'm guessing here but I don't see how else this could happen they just forty my application to him sayings is somebody we should try to get and
00:20:33so he'd been head of wrote a letter to me hand signed had done consulship was already famous so there he is he spends time we show in the lab signed a book to me and I thought who mine to Carl Sagan I'm nobody and he spends a couple
00:20:50hours with me N. it started to snow this is in the winter started to snow and we go to the bus station drives me there and he worries that maybe the bus will come through because I took a bus from New York to Africa to four five hour
00:21:04trip and he so here's my home number call if the bus doesn't get three can spend the night with my family click whoa who who is this person and I thought to myself maybe he cares about this great unfolding of cosmic discovery it's a hand off from one
00:21:24generation to the next of who will be the curious ones on the front here trying to figure out how it all works so the fact that he invested that much time out of what is surely his busy life remember having this exact fought by remotely this famous I
00:21:40will give time to students who knock on my door the way crossing has done for me I could be there on the phone with with Brock okay the door knocks at Brock I'll get back to you I get a student at the talk to you later in the
00:21:54student comes in and then I have that cut and then we find out what their ambitions are so that's the kind of person I wanted to make sure I became to to say to myself I'm fulfilling the spirit of adding to exchange with Carl Sagan and yet you
00:22:08turned him down now it why what I mean it seems like you have your skip over that part in the notes if you if you had the opportunity to study with him yeah why did you choose harbored instead because I here's how I decided what college you know
00:22:25there's several colleges I was admitted to an I. so which one should I go to a people we got to go to Harvard because it's a franchise I think carrying a rats **** about reputation or anything and I did at the time subscribe to Scientific American and my
00:22:42faith for several years my favorite part of side of American busy about the author section when you read that these authors are not journalists are scientists writing about their field and you read it every entry list where they got their undergraduate degree where they got the masters where
00:22:57they got the PhD and where they were on faculty so I made a checklist of all the articles that I looked on astrophysics they meet a checklist in all of the columns of the schools I was attending I was admitted to to see which school was most represented
00:23:14among authors of Scientific American articles and Harvard was three times the length of any other schools you literally did that you'd literally did make a list it was late a literalist literalism it was a little chart this was a a spreadsheet a hand written spread sheet writer can
00:23:32call it that and and seeking to get extra points I'm even if you did what I knew was if I went to Cornell and Sagan left I knew enough to know that faculty don't always stay where they are then I'm at Cornell but without the and have a
00:23:46great astro program there but Harvard's was just much larger I would later learn that the Smithsonian Institution colocated there astrophysical observatory with a Harvard columns a retort to create the center for astrophysics which is a huge place and as an undergraduate this is we get summer jobs and
00:24:05you you and I want to keep all the options open rather than put all the eggs in one basket with Carl Sagan just my long story but you US I asked and I'm I'm I'm interested in what was your focus as a student at the undergraduate level you
00:24:22don't really do you have the other I mean from a certain mate I majored in physics right but then as you get your your do your graduate work in your PhD within your focus so you spend four years taking multiple classes plus classes in your major then in
00:24:33graduate school every classes in right your major and then after the classes are done your research on the topic and become the world's expert at it and when you get your PH what did you become the world's expert I'm skipping world expert it's I it was a study
00:24:49of the abundance distributions of stars along the minor axis of the galactic bulge so what did that of the Milky Way galaxy so in other words if you were to look at a at a galaxy we sort of had honor or side we got so if you look
00:25:02at back got the edge on edge on tax cuts when I was like yes I enjoy my new I felt that you were groping for a hug so I'll galaxies within spiral flattened pancake and if you look at John there's a bulge in the middle and that both
00:25:15forms books for the disc formed and it's a leftover remnants of the structure of the gas cloud before flattened to become a disk and so there's not much known about it because our view towards in that direction is highly obscured by a lot of gas and dust so
00:25:30it it is wrong slightly less in the plane of the galaxy so yet you need some very careful ways to make those measurements which we did for the thesis and ought to learn does the structure of the bulge betray the history of star formation from when the galaxy
00:25:49was born so is learning about the history of the galaxy by doing this I assume it does give you a few other sums to some it does reveal that it does does have some kind of a a does it does retain some the scaffolding of what was there
00:26:04at the time the galaxy was formed not just so so that was that was the PC things as we're talking about science and what you can pull out of thin air and in various other orifices books I am continually struck by the amount of science denial that's in
00:26:20the culture right now and you think or do you view science and rationality as being under attack here I'm an educator so when I think of people who don't understand what science is and how it white works rather than have the urge to beat them over the head
00:26:36I have a a a a bigger urge to say there's something wrong with the educational system that someone like that can become an adult to make the statements that they do so what's wrong with the educational system there's mellow question that is that is failing at accomplishing this
00:26:52goal in do you have a sense of what I I'm working on it I have a I have some ideas in the oven which means there half baked moment but I plan to put all together and and write this up posses a Booker resident series of essays but
00:27:08I I I will in the near years have strong points of view regarding the educational system of American possibly the world does your mom do you feel like your mission as an educator condition I'm I'm mission was okay J. feel like your role as an educator officer has
00:27:25become more what sort of looking for urgent yeah unfortunately unfortunately you know on four I'd rather just stay home and play with my kids a date with my wife right that's what I'd rather do than go out this is a family show you know we don't refer to
00:27:41play dates with one house so we may discuss **** once but we definitely do not talk openly lady playfully too much imagination so who am I I'm a servant of the public's appetite for the universe and in that role yes you're curious I'm I'm there for you alright
00:28:05if you're not curious I I can't I'm not going to beat you over the head I'm not gonna chase you down I'm not gonna try to change your ways that's not what I'm doing I've had people say I see all over the place on bill Maher on this
00:28:17Hoosier Publicis I say Publicis it's my publicist is the universe itself universe flinches three people want to come there's an eclipse is a black hole is a gravitational wave there's a colliding galaxies there's an exoplanet discovered give me the guy with the vested me the guy with the
00:28:35vast and then you know it's like the bat signal the phone rings and and I come in and I serve that curiosity do you enjoy fame arms it just is I try to invest emotions and things like that it it just is and so I would ask myself
00:28:51not do I enjoyed or not but how my managing it imagine in this in a wise were sensible way and I can tell you that it's been gradual is not one of these where over the actor actress gets discovered overnight and is in a first run movie and
00:29:07then they're the toast of the town this is been very steady and gradual even through customs two years ago which aired on fox in primetime on Sunday in thirteen episodes and in eighty one countries around the world even consuls because Ross is all it is forever was or
00:29:28ever will be a generation ago the astronomer Carl Sagan stood here and watched hundreds of millions of dollars on a great adventure the exploration of the universe revealed by science it's time to get because it's a small but real blip upwards to what was already a trend line
00:29:57so they give me a chance to adjust and adapt and adopt methods tools and tactics to field it and to handle it so I had helps glasses help to numb right now it's about it several hundred today of strangers who will just stop me that's got to be
00:30:14impactful on your on just on your life yet so exactly so getting back to early on when I was hitting like five a day ten today I realize okay I can't pick my nose in public I can't as before Sophie's even then I have to be and nowadays
00:30:28the costs to me is I'm a little better groomed leaving the house in the morning because I'm gonna be in some self fees whether I want to or not what I do like as with my with my educator Hannah is about at about half those people come up
00:30:43to me so you types I CS and they say oh could you tell me more about the black hole that I saw you or could you tell me about more about the search for life or but is their gods you know these are so when that happens I
00:30:55smile because it means that I am not the object of their affection they're just hungry and I'm on something that feeds them I'm the source of the smorgasbord that they've been dining upon and they just want more and that's how I know I've succeeded as an educator if
00:31:12you come to me because you are enchanted by what you've learned not because you want to stand in the presence of me because you saw me on television along these lines you testified in front of the United States Senate you cut holes I don't see a number of
00:31:27diseases would you check the FBI on me hi senator Hutchison senator Bosan thank you for your attention here I I want to preface this by saying I was born the same week that NASA was founded and while that specific point is of little rock relevance to the words
00:31:47of my testimony I would say it's a great relevance to the feeling with which I deliver these words having the same lifespan I want to start off with a quote from a famous aviator French aviator Antoine Santa shivering this quote maybe known to some of you but I
00:32:07think it bears repeating often if you want to build a ship don't drama people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea your talk about NASA's budget yes in reducing the committee that oversees
00:32:25NASA's budget you said that their budget is half a penny on the tax dollars and then you said for twice that for a penny on the dollar we can transform the country from a stolen dispirited nation weary of economic struggle to one word has reclaimed its twentieth century
00:32:41birthright to dream of tomorrow I mean personal beautiful okay just beautiful the question is did you write that down in a prepared statement we never was out the door so I don't like reading a prepared statement but they want a prepared statement for the record and then they
00:33:00are then I have a prepared statement and so so what I end up saying is some combination of the two because I hate reading right and I'd rather just do it off the cuff so that's part that's a little Malcolm of the both gorgeous and so what is
00:33:13it that you would like to see NASA doing with that extra half penny what's going to get us to the birthright to dream of RG Arbor three of the first time I don't want to and don't care about dreaming about tomorrow I can not I don't feel comfortable
00:33:27forcing you to I'm I'm gonna go out in the men say our listeners care okay and they want that extra so many because or or as we say he penny very nice thanks yeah a penny on the dollar or my gosh that's all it is a penny if
00:33:41you ask people who want to spend money up there and not down here we need week that don't have the luxury of NASA go to those people to how much money thing that's was getting here's a tax dollar cut where you think %HESITATION ten percent fifteen percent five
00:33:53percent notes one half of one percent to a person they don't know that it's that low and so I want to start a movement we're all government agencies get a budget that people think they're getting NASA would then get five percent of the federal budget and not one
00:34:10half of one penny defected you think it's getting more is there any better evidence to show that NASA's doing highly visible things with that fraction of a penny were giving it think about that this half a penny of the dollars to pay for the space shuttles all the
00:34:26NASA centers the space station all the research all the earth monitoring all the the Hubble Space Telescope all of that was a half a penny on the dollar so what I suggested was we care about tomorrow with that's we did discover for most of the twentieth century you
00:34:42know you're old enough perhaps to remember you you're look I'm twenty three your twenty three at so on a penny on the dollar I'm remembering in the nineteen fifties and sixties and seventies early seventies where how long did you have to wait not more than a week at
00:35:01most a month before one of the major magazines look life time news week early days was collier's one of these magazines had a cover story the home of tomorrow transportation to mark the cities of tomorrow tomorrow was a thing people thought about is the thing people dreamed about
00:35:23all that ended in the nineteen seventies all you'd have to go a year before you find a headline thinking about tomorrow as the seventies ended going into the eighties and now you never see it at all that's when I was talking about in that presentation to the Senate
00:35:39committee the hour when I say birthright we kind of made it a pastime of inventing the future and out of that is going to come technology and and ways of living in that a tomorrow you know you gonna be living differently than you are today and so that's
00:35:58that's personal I don't I can't require that you want that and I won't I'm an educator I'm not a preacher I'm not a not a %HESITATION what he called a pundit who try to change your opinion so they match my opinions are simply offering you insights into the
00:36:15history of the country recent history of the country you don't think about the nineteen sixties what a turbulent decade that was most turbulent in a hundred years on American soil with assassinations campus unrest a hot war in that Southeast Asia Cold War with the Soviet Union were there
00:36:32any jewels in our crown that you could point to yes there was we were going to the moon the moon one of them pardon by a one small step last in I think the transformed us as a country and I long for that again I I offer it
00:37:08I say if NASA dreams big the country dreams back is there one specific NASA mission take that that's along those lines so that's a natural question reject out of hand aren't you said we go to go to the moon okay I rejected out of hand it is the
00:37:47very natural thing to say we went to the moon where do we go next right how to pour out that line of thinking and refill the glass with a new line of thinking you're ready I'm gonna build an interstate and I connected New York to Washington where do
00:38:03you want to go next it's an interstate let's go everywhere let us not pre describe what the destination should be and when everyone get a nice and so that way you you want to do some mining in some town give me a road there or you know you
00:38:23want to set up a hot springs and give me a road there you know pre prescribe that you let that happen naturally so for me the future space exploration is not where we go next it's %HESITATION show me the suite of launch vehicles in the hangar that I
00:38:40can choose from to accomplish the goals I have set for myself in space I wanna mind that asteroid it's three from column two three one two solid rocket boosters here strap on boosters to liquid sealed putting together that's my rocket I wanted you you're an entrepreneur you want
00:38:59to set up towards the Taurus drawn on the near side of the moon that's a different configuration are someone else wants to look for life on Mars that something else the world gets together and says we want to protect ourselves from asteroids but you're mining them so you
00:39:14know how to get there and you know how to mess with him I will now task you with deflecting asteroids that's a different configuration of rockets someone else wants to set up a colony on Mars permanent maybe visiting for sure that's another configuration I want to turn our
00:39:31solar system in our backyard you know something you need the best people in all the frontier field of stem education you need the best engineers mechanical engineers electrical engineers aerospace engineers from looking for life I need the best biologist I need chemists I'd buy D. botanists if I
00:39:48want to grow plants this is the profession of mark Watney in the movie the Martian course you need astrophysicist in there to even think about where those destinations must be if you still close frontiers and you have to innovate and do it no one has done before you're
00:40:04gonna be inventing new ways of doing things I care about sifting the Martian soil for whatever water might be under there because it's Mars and I now invented device that extract water from the soils all my gosh we can apply this to the Sahara extract water from the
00:40:22under layers of the Sahara desert and have always sees in places where they weren't there before wide and I think that up in the first place because I don't care about this error cared about Mars generally when you put something in space it takes on a whole other
00:40:37level of interest the search for alien life could be a boon to the search for other kinds of exotic life on earth you be surprised how fertile spin off thinking can be space is such a force of of attraction that we shouldn't standard denial of we should celebrate
00:40:57that fact and I want to get the best people to do it when you do it everyone innovates and you patent and you and you invent things and solutions arise that you never thought were there before and you might say will blood supply your brains to the solutions
00:41:11immediately and why why wait for the spin off you know why because in many cases it will simply never happened you've driven on the off ramps to highways and you've seen some offense of groups in the pavement have you seen this Sir okay arm you know why they're
00:41:24there of it to slow me down no for the obvious reason that the little prevent you from sliding sideways off if you exited too quickly from the highway well so in a sense I'm right to slow me down at any age and you have to make the turn
00:41:36without careening into the side impact okay so this is a relatively recent addition to the structure of their highways so who invented that but Hey it's NASA invented that now we're talking low tech NASA invented it why because they put grooves in the landing strip for the shuttle
00:41:55to help align it so that it can stay in a straight line doesn't have active engines so it's very passive at that point this helps to stay so I'm slightly wet surface it keeps of Mary I will I I will drop a tiny bit of knowledge I have
00:42:07the maybe people don't know that when when the space shuttle into tech lighter it's a glider entirely a glider that's correct to my point of that example is if you ask someone can you make this turn safer I don't know that he would have come up with the
00:42:21groups but because you have people inherently interested in space and they want to solve those problems on the frontier of human thought you get a lot of stuff for free for people having done so well I could the one thing about this but I know you don't have
00:42:52all day listen to wrap things up we end each episode with something called the amazing five in which I will give you five categories of things and I will ask for a single recommendation in each of these categories recognition for what I will start with groups let's start
00:43:06with music music that you love that you're listening to something that you would recommend to the listeners %HESITATION see I don't do that I will tell people what to do not seem to tell don't you know I'm not going to recommend it I can see what I like
00:43:17that's one that's not a recommendation my god that is this that is splitting hairs like I have no no no no so I to watch not splitting hairs or or maybe it is but let me tell you why so I was once on a radio show too little
00:43:29to give me a list of your favorite things I'd list some favorite things then some media outlets got a hold of it it's a if Neil has his way he would have been listening to this and have you will only be listening to advocate exactly so because any
00:43:44pundit is doing that they're telling you what they want you to think and feel and why I'm asking you what you love that's all I'm asking that you weren't that way I'll be delighted to tell you what do you love I I'd love the blues alright the blues
00:43:58where it is slow and sad and if it's done right and I'm driving the car I got to pull over to the right hand lane in a go slow and just listen to it you seem like in a brilliant person wiped out a good SAT word was a
00:44:12bank's tomorrow one actor that since like twelve great do you find yourself I I do you do you get to press did you get the blues in in in often arm so I ask myself that one day and then I read up on depression and people have depression
00:44:29I have never been okay no I've never had any of these symptoms so I had this so I have no complaints okay I'm not I don't mean to poke lighted but now but it's it's refreshing to hear all my gosh I have never ever been depressed what upon
00:44:47reading what actual depressed people go through is there %HESITATION one artist in particular who makes you feel the most yeah I'd say Buddy Guy where he would be singing and the guitar comes in and then you the distinction between the pain in his voice and the pain he
00:45:05communicates on the guitar become synonymous everybody knows my name a book that you love you mentioned the one about math related ebooks well I'm a I'm gonna cheat here and just say one of the most stunning books I've ever read was Newton's Principia in this is going back
00:45:58now you know three hundred years and it's been keeping Principia as a hard scene I we thought it was a softie we could be at Principia but it's not Principia Mathematica we thought of the idea and it's and that's just the nickname for it it's the full name
00:46:13is Mathematica so it's the sorry there's more but translated into English is the mathematical principles of natural philosophy and so in it I would you reduce see Newton figuring out the universe he figures it out in front of your eyes and in the hair stands up on the
00:46:32back of my neck up but just reading how connected how plugged in he was to the universe meanwhile he writes sometimes I feel like I'm paraphrasing a child on a beach picking up one shinier pebble than another knowing all along that the great ocean of on discover truths
00:46:52still lay before me so here's a guy who's discovering oceans of undiscovered truths yet still feels like a child on the ocean shore with them the where the bulk of what it remains to be known about the universe lay undiscovered before him this is profound and so anyhow
00:47:12he still there are we still plenty of oceans of undiscovered truth in front of us plenty of dark matter dark energy how did life form what was around before the universe how the universe and will the expansion of the universe become so severe that the fabric of the
00:47:29universe cannot expand at the rate that the other forces are making and expand it will create a tear only got only one of the what that is well that's what the the TV show stranger things is about %HESITATION yes okay and also there was a series of episodes
00:47:42of doctor who yet about the tear in the space time fabric so it makes for interesting story telling so it had to be yeah and that that's a little out of reach because it's highly mathematical highly geometric there's a version that he wrote a digest of it called
00:48:00%HESITATION called the system to Principia for EDS small my crib it's like you know the crib sheet version of it what's it called when it's called the system of the world cool and that he actually wrote that in English the crew was in lighten up the sitting in
00:48:17the the system of the world just to check that out and in there he describes the very first he expresses the very first drawing of an orbit and from that you get a modern day space exploration so and so I read that it's it's quite rejuvenating for me
00:48:34intellectually to say that our species has the capacity to think this way food give me something you love out I think about this often what if I had to only choose one food of its area on route to Mars for nine months what would it be it would
00:48:47be pepperoni pizza and strawberry milkshakes because I can eat I've never tired grown tired of pizza I I'm with you I think pizza is not a choice would ever actually quite a nutritionally balanced right and you add that to the milkshake you get the carbohydrates to fat the
00:49:05protein and I'm and the calories I'm just concerned about the combination of going back and forth as you eating the pepperoni pizza to the strawberry milkshake and then back to the pepperoni pizza taste profile wise that does make a whole lot of sense to me yeah but I'd
00:49:20like them both in the pretty pizza strawberry milk Shari Malta Malta Malta malted milk that that that's a crucial guidance I can eat those foods for ever oh yeah and what is the most pizza you've ever eaten in a sitting by seven slices of a of a real
00:49:37New York to see that disappointing to me you had this seven but you didn't get couldn't get the eight we trying to eat the you know are just hungry and seven no I don't want to write a whole part today about it I don't I can't brag about
00:49:51that a noise that you got in the way the hell out me that you went for seven but you just you couldn't couldn't he got the a yeah right so I understand viewed at the numbers they're arbitrary for me I hear seven I see that that the slice
00:50:03left and I'm frustrated so to me those those are perfect with him yet on with your nation the in terms of fights with I am a foodie so I'd like a good rack of lamb I am carnivorous but I I did the calculations of how carnivorous MI so
00:50:19here I am ready at the rate at which I eat beef it would take ten years for me to eat a cow so not very much you know it's not very much yes right so I'm not a rabid mediator on I I like wine I like red wine
00:50:34I like it with red meat I am not unmindful of all the environmental consequences of it so I try to mitigate it that's all and other people are are braver than I am in or have more resolve than I do and so and more power to them because
00:50:49I am a fan of the environment and how we need to be better shepherds of it for those who will we have borrowed it from and that's the generations that follow television or movie owe me up favorite television show or something you love a TV TV I would
00:51:06always rather see a good movie that's fine then so that's why I did say war yeah yeah but if the movie is an out all rent the movie on the big screen teammates on to watching the TV but it's a movie yes yes I'm always movie driven and
00:51:18there's I try to keep enough movies I haven't seen so that if I need a movie I've got a good one sitting in the wings and I like a good story in a science fiction format and I'm disappointed when you're trying to substitute a special effects for story
00:51:35that is explosions in battle machine gun and this is why I dislike the Marvel universe for home coming of a fight about that can I tell you why I like the moral universe please almost all of their super heroes got that way because of science yes well here's
00:51:52a eight let me know what do we agree on that yes let me qualify my statement I decide to more sorry I love literate universe yes I love origin stories and then when we get to super villains and such I'm gonna I'm lost cannot then I'm not interested
00:52:04in knowing I love the origins okay and it's so in the Marvel universe most of the origin stories yet to science and you've got spider man the hulk there's these are science people think about it coke with the scientists yeah a David banner and and man is is
00:52:20a is an army during this I love army because he's human yes by the way if he had energy source that much as chest he would lower favourite the great problems of the storage of energy with the running the running cultural joke about you is that you spoil
00:52:36every film yeah I guess we adding about your your actually this week and and I think I'm I'm just misunderstood I think my tweets or their intended to sign literacies isozymes up to two as it does as opposed to **** on everybody's enjoying their it's intended to enhance
00:52:57your movie going to play the things I could point out but I don't because at the end of what I point out you're not in a new place right to just in an annoying place every noise so even the famously tore apart the film gravity even though I'd
00:53:13put it through this filter people still have reacted negatively that somehow destroyed their movies and I'm not here to be a thorn in your side I'm not if it's not it's not receiving them in the way I intend I have failed as a communicator and I don't have
00:53:28to continue effect after Star Wars the force awakens I basically stopped commenting on films because too many people were just getting angered by the way let me just defend myself for the moment all right in spite of me saying I'm going to pull back if you're watching a
00:53:44period piece from the nineteen fifties and your car expert and parked in the street as a nineteen sixty Bel Air right all my gosh you would jump all over it you would say the set designer did not know their car models and you be praised at the cocktail
00:53:56party for having no yes if you're a fan of Jane Austen period pieces and there's a there's a there's a helicopter a mansion in the building was not only that but there's some English countryside home the carriage drives up to it and someone comes out and uses a
00:54:14verbal other resume that is decidedly twentieth century or twenty first century you will cry foul you would say the script writer didn't the the the the would call that the screener to screen writer didn't know what they would salute they would not be eligible for best screenplay no
00:54:28a same with costumes it'll come out of the carriage wearing tie dye bell bottoms you would cry foul and we would all celebrate your knowledge of this yes so why deny the scientists the same access to the truth of what should be in the storytelling that you will
00:54:43allow for everyone else and I'm all man I'm with you I don't mind I like it and all I'm asking so so that being said a spirited defense from you the press Tyson on his annoying treats my goal is not to piss people and so I pull back
00:54:57I'm just I'm not I don't need to do it I'd only do it if I am a servant of your carry on use if that is failing I don't I don't need to do it you still have not given me a movie that you like or movie matrix
00:55:08the event yeah anti definitely I can't I can't get enough of the matrix okay finally miscellaneous no this is anything from your life that you love any any miscellaneous object any miscellaneous fought any miscellaneous anything from your life yeah I I'm a big fan of fountain pens are
00:55:26are you a hand writer yes so I always carry two or three found pens with me and and I signed my books with fountain pens when people ask me if they have to sign it to give me a ballpoint and ice no no cannot touch of all the
00:55:44days after I talk so depends stores in town all know me they go by and browse and so yeah well Neil degrasse Tyson certainly the the oratorical art are not lost on you and I don't think we are you're alright about words and clearly people use them and
00:56:02as an educator it's it's and it's another tool in in in the arsenal to try to get people to you know be as as informed and is an lightened as they possibly can without which we we'll see the unraveling of an informed democracy yes I I I I
00:56:22worry about that myself the frayed edge fraying edges of the area of a of a democracy and thanks for plugging the book earlier a yes just look at all I will plug it again is called welcome to the university right welcome we teach your men how to set
00:56:38talking to the engineers there welcomed to the universe welcome to the universe yeah it was such a course cycle talk with two colleagues of mine when I was on the faculty at Princeton this is a few years ago and the the the court's got more and more popular
00:56:53as the years went on and we were flattered by that but it meant that we were doing something right about how we were communicating the content and then we got the idea from Princeton press that maybe we should turn into a book where people can just enjoy learning
00:57:09but not shy away from of course is a mile wide because is an introduction to astrophysics but but as I said we also go a mile deep and when you got mile deep we're ready for you wherever you want to take us where there men that's available now
00:57:23came out in September of twenty sixteen yeah here it's on Amazon fact think they have a stupid low price for it and how they pull that off whether the even making money you're right you're a loss leader they know people going to come to the Neil degrasse Tyson
00:57:36they will stay for the Tyson vacuum cleaners the Dyson Dyson no I was so close to having a good line of the joke I was so close but yeah I mean the book I think it retails for like forty Bucks this all out for like fifteen or twenty
00:57:51or so I'm gonna order is as crazy as soon as I turn off these a microphone delivery on as well as heavy as a dense book but it's all there you learn about the search for life a time travel how to wear what planets you might find life
00:58:04on how we calculate that all you want about the birth life and death of stars black holes stellar collisions galaxies dark matter dark energy it's there and you'll come out fluent along one of the guys Tyson thank you so much for a for for all you've done for
00:58:19scientific literacy and educating people and inspiring people into the listeners the thing that I'm taking away from this interview more than anything is the amount of time in depth you've you've you've devoted to all subjects like the matrix for example or the blues for example in the idea
00:58:37that any of us can can really spend some time thinking deeply about the subjects I find very inspiring said thank you Neil and what you can hear Michael thanks to you I don't I don't if I got to say on the air but you've you've been one of
00:58:50our our guest comedians on star talk I have my own radio show and podcast and just thanks for just coming out for that I mean but I greatly value what you do as a profession I think a comedian's holds the the soul of civilization in the palm of
00:59:05her hand I've often said that only the day are in possession of the mirror to hold up to ourselves so that we can learn who we are and why we are the way we are very kind of you to say in a microsecond and I definitely appreciate the
00:59:23sentiment taking I do feel effects and thanks to an amazing how to be amazing is brought to you by PRX like how to be amazing on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at H. T. beat eight underscored show and check out our website at how to be amazing
00:59:44show dot com if you like what you've heard please write us a nice review on I tunes sale handsome my sound how to be amazing is produced by Jennifer Brennan and merry shin can it's recorded at Argo studio in New York City today show was mixed in edited
00:59:58by Jason southbound how with music composed by Chad crouch I am as always Michael Ian black

Transcribed by algorithms. Report Errata

ABOUT THIS PODCAST

In this in-depth interview show, Black takes listeners into the minds of some of today’s most fascinating celebrities and newsmakers to discuss the process of how they became, well, amazing. Brought to you by PRX.

English
United States
94 episodes
since May, 2015
Disclaimer: The podcast and artwork embedded on this page are from Michael Ian Black, which is the property of its owner and not affiliated with or endorsed by Listen Notes, Inc.

EDIT

Thank you for helping to keep the podcast database up to date.
ELSEWHERE

RECOMMENDATIONS