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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Cosmos’

Neil deGrasse Tyson attends the premiere of Fox's 'Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey' on March 4, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Neil deGrasse Tyson attends the premiere of Fox’s ‘Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey’ on March 4, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

On Sunday, Americans will have a chance to do something they haven’t done for more than 30 years: travel through the universe on TV through a show called “Cosmos.”

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is hosting the remake of Carl Sagan’s classic science TV series. While Sagan’s series was produced and aired by PBS, Tyson’s show will premier on Fox.

Tyson joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss the new show, outer space and his tweets.

Interview Highlights: Neil deGrasse Tyson

How is the new ‘Cosmos’ different from the original?

“Visual effects have improved since then. While the original ‘Cosmos’ was quite stunning in its day, given what our expectations now are, of every viewer who is a consumer of media, and so because we are airing on Fox, a major network, we had resources available to us to take full advantage of the methods and tools that filmmakers use to tell big blockbuster stories. Yet now they get to use their talents to help us tell the story of the universe. So this show will not only operate on you intellectually, because we will tell you stories of how science works and why it works and what we’ve discovered and why it matters, but combine that with stunning visualizations of the cosmos. We have the chance of affecting you intellectually and emotionally, and as well as even spiritually, because the wonder and awe of the universe are especially potent when presented in this way.”

Why Fox?

Fox in this case — it’s sort of unlikely bedfellows, right? I mean, it worked both ways. It was, we were brought to Fox as a possibility by Seth MacFarlane, who is a major Fox product… He’s just a generally creative guy but not normally associated with science unless you paid attention to each episode of ‘Family Guy,’ where you realize science rears its head in multiple episodes and in multiple ways. So if you paid close attention to that, you’d realize that Seth MacFarlane is a multi-talented, multi-interested person.”

Will this help bring back a sense of wonder?

“I think ‘Cosmos’ is an antidote to the lost wonder. By the way, as children we all wonder — we wonder all the time. And that gets lost in adulthood. It gets beaten out, it gets filtered out or diluted out. And I’d like to think that ‘Cosmos,’ for all ages — anyone with a beating heart. As Ann Druyan says, who’s the principle writer of the series, if you have a beating heart, that’s the target audience. Because we know deep down within you there’s a flame that maybe had gone dormant that we can fan or ignite in case it had blown out. This is the flame of curiosity, the flame of wonder, of awe, of all the things that make you want to learn something more tomorrow than you knew today. Combine that with the role that science has played in shaping civilization, realizing the awesome power that comes with that, you need to now become good shepherds of our culture and our civilization and especially of the world. ‘Cosmos’ takes you there, to all of those places.”

When and where might we find life — such as bacteria — on other planets?

“In the next 10 or 20 years, definitely, either on Mars, below the surface soils, or I’d like to think Jupiter’s moon Europa. Jupiter sits outside of the ‘Goldilocks zone,’ where the temperature’s just right for liquid water to sustain life as we know it. But in spite of that, the gravitational stresses from Jupiter on that moon pumps heat into it that has rendered that ice liquid, and we’re pretty sure it’s been liquid for billions of years beneath the frozen surface. So if you’re going to look for life in the solar system, one of NASA’s mantras is to follow the water.”

Video: Neil deGrasse Tyson introduces the Cosmic Calendar

Guest

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW.

And this Sunday, Americans will have a chance to do something they haven't done for more than 30 years, travel through the universe on TV on a show called "Cosmos."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "COSMOS")

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: On this scale, all the objects we see, including the tiniest dots, are galaxies. Each galaxy contains billions of suns and countless worlds. Yet, the entire Virgo super cluster itself forms but a tiny part of our universe.

HOBSON: That's astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is the host of the remake of Carl Sagan's classic science TV series "Cosmos," which aired in 1980. Sagan's series was produced and aired by PBS. Tyson's show premieres on Fox this Sunday. And he joining us now from New York. Neil deGrasse Tyson, welcome.

TYSON: Thank you. Thank you. And it's not a remake. It's the continuation of the journey.

HOBSON: It's the continuation, OK.

TYSON: Yeah.

HOBSON: Well, let's listen to, though, a little bit of the original. This is Carl Sagan's 1980 series. Here's a clip.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST, "COSMOS")

CARL SAGAN: We are far from the shores of Earth, in the uncharted reaches of the cosmic ocean, strewn like sea froth on the waves of space. Our innumerable faint tendrils of light, some of them containing hundreds of billions of suns. These are the galaxies, drifting endlessly in the great cosmic dark.

HOBSON: Neil deGrasse Tyson, how is your "Cosmos" different?

TYSON: Well, first, it's 35 years later, 34 years later. So access to visual effects - well, visual effects have improved since then. While the original "Cosmos" was quite stunning in its day, given what our expectations now of every viewer who is a consumer of media - and so because we are airing on Fox, a major network, we had resources available to us to take full advantage of the methods and tools that filmmakers use for - to tell big blockbuster stories. Yet, now, they get to use their talents to help us tell the story of the universe. So the show will not only operate on you intellectually, because we will tell you stories of how science works and why it works and what we discovered and why it matters, but combine that with stunning visualizations of the cosmos, we have the chance of affecting you intellectually, emotionally and as well even spiritually, because the wonder and awe of the universe are especially potent when presented in this way.

HOBSON: Well, tell us about the choice of Fox, because, of course, PBS kind of makes sense for something like this. What about Fox though?

TYSON: Yeah. So Fox in this case, you know, it's sort of unlikely bedfellows, right?

HOBSON: Yeah.

TYSON: I mean, it worked both ways. It was - we were brought to Fox as a possibility by Seth MacFarlane, who's a major Fox product...

HOBSON: He's the creator of "The Family Guy" and other shows.

TYSON: ...and other shows, and other spinoff shows. And he's just a generally creative guy and - but not normally associated with science unless you pay close attention to each episode of "Family Guy" where you realize science rears its head in multiple episodes and in multiple ways.

So if you paid close attention to that, you'd realize that Seth MacFarlane is a multitalented, multi-interested person. He - I met him at a kickoff meeting of The Science & Entertainment Exchange. A new office opened in Hollywood, which is a branch of the National Academy of Sciences. This sort of crusty, stodgy organization said to themselves, if science - if we need to have science mainstreamed in the 21st century, we've got to partner with people who know how to reach everybody. And that would be Hollywood, through the writers and the producers and the storytellers.

And so in that kickoff meeting where scientist, myself among them, as well as Hollywood people who were interested in not only getting their facts right when they had the opportunity but wanted to tell more diverse stories. You know, how many law dramas are there? How many cop dramas or doctor shows? Maybe there are some interesting stories you can tell about scientists and their profiles and their lives and what the world looks like through their lens.

HOBSON: Well, and the cosmos.

TYSON: And that's where I met...

HOBSON: And I wonder - well, I wonder. Let me just stop you there. Do you think that we have lost our sense of wonder? That this is going to help bring it back for some people.

TYSON: Exactly. I think "Cosmos" is an antidote to the lost wonder. By the way, as children, we all wonder. We wonder all the time, and that gets lost in adulthood. It gets beaten out. It gets filtered out or diluted out. And I'd like to think that "Cosmos," for all ages, anyone with a beating heart - as Ann Druyan says, who's the principal writer of the series, if you have a beating heart, that's the target audience because we know deep down within you, there is a flame that maybe has gone dormant that we can fan and - or ignite if in case it had blown out. This is the fan of curiosity. I mean, the flame of curiosity, the flame of wonder, of awe, of all the things that make you want to learn something more tomorrow than you knew today.

Combine that with the role that science has played in shaping civilization, realizing the awesome power that comes with that, you need to now become good shepherds of our culture and our civilization and especially of the world. "Cosmos" takes you there to all of those places.

HOBSON: We spoke with Pete Worden the other day on the show, the head of NASA's Ames Research lab, who says he expects that we will know in the next decade whether we are alone in the universe. What do you think?

TYSON: I think that's ambitious. People have been saying we'll know in the next decade since the 1950s. So that's good. I like ambitious thinking. But you have to know, well, by what means are - is in place? What funded detection project is busy doing this? And by the way, alone might you mean intelligent aliens or might you mean just other biology somewhere else in the universe or in our backyard.

HOBSON: He was talking, I think, just about - it could be something as simple as bacteria.

TYSON: Sure, then I agree. In the next 10 or 20 years, definitely. Either on Mars, below the surface soils, or I'd like to think Jupiter's moon Europa. Jupiter sits outside of the Goldilocks zone where the temperature is just right for liquid water to sustain life as we know it. But in spite of that, the gravitational stresses from Jupiter on that moon pumps heat into it that has rendered that ice liquid. And we're pretty sure it's been liquid for billions of years beneath the frozen surface. So if you're going to look for life in the solar system, one of NASA's mantras is to follow the water.

And so I want to go like - as I've said publicly, I want to go ice fishing on Europa. You know, a funny part of that, if you find life on Europa, like, what would you call it? Would it be, like, Europeans?

(LAUGHTER)

TYSON: Because it's called Europa. I always wonder. What are we going to call this stuff?

HOBSON: And they could form a union and become the EU, actually.

(LAUGHTER)

TYSON: And so - but in terms of intelligent life, that's a whole other thing. Intelligent life can't be all that common because it's really rare on Earth and especially since we define ourselves to be intelligent. But in the eyes of an alien coming here who has the technology to make it here, they might observe us and conclude that there's no sign of intelligent life on Earth.

HOBSON: Neil deGrasse Tyson, before we let you go, I want to ask you just about something else that you do, which is you're very big on Twitter. You have a huge following. You're very...

TYSON: Crazy. I don't even understand it. I don't want to remind people to - guys, you know, I'm an astrophysicist. Do you realize this?

HOBSON: Well, but let me just read you a couple of your tweets. On October 26, you tweeted: I love the smell of the universe in the morning. You tweeted on January 5: If Noah's flood carved the Grand Canyon 4,400 years ago, then it nicely exposed rocks at the bottom laid 2 billion years earlier. And because we are up to daylight savings time, you tweeted last time we made the change: What would aliens say when told earthlings shift clocks twice a year to fool themselves into thinking there's more sunlight?

Neil deGrasse Tyson, in the 30 seconds we have left, your thoughts on your tweets.

TYSON: Yeah. You know, I'd like - inviting aliens and have them observe what we do because so much of what we do that we take for granted will just be weird or extraordinary or just plain dumb when observed by an alien from another civilization. So every now and then, I throw in a what would an alien think of our conduct. And so I tweet just my thoughts. I have these thoughts every day. It's what the world looks like through my lens as an educator and as a scientist. And so I don't tweet where I am or what I'm having for breakfast. They're just random stuff that floats in my head and then lands on the page.

HOBSON: Well, and they're great to read. Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose show "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" will debut this Sunday night on Fox, thanks so much for joining us.

TYSON: Thanks for having me.

HOBSON: From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

I'm Robin Young. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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  • aknman49

    Am I the only one struck by the supreme irony of having a science and exploration series aired on Fox, the network dedicated to climate denial, promotion of creationism and nutty pundits mired in 5th-century mentality?

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      The thought had occurred to me, as well. I’m sure that Neil deGrasse Tyson will speak scientific truth, no matter what network he is on.

      • jonathanpulliam

        That’s odd that YOU would express concern about scientific truth, Neil, given your habitually irresponsible climate change alarmism. Isn’t this in fact what psychoanalysts have termed “projection”?

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          Jonathan, I agree with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson on anthropogenic climate change.

        • The_Truth_Seeker

          People who don’t understand the scientific principle (which has given us all that we have today) can’t criticize it. Go out and get a science book (written by real scientists), then read it.

    • jonathanpulliam

      So, you and your comrade Blanchard much prefer an incestuous state-sponsored science gulag where empiricism is flogged in the public square.

      • The_Truth_Seeker

        WHaaat???!! Stay off the acid.

    • tmo

      You are confusing Fox News Channel and the Fox Network. they are separate entities.

  • ImaTaxpayer2

    I respect and appreciate Neil deGrasse Tyson very much but Fox? Really? When he said this program was going to air on Fox did he mean air or err?

    • Larry Slosberg

      What better place to bring an amazing series about science than to an audience that would otherwise not be exposed to it. When the original series was on PBS is was kind of like preaching to the choir. Now, maybe there is a chance that more people will be inspired by the series! Go Neil and Ann. And thank you to Seth for making this possible.

      • sadoul1

        My thoughts exactly. I just hope Fox doesn’t end up cancelling it prematurely like they do with all the shows I’ve loved. Like Firefly and Sarah Connor Chronicles. Maybe those insane creationists will finally shut up after seeing some real science. I doubt it, but one can always hope. It floors me that people think Fox is a relevant and reliable source of anything. Finally Cosmos will be the one true saving grace.

        • aknman49

          OMG! Another Firefly fan!
          *thumbs up*

      • jonathanpulliam

        That’s some high-grade sucking up there, Larr– why I bet they’ll have their people set something up with your people for sure, maybe you could arrange some sort of awards ceremony.

      • Jane Fox

        Excellent point Larry, excellent.

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      Risky move and still hate all the stupid commercials. They should only accept advertisers that have something to do with scientific research and/or education.

  • John Lawson

    The sad existence of an atheist is best summed up in this quote; “…life has no higher purpose than to perpetuate the survival of DNA…life has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” Dawkins

    For all my interest in scientific inquiry, it has never led to a crisis of faith. It was my thirst for knowledge that led to my finding the person of Jesus Christ.

    An ancient universe and Earth (including big bang cosmology) pose no threat to Christian orthodoxy, but rather may be considered plausible interpretations, even literal interpretations, of the biblical text. The question of age is not a crucial doctrinal issue. Key doctrines of the Bible are not affected by either interpretation.

    Not everything is just matter in motion. Both matter and mind are fundamental and equally real. Why is it inconceivable that there might exist an ultimate Mind?

    God by purpose and intentional design is invisible to the natural eye and inaudible to the natural ear. The existential nature of personal revelation of God can only be individually experienced. Man is a spiritual being in a corporeal body.

    In the realm of scientism, everything must have a cause, and yet those who scoff at the notion of a Prime Mover suggest that the origin of all matter and everything that exists in the universe did not have a first cause.

    • DyslexicDNA

      “The sad existence of an atheist…”

      Given the condescension in your statement, it could just as accurately be stated that you prefer wishful thinking to reality.

      “For all my interest in scientific inquiry, it has never led to a crisis of faith”

      Then I can only assume you exempt a significant portion of religious faith from rational inquiry.

      “God by purpose and intentional design is invisible to the natural eye and inaudible to the natural ear”

      I agree. The concept of god was designed this way by humans. It helps get around that pesky burden of proof.

      “yet those who scoff at the notion of a Prime Mover suggest that the origin of all matter and everything that exists in the universe did not have a first cause.”

      This is a variant of the silly ‘atheists think everything came from nothing’ (which, if you read the bible, is actually what Christianity claims). You would first need to demonstrate there ever was ‘nothing’. All that we can honestly state, given the available evidence, is that the universe began to exist in its present form at the big bang. Before that is essentially nothing more than speculation. And the prime mover argument, like all the logical arguments for god, doesn’t do anything for Christianity.

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      How about dinosaurs living with humans? How about something called “facts”? You don’t care about – verifiable – facts, as opposed to unverifiable myths?

      Would you trust your care to a doctor trained in 2000 year old medical practices, or to a priest who will pray over your body? I don’t think so. I think you will trust an atheist doctor any day, over the above choices. Religion and science don’t mix, they can’t mix, they are founded on completely different goals. One is to find out what’s out there (and if there are other life forms that don’t believe in “Jesus”, and the other to slavishly adhere to 2000 year old superstitions, ignorance and myths.

  • justin sayin

    The centuries of yore needed God desperately to one, soothe the savage beast in man and teach him right from wrong and stabilize civilization and two, try to make sense of life on earth to give us something to cling to and help us survive. As science evolved it gained respect to explain our existence, but because we may never have all the answers God will remain an enigma and a label to go hand and hand with science as the search for the truth continues .

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      The religious have NO INTEREST in getting the facts, or in having to prove anything! Didn’t you follow the program and its discussion of the inquisition?

      • justin sayin

        While the inquisition was a horrendous time it ended in 1834. Today 40% of scientists believe in God. Didn’t you read Francis Collins ?!

        • The_Truth_Seeker

          None of them believe in anything “literal” in the Bible. And within 20-30 years there will be very few scientists who still believe in religion as useful for anything. In fact, only about 1/3 young people under the age of 35 are religious. That number will continue to go down (probably by 1% year). The inquisition should never be forgotten and neither should priest abuse of children. The religious community has had a terrible record with regards to tolerance for anything (especially new ideas) and that probably will never change. By the way, how many names of religious inquisitors do people remember? They sure remember names like Copernicus, Galileo and Newton though! Bottom line: If you want to be remembered for having done something beneficial for society, you had better become a scientist rather than a religious zealot. I really don’t understand Collins, but he is an older scientist and I don’t think represents most scientists under the age of 40. Religion and science are just plain incompatible. Being “spiritual” and a scientist is less problematic because spirituality is a more amorphous sentiment and doesn’t rely on believing in a deity. You can just believe that there may be scientific mysteries that will always exist, but these ideas should never be relied on for describing the universe. Scientific “ideas” have to always be verifiable, falsifiable and reproducible. Religious beliefs are never subject to tests or comparisons with observable reality. That’s why people believed the earth was flat and the center of the universe. Made people feel good, but unfortunately, was total crap with respect to reality!

          • justin sayin

            You were working up a good head of steam and laying out a good case till you dropped the “crap” bomb which diminished your argument like pricking a balloon. Your anti-Christ rant is merely an extreme opposite to that of a religious zealot. Both are wrong in dismissing each others positions and for pushing their positions to the extreme. Though you can’t dismiss the scandals the church was involved in currently it still overall represents a quality of philosophical goodness one must aspire to. Science of course will present facts but religion will remain a guide to morality. … Maybe in a thousand reincarnations from now we will be witness to what started it all, if indeed there was a beginning, but till then you have no proof that something never existed, doesn’t exist and had no worth for what it has brought us today .

          • The_Truth_Seeker

            People believe in all kinds of things – doesn’t make any of things true. How many different religions are there. There are a billion Muslims who don’t believe in the things Christians believe in. Most of all the wars were started by those of differing religion, not by atheists. So, “a quality of philosophical goodness one must aspire to”? Well, then, I guess “keep aspiring”. I’m already there and have been for over 50 years. I don’t believe in war or violence of any kind and believe that even animals have rights. My conscience is pretty clear.

          • Platypus

            Except that the myth based supernatural superstitions that form the foundations of religions are actually really wrong and permanently so while science is not wrong or at most only temporarily so because unlike religion it is self correcting. So you can file away your false equivalency with the other misconceptions that you seem to hold so dear: e.g. religion as a “guide to morality”. Which part of religion might that be, the one that encourages smiting of idolaters? Condones slavery? Vilifies women? Ordains mutilating the genitalia of infants?

            Once you have cherry picked the ethical from the criminal -which abounds in scripture of all stripes, then you’re left with common sense concepts e.g. the golden rule which appear to be present in societies quite remote from and oblivious to, lawd have mersah, Geezas.

            Even our primate cousins with which we share a common ancestor seem to have some vestigial notion of it. Oh wait, i forgot, that’s because your god instilled it in them directly.

          • justin sayin

            The word of God ( for which extra terrestrials can’t be discounted ) left to man’s fallible inclinations strayed from the basic tenets in the origin of religions. They all attempted to create a framework of love and peace and rules to follow but unfortunately branched off and destroyed the very purposes for which they were intended. One religion is beginning to correct itself, led by a new Pope who has the right ideas. Another great religion, Islam has a way to go to corral the militants who have misinterpreted it. Today, we have the knowledge of their intent. Science is teaching us the way to the stars and beyond just as religion carried us at it’s inception and let our imaginations try to solve the mysteries of life. As we forge ahead and discover new worlds there will be a need for our corrected moral compass to treat each other with respect which will make our travels through the unknown much easier as our perpetual search for answers continues .

  • The_Truth_Seeker

    How could they have a commercial for “Noah” during this show???!!

    • InvisibleWan

      At least it wasn’t “Noah”, the documentary.

      • The_Truth_Seeker

        Or “Noah”, hosted by Neil Tyson

  • Michael Difani

    Dr. Tyson said recently that if NASA and the Pentagon find out about a top secret memo by the Chinese military and leadership in Beijing to put a military base on planet Mars by 2030, we can be sure that will find the will, a crew and the bucks to beat them to it…not a one way trip, folks. Beating the Russians to the moon drove NASA to it in July, 1969.

  • loyal listener

    Anybody else think this Tyson guy is a way over rated? I don’t understand the cult worshiping of him.

    • scott

      I second that… Every time I see him as a guest on a talk show I ask myself the same question.
      Personality of a wet noodle.
      He never actually ever says…anything…

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