How Neil DeGrasse Tyson Would Save The World 10 Questions TIME




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[Music] we're here with dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson astrophysicist at Manhattan's American Museum of Natural History and host of PBS's Nova ScienceNOW four times ten questions Neil thanks for being with us today I'm ready for you what should be done about the fact that our kids leg woefully far behind children other countries in the areas of physics and mathematics you know my first reply is as a parent mmm-hmm get out of their way when you're kid you're born a scientist what does a scientist do we look up a set I wonder what that is let me go find out right let me poke it let me break it let me hear it let me turn it around this is what kids do mm-hmm you you can't let a kid alone for a minute without them laying waste to your house okay because they're grabbing stuff off the shelves and so what do we do we prevent that we prevent these depths of curiosity from revealing themselves even within our own residences and so I swore that when I had kids and I do have kids I get an 11 year old in a seven but when they were young and still today mm-hmm if they see something they want to experiment with even if they might break it I just let it go let the experiment run its course because therein are the souls of is the soul of curiosity that leads to the kind of mind you would want as a scientist so you talk about events that can cause the end of the world does this knowledge keep you awake at night yes yes it might keep me awake in a different way than others there are many people who went faced with disaster impending disaster they say to themselves okay let me buy emergency food let me find the shelter to go to let me alert the let me okay when you're trained as a scientist or an engineer that's not the first thing you think of first thing you think of is how can I prevent the disaster right here comes the asteroid you're gonna like run away from it you're gonna say how can I figure out how to deflect it mm-hmm that's why you want scientists and engineers in your midst otherwise you just run it away from every possible disaster that could affect life on earth and what kind of life is that what is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the universe the most astounding fact the most astounding fact is the knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on Earth the atoms that make up the human body are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures these stars the high mass ones among them went unstable in their later years they collapsed and then exploded scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy guts made of carbon nitrogen oxygen and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself these ingredients become part of gas clouds that condense collapse form the next generation of solar systems stars with orbiting planets and those planets now have the ingredients for life itself so that when I look up at the night sky and I know that yes we are part of this universe we are in this universe but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the universe is in us when I reflect on that fact I look up many people feel small because they're smaller than the universe is big but I feel big because my atoms came from those stars if you could meet and talk with any scientist who has ever lived who would it be a new Isaac Newton why no question about it Isaac Newton the smartest person ever ever to walk the face of this earth you read his writings the man was can acted to the universe in spooky ways the most successful scientists in the history of the world are those who pose the right questions if I guess you have what temperature does the number seven melt what's the square root of a porkchop these are meaningless questions but many philosophers in relative but scientific design typically meaningless abandoned them go on to the next problem Newton his questions reached into the soul of the universe and he pulled out insights and wisdom that transformed our understanding of our place in the cosmos somebody said Ike why is it that planets orbit in the shape you call ellipses rather than circles why that shape and he says you know I I'll get back to you on that I'll get back to you goes away for a few months come back here's the answer here's the answer here's why gravity produces ellipses for orbits the guy said well how did you find figured out well I had to invent this new kind of mathematics to do it he invented calculus most of us went through it for multiple years in school just to learn it he invented it practically on a dare he discovered the laws of motion the laws of gravity the laws of optics then he turned 26 okay I'm with you and I own everything he's ever written most of what's written in his taught in his day mmm-hmm I communed through time as I read Isaac Newton transporting me into a time in a place where people were just figuring out how this universe worked and for me that's thrilling and humbling