When asked about which scientist he'd like to meet, Neil deGrasse Tyson said, "Isaac Newton. No question about it. The smartest person ever to walk the face of this earth. The man was connected to the universe in spooky ways. He discovered the laws of motion, the laws of gravity, the laws of optics. Then he turned 26.
Unlike what you may be told in other sectors of life, when observing the universe, size does matter, which often leads to polite ‘telescope envy’ at gatherings of amateur astronomers.
We live in the kind of society where, in almost all cases, hard work is rewarded.
The universe is almost 14 billion years old, and, wow! Life had no problem starting here on Earth! I think it would be inexcusably egocentric of us to suggest that we're alone in the universe.
The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.
You can't have people making decisions about the future of the world who are scientifically illiterate. That's a recipe for disaster. And I don't mean just whether a politician is scientifically literate, but people who vote politicians into office.
I think the greatest of people that have ever been in society, they were never versions of someone else. They were themselves.
To escape the throngs, we decided to see the new Neil Degrasse Tyson planetarium show, Dark Universe. It costs more than two movie tickets and is less than thirty minutes long, but still I want to go back and see it again, preferably as soon as possible. It was more visually stunning than any Hollywood special effect I’d ever seen, making our smallness as individuals both staggering and - strangely - rather comforting. Only five percent of the universe consists of ordinary matter, Neil tells us. That includes all matter - you, and me, and the body of Michael Brown, and Mork’s rainbow suspenders, and the letters I wrote all summer, and the air conditioner I put out on the curb on Christmas Day because I was tired of looking at it and being reminded of the person who had installed it, and my sad dying computer that sounds like a swarm of bees when it gets too hot, and the fields of Point Reyes, and this year’s blossoms which are dust now, and the drafts of my book, and Israeli tanks, and the untaxed cigarettes that Eric Garner sold, and my father’s ill-fitting leg brace that did not accomplish what he’d hoped for in terms of restoring mobility, and the Denver airport, and haunting sperm whales that sleep vertically, and the water they sleep in, and Mars and Jupiter and all of the stars we see and all of the ones we don’t. That’s all regular matter, just five percent. A quarter is “dark matter,” which is invisible and detectable only by gravitational pull, and a whopping 70 percent of the universe is made up of “dark energy,” described as a cosmic antigravity, as yet totally unknowable. It’s basically all mystery out there - all of it, with just this one sliver of knowable, livable, finite light and life. And did I mention the effects were really cool? After seeing something like that it’s hard to stay mad at anyone, even yourself.
To make any future that we dreamt up real requires creative scientists, engineers, and technologists to make it happen. If people are not within your midst who dream about tomorrow - with the capacity to bring tomorrow into the present - then the country might as well just recede back into the cave because that's where we're headed.
I think the greatest of people in society carved niches that represented the unique expression of their combinations of talents, and if everyone had the luxury of expressing the unique combinations of talents in this world, our society would be transformed overnight.