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Embrace Your Ignorance: An Interview With Neil deGrasse Tyson

We talk to our favorite astrophysicist about the crazy new particle, and other stuff.

Remember when I freaked out over how awesome outer space is and declared it Literally the Best Thing Ever? Well, Neil deGrasse Tyson spends his whole life talking about how cool space is. He is an astrophysicist, a writer of many books, an excellent Twitterer, and an unofficial spokesperson for the universe. He’s even had an asteroid named in his honor. Do you have an asteroid named after you? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

On July 4th, scientists in Switzerland discovered the “Higgs boson,” which is apparently some sort of extremely important particle. I didn’t completely understand it, but I figured if there was one person who could help me understand Higgs it was Neil deGrasse Tyson. So I called him up to learn more about the amazing Higgs boson discovery and to talk about extremely intelligent aliens, accepting the unknown, and why dark matter makes me feel terrified.

HAZEL: So, how are you feeling about the discovery?

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Well, part of me, a secret part of me, wanted it to not be there at all.

Oh, why?

Because then you’d have to completely rethink all the ideas that led to its discovery. It would have opened up all new pathways of thought.

In the history of science, there are three kinds of discoveries you can make. One of them is what you expected to be there—confirming your understanding of nature. Another one is, you don’t find what you expect to be there, so you have to go back and rethink everything. And sometimes when you’re forced to go back and rethink things you end up making discoveries you had not previously anticipated. The third kind of discovery is discovering something you didn’t expect at all. Like, who ordered that? [Laughs] The [Higgs discovery] is something we all kind of expected to be there. It’s there, it’s confirmed, and certainly worth a bottle of champagne. But it doesn’t really bring a new understanding of physics; it confirms our prevailing understanding of physics. And that’s a good thing, but sometimes when things go as you don’t expect them, major advances occur.

For example, there is a very famous experiment called the Michelson–Morley experiment, where they went to measure the speed of light in different directions as Earth went around the sun. They expected the speed to be different depending on which way Earth was moving, and it wasn’t! It was exactly the same number in every direction they moved. That became the foundation of relativity, because relativity has as one of its tenets that the speed of light is constant no matter how you’re moving. The fact that they didn’t get what they expected led to an entirely different new discovery.

So the Higgs discovery is an amazing discovery, but what would have been more amazing is if it wasn’t there at all.

Can you explain to me what the Higgs boson is, in the simplest terms?

It’s a kind of particle that creates a field. Other particles move through that field, and as they do, the field gives them their mass. Without the Higgs, nothing would have mass in the universe; and everything would be traveling at the speed of light, since all massless particles, like light, travel at the speed of light. So it’s a very powerful particle, and that’s why everyone was so excited about it.

By analogy—and I don’t take credit for this—think of a party in Los Angeles. You walk in and nobody knows who you are. So you can walk in and out of that party without any resistance at all, because nobody’s going to be hanging around you. But the more famous the person, the more people will recognize them as they walk into the party. Then other people will crowd around them and interfere with how fast they can move. So the most famous people that walk in can barely move at all. The Higgs field is just like what goes on at an L.A. party: some particles have high mass and some particles have low mass. More-famous people have more “party mass.”

How exactly did they discover the Higgs boson?

Any time you build an accelerator that can create pockets of energy higher than anyone has created before, you’re going to discover something. It’s not conceptually different from the days of the great explorers of the 15th century. They go where the maps haven’t been drawn yet, so they’re going to discover something. The accelerator in Switzerland, CERN, probed matter at higher energies than ever before.

I heard that the Higgs can help explain what “dark matter” is. What is dark matter?

Five sixths of all the gravity we measure in the universe has no known origin. It’s a mystery. We can track the black holes, the gas clouds, the planets and stars, and all the atoms. When we do, it accounts for one sixth of all the gravity in the cosmos. We don’t know what’s causing the rest of the gravity, so we’re calling it “dark matter.” But we don’t even know if it’s matter—that’s just a placeholder term. And then there’s another mystery: a pressure in the vacuum of space that’s operating against the wishes of gravity and making the universe accelerate in its expansion—we call that “dark energy.” But we don’t even know if it’s energy. We don’t know what it is. If you add up dark matter and dark energy, it comes to 96 percent of everything that drives the universe.

That’s so scary!

It is completely spooky scary. If you look at a pie chart of what we know and understand in the universe, it’s a four percent slice of the pie. That other 96 percent is completely mysterious to us.

So any time you make a discovery in physics, you hope that it’ll help you understand other things that you don’t understand. The solution to one standing problem provides the solution to other longstanding problems that you thought were disconnected.

Can the Higgs particle directly define dark matter?

It’s a start. The fact that it gives mass to things is useful. If there’s some kind of particle that it’s giving mass to that we can’t otherwise measure in our normal way, maybe that’s insight into dark matter. It’s more a hope that it will help us understand dark matter than an expectation.

Can Higgs help determine if there are other dimensions or parallel universes?

That I don’t know. I don’t think so. String theory requires other dimensions and other sorts of understandings of cosmology, but all the experiments [regarding other dimensions] are being conducted in our dimension! [Laughs] There is not some portal to a parallel universe going on in Switzerland—you can rest peacefully knowing that.

But the people who like taking you to higher dimensions are doing a very natural thing. They’re saying, “Who is to say that reality is limited to three spacial dimensions?”

Consider this example: When we built telescopes, starting from Gallileo onwards, the telescopes were really extensions of our eyes. They enabled us to see things farther away and brighter and better. So we said, OK, that’s the universe. Well, consider the bias that that represents. It’s so biased that we didn’t even know to ask if there were other kinds of light out there that were not visible. It would not be until the late 1800s or the early 1900s that we said, wait a minute—there’s some other kind of light out there that’s below the red part of the rainbow, the red part of the spectrum. We can’t see it with the eye, but it’s there, so let’s name it: infrared. As you continue to flesh out the spectrum you find other bands, like radio waves and microwaves. It wasn’t until the 20th century that we could observe the universe in bands that the human eye can’t see. Without these other bands, we’re practically blind. Except we don’t know that we’re blind, because we didn’t even know there was another way to think about the universe.

So to imagine higher dimensions is a very natural thing to do. Just because your senses have their own way to measure the world doesn’t mean the actual world can be plumbed with those senses.

I wrote an article in March about how space is really awesome. I mentioned that the Kepler spaceship has spotted potential planets that might be habitable. Do you think there are life forms as developed as humans living on those planets?

Well, that assumes that humans are some measure of development. It may be that we’re actually quite primitive compared to other species out there.

That’s true.

In fact, you could argue that the reason that we haven’t been visited is that [aliens] have already observed us and concluded there’s no sign of intelligent life here. I mean, if you have a spaceship that can cross the galaxy, you’re way smarter than us, because we have nothing that remotely approximates that. So why would we assume that we would be interesting enough that they would want to study us? That’s just humorous. How interested are you when you walk past a worm crawling on the ground? Do you ever say, “Hey, I wonder what that worm is thinking?” I’m sure you’ve never had that thought in your life. You might have even just stepped on the worm. So, imagine a species with that intelligence gap interacting with us. They could not come up with a stupid enough thought that could stoop as low as to fit inside of our brains. [Laughs] Just think about it!

What are the most common misconceptions that people have about space?

Number one is that they think the space shuttle and the space station are far away.

Are they actually close to us?

Oh, yeah. If you take Earth and shrink it down to the size of a schoolroom globe and you shrink everything else down to that scale, and then you ask: how far away is Mars? Mars would be about a mile away. How about the moon? Thirty feet away. How about the [NASA] space station’s space shuttle? Three eighths of an inch above the surface of the globe!

We’ve convinced ourselves that that’s space travel, but it’s not. It’s just above the surface. The atmosphere of the Earth is not much thicker than the shellac on that globe. The people they say go into space—they go 100 kilometers up, these space enthusiasts; they’re coming just above the shellac. You could drive from Earth’s surface to the height of the space shuttle’s orbit in four hours.

I honestly had no idea these things were so close. Now I feel stupid.

People will ask me, “When are you going into space?” And I say, “Give me someplace to go and we’ll revisit that conversation.” I’m destination driven. Take me somewhere.

So, I follow you on Twitter

Oh, thank you!

—and I saw your tweet about marketing science to girls and that ridiculous video that the EU made with that in mind. How do you think science could be better marketed to girls?

I think if real female scientists are interviewed, their enthusiasm will be manifested in the interview. It’ll just come across. If you look at the second video I tweeted about, the a cappella song group, they love their work!

What I like about that video is that they show that sometimes they don’t always get a result and it takes a long time to get things back. They’re honest about it! It’s not all flashy. One of the lines, which is what all of us feel, is “I don’t care what income my work brings.” So many students go to college to get a job that pays a lot of money, and they’re linking their happiness to their money, not to their actual profession. When people say to me, “Oh, when are you taking your vacation?” I say, “Vacation from what?” I’m on vacation when I’m doing my work!

I also think that you shouldn’t always presume that you need to have a woman be the role model for a girl. Because that presupposes that a woman had to have occupied a profession that you’re interested in before you could ever be interested in it. That’s actually limiting your possibilities rather than expanding them. If you require a role model who is your gender, you will never enter a field where there aren’t any women. I think we’re far enough along with girls that they can see a male scientist who loves his work and not say, Oh he’s a man—I can’t do that. They’ll say, Oh, he loves what he does, and I want to do that too.

When I grew up I assembled my role models à la cart. I wanted to be an astrophysicist. If I tried to find a role model who grew up in the Bronx with my skin color who was an astrophysicist, I would never have become an astrophysicist.

The recipe for success overlaps from one profession to the other. It’s hard work and determination and focus. That’s true no matter the profession. So your role model can be anything.

Why is science so dominated by men?

That’s not true in the biological sciences. For example, the number of women in college majoring in biology might be 50 percent by now. Veterinary medicine is almost 100 percent women. So there are science fields where women are not underrepresented. I’m old enough to remember that there used to be no female medical doctors, ever. Not on sitcoms, not on dramas, not in movies, nowhere. Now, women are probably half of all doctors. It’s true that women are still underrepresented in the deep physical sciences, like physics and astrophysics.

All of this is not to deny that there are issues in the workplace, but that happens in every workplace. There’s always that shithead guy. [Laughs] There is! We know these people—we saw them in high school and they just become adults, right? They don’t typically change. There are a lot of people thinking about this [gender inequity] problem, and there’s still more progress to be made.

Do you ever get really overwhelmed by the universe? How do you cope with not knowing everything about it?

The not knowing is the actual attraction of it. So many people only want answers. To be a scientist you have to learn to love the questions. You’ll learn that some of the greatest mysteries of the universe remain unanswered, and that’s the fun part. That’s the part that gets you awake in the morning and running to the office, because there’s a problem awaiting your attention that you might just solve that day. You have to embrace the unknown and embrace your own ignorance.

So I don’t get overwhelmed, because I don’t think about what I don’t know as oppressive to me. If you think of it as oppressive, or if you have a measure of your ego that’s larger than nature provides for you, then it’s possible that you could end up quite depressed, seeing how small we are on Earth, [orbiting] around an ordinary star in an undistinguished corner of our galaxy between a hundred billion other galaxies. That’s upsetting to some people, because it destabilizes their sense of self-worth. I would assert that it’s not inherently destabilizing to learn this—it’s only destabilizing if you walked into the room with an unjustifiably high ego to begin with. If you come in with a humble enough ego, all of this is kind of enlightening instead of depressing.

I think whenever people finish their formal education, they say, “I’m done learning!” And then they want to make money off of what they have learned. Many people willingly stop the growth of their own minds! Nobody else forced that; they said they were done learning and they didn’t buy any more books or make discoveries or turn over the rock or see what’s beyond the valley. But fortunately there are enough people in society who continue to do those things—and those are the folks that shake the world. ♦

67 Comments

  • isobele July 9th, 2012 7:17 PM

    This is so interesting! And its true. When I was in school I really enjoyed chemistry, and was actually not that bad at it, but now im older I feel a bit intimidated by maths and sciences because theyre so male dominated. Its the same with sports, I used to do quite a lot of different sports when I was younger, but I think that when girls reach puberty a lot of them feel embarassed to continue doing it.

    http://seesusiebean.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Tyknos93 July 9th, 2012 7:23 PM

    OMG NOWAY NOWAYNOWAYNOWAY. shut up!
    You have Neil DeGrasse Tyson on here!!!!!
    Aaaaaaah
    This man is revered like a God in my mind, but he’s agnostic so he probably won’t even care, but ahh he’s so awesome and this post is really incoherent.

    He’s one of the reasons I’m majoring in astrophysics :)

    Thank you!

    http://blazoningpens.blogspot.com/

  • katrinaexplainsitall July 9th, 2012 7:28 PM

    THIS GUY IS AMAZING OHYMGOD. I love how you guys talked about the women and STEM careers issue. Rookie always interviews the greatest people. n_n

    http://www.katrinaspice.blogspot.com

  • GoudaLuv July 9th, 2012 7:29 PM

    BEST ROOKIE ARTICLE EVERRRRRRRRRRR

  • Devyn July 9th, 2012 7:33 PM

    WOW. I have been a longtime Rookie lurker but have just now registered to comment on how AMAZING I think this interview to be! Tyson appears incredibly knowledgable but also *relatable* and made big concepts understandable and intriguing the whole way through. I’m typically a more literature/arts/etc kind of person but I’ve always found outer space to be so fascinating yet terribly daunting – and I guess that’s how all scientists must look at it! And what great perspective – 96% of the universe is unknown. After reading this, that fact seems to me more exciting than sad. I am just freaking in love with this post, thanks Rookie! Now I’m gonna look up some more on the Higgs boson…

  • AmyR July 9th, 2012 7:47 PM

    AH! THIS IS SO RAD! What a beautiful melding of two of my favorite things! (NEIL and ROOKIE)

  • Ben July 9th, 2012 7:53 PM

    At outdoor school this year we learned about space and it’s massivness and I felt the size of a bacteria afterwrards like a unicellular organism.

  • Blythe July 9th, 2012 8:00 PM

    The problem with the whole “get more women into hard sciences” thing is then my teachers are like, “BLYTHE YOU ARE GOOD AT MATH AND SCIENCE SO PURSUE A CAREER IN THAT.” And then I say, “Sorry to not be a groundbreaking feminist, but I want to be a writer and make money teaching or something.”
    I also have considered being a genetic counselor, so that’s something?

    • Tyknos93 July 9th, 2012 9:21 PM

      I get that so much. I got into a really great liberal arts school, because I wanted a career in Communications and Journalism. However, I’m finding myself drifting more toward math and sciences.
      Most people change majors at least twice, and alot of people end up with degrees that have nothing to do with their chosen profession. I think you just try a little of everything and then you’ll have a better idea.

      http://blazoningpens.blogspot.com/

    • stirwise July 9th, 2012 11:20 PM

      I wanted to write (with an eye to teaching) when I started college, but pretty quickly I realized I was destined for science. Every semester, when I’d sift through the course catalog, all I wanted to take were science classes. You will find your calling, or it will find you, whether it’s writing or genetic counseling or teaching or math or space monsters or whatever.

  • molly mazahs July 9th, 2012 8:02 PM

    yay! I love Neil deGrasse Tyson, he’s so cool!!

  • borgie July 9th, 2012 8:06 PM

    OMG OMG OMG I FREAKED OUT WHEN I SAW HIS FACE ON THE HOMEPAGE I LOVE HIM! I’ll quit shouting now, but I am just so excite that you have him on here! God, I adore the man!

  • Helenus July 9th, 2012 8:49 PM

    HOLY FUCK. IS THIS REAL LIFE?!?!?!?!

    Greatest Rookie post ever.

  • stirwise July 9th, 2012 8:52 PM

    W00t! NdGT FTW!
    One note: as a biologically curious person by nature, I’d like to point out that I have wondered what the worm is thinking. I also point out interesting bugs for my dog to sniff and help snails cross the sidewalk. Sometimes the microverse is even more interesting than the universe. Just sayin’.

  • Maggie July 9th, 2012 8:58 PM

    “It is completely spooky scary”
    Star-gazing makes me shudder, I’m so spooked and awed by space! This interview was superb

  • Summer July 9th, 2012 9:13 PM

    I think this is my favourite Rookie interview yet!

  • marimba_girl July 9th, 2012 9:14 PM

    YES!!! What a great article, science is completely and totally awesome, there should be a section of Rookie devoted to geeky science articles, because science is legit. That is all.

  • Katherine July 9th, 2012 9:16 PM

    Thanks so, so much for this article. Now I don’t have to pretend to know what all this hype is about.

  • a reticent observer July 9th, 2012 9:20 PM

    “Hey, I wonder what that worm is thinking?”

    I do this … :)

    • Kathryn July 9th, 2012 9:36 PM

      So do I, all the time! That’s exactly what I was thinking. haha.
      I would be the Ariel of the alien world, wanting to be ~~one of them~~~ and collecting gadgets and gizmos a plenty related to HUMANZ.

  • Miss Erin July 9th, 2012 9:25 PM

    This is so excellent. Thanks, Rookie.

  • AliceinWonderland July 9th, 2012 9:27 PM

    Just when I thought Rookie couldn’t get any radder, they conduct an interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson. Freaking. Incredible.

  • Kathryn July 9th, 2012 9:34 PM

    THIS IS SO GREAT!! I love Rookie articles about science and stuff like that, because I always find this stuff so interesting but all I learn about in school is about like the periodic table and RNA the dissection of squids.

    You’d be hard-pressed to find stuff like this in mainstream printed teen girl magazines!

    • stirwise July 9th, 2012 11:17 PM

      But RNA is SO COOOOOOOOL!

      • Kathryn July 9th, 2012 11:30 PM

        BUT WHAT EVEN IS IT? My biology teacher was not very good last year. hahah
        Something with… transcribing energy? gahhh

        • Shanman July 10th, 2012 1:11 AM

          RNA is like DNA but it is single stranded and one of the 4 nucleic acids is different (the building blocks of dna/rna). cell structures “unzip” DNA and make a complementary strand of RNA. The The RNA strand goes through ribosomes which attach complementary amino acids (protein building blogs). The amino acid chain folds into a protein, which are used for all sorts of things. sorry i realize probably nobody really cares but its summer and im a biology major and im super bored.

        • stirwise July 11th, 2012 6:11 PM

          RNA’s major job is turning the information in your DNA into proteins. It’s especially interesting as a snapshot of what your cells are making right now. Every cell in your body has the same DNA, but they all have different RNA, depending on their job. Also, a variation called siRNA binds to DNA to prevent it from being transcribed into proteins (called “silencing”), which further regulates your cells’ activities. There’s a lot of evidence that cellular problems like cancer can be partially attributed to malfunctioning siRNA, either silencing what shouldn’t be silenced or not silencing what it should. DNA is kind of interesting as a giant pile of information about everything a cell is capable of. RNA provides more nuanced insight into the life of a cell. (Proteins are pretty damn cool, too.)

  • willow July 9th, 2012 10:00 PM

    I LOVE HIM SO MUCH GAHH

  • Meriel July 9th, 2012 10:12 PM

    I was so glad to come home and see this article, because earlier today I was trying to figure out what the hell a boson particle was and Wikipedia doesn’t give it to you in the simplest terms! Thanks Neil

  • llamagesicht July 9th, 2012 10:14 PM

    This article was a good idea.

  • decemberbaby July 9th, 2012 10:29 PM

    Awesome guy, awesome interview — thank you so so so so much for getting him to be on Rookie!

  • GlitterKitty July 9th, 2012 10:46 PM

    This is aaaaaamazing!!! I got so over-excited when we did the space/intro to physics unit in science class a few months ago. I read all the newspaper articles this past week on the Higgs Boson particle too. This is so great. Neil is awesome.

  • Marie July 9th, 2012 11:26 PM

    This makes me so happy!

  • darksideoftherainbow July 9th, 2012 11:29 PM

    my eyes watered at how smart he is. it so amazing to me to read interview of someone who really knows their stuff. thank you so much for doing this, rookie & the great neil degrasse tyson!!

  • Laia July 9th, 2012 11:33 PM

    <3<3<3<3NEIL!!!!!!!!!<3<3<3<3

  • Adrienne July 10th, 2012 12:06 AM

    THIS IS SO AMAZING. I’m really interested in astronomy and physics. Plus, before, I was really confused as to what the Higgs Boson is, but now, it’s all cleared up for me! This man is super super smart.. now I’m going to follow him on twitter.

    http://theaverageasiangirl.blogspot.com

  • marypee22 July 10th, 2012 12:11 AM

    this was interesting although having just failed chemistry i feel awkward :’(

  • Mags July 10th, 2012 12:20 AM

    This is amazing! Please, please, please have more articles about space. I freaking love space.

  • Shanman July 10th, 2012 12:58 AM

    What a great dude. I really love that second to last paragraph. I used to get depressed with existential anxiety until i started watching carl sagan’s “the cosmos”. I’m really glad Tyson spreads his enthusiasm for science :) Also, I’m really glad that a magazine for teenage girls is publishing something like this. society is getting better.

    http://whodafuckknows.blogspot.com/

  • Chicspace July 10th, 2012 1:00 AM

    So glad you interviewed Neil! He’s amazing.

    Say, if you’re interested in stopping by a certain NASA center in LA while you’re down here (real soon, now that I think about it), ping me :) NASA scientists read Rookie, too.

  • Tara July 10th, 2012 2:51 AM

    HE IS WONDERFUL. how did I not know of him until now? space is fantastic and the way he talks about it is comprehensive and interesting and I just love everything about this. perfect interview. hazel, you rule, and neil deGrasse Tyson I want to be your best friend.

  • MinaM8 July 10th, 2012 3:37 AM

    wow!!! this was one of the most interesting interviews yet.

  • julalondon July 10th, 2012 4:33 AM

    Wow he really is an interesting person!!!

  • eliza dolittle July 10th, 2012 5:31 AM

    Oh man this was awesome, higging (UNINTENTIONALLY HILARIOUS TYPO. puns <3) y'all so hard with my mind.

    I'm so glad he's a bit disappointed by the discovery too! Humanity always discovers the coolest things when we're forced to think about reality in ways that hurt our brains and the Higg's Boson, whilst wonderful, kinda limits our expansion in that field. And since I'm doing quantum mechanics and high energy particle physics this year it makes me sad. But also happy. At least I get to work with lasers :D

  • Shophopper July 10th, 2012 8:54 AM

    I only discovered physics is actually incredibly interesting after graduating high school. If only I had a teacher like Neil, I’m sure I would have been a lot more motivated. Seriously though, I love you guys for writing stuff like this. Neil states that science isn’t about the answers, it’s about the questions. Similarly I would argue that teen magazines aren’t necessarily defined by the answers they provide teenage girls (shady as they sometimes are), but by the questions and issues they raise. You’re doing such a great job widening the horizon and shifting the discussion. Keep it up!

  • AClementine July 10th, 2012 9:13 AM

    YES! NEIL deGRASSE TYSON ROCKS!
    I kinda wish I could do physics if I wasn’t so crap at maths :(

  • Mona V July 10th, 2012 9:30 AM

    Thank you so much for this great interview! I’m obsessed about outer space too.

    xoxo
    Mona

  • Kasha July 10th, 2012 10:03 AM

    Wow, this is an amazing interview!! What an awesome dude. I would definitely be interested in more science articles on Rookie, just sayin’ :)

  • Abby July 10th, 2012 11:43 AM

    I just have to say, that I loved the article too, but that cappella group was Literally The Best Thing Ever.

  • Toria Crux July 10th, 2012 12:56 PM

    I think everyone should check out this website. They
    have an article about how stupid that one science video is. And a lot about corsets… :) http://www.mookychick.co.uk/

  • Abi July 10th, 2012 12:58 PM

    “I figured if there was one person who could help me understand Higgs it was Neil deGrasse Tyson. So I called him ”

    HAHAHA. I love this, it’s great!

  • Mariana July 10th, 2012 1:13 PM

    I am THRILLED you guys did this interview! I love NdGT so much!!! Finally, a teen mag that actually does cool things! Also, I’m starting college in the fall and am planning to go into science, so thank you for providing for the girls out there who enjoy this stuff (I also enjoy, you know, the fashion, feminism, and playlists on this site too).

  • Mariana July 10th, 2012 1:19 PM

    Oh also, Mr. Tyson does have a point about role models in the science field, but a woman I particularly look up to is the inimitable Vi Hart on YouTube. She makes cute yet complex math doodles that get anyone fascinated about Zeno’s paradox or fractals.

  • RhiaSnape July 10th, 2012 1:55 PM

    This was so interesting! I’m not that into, science purely because it confuses me, but the whole idea of space and how infinite it seems to be and our lack of knowledge really mysitifies me.
    How did this amazing guy make all of this stuff so intriguing? Honestly was quite miffed..

  • LittleMoon July 10th, 2012 3:12 PM

    Rookie is so amazing!

  • Erin Lady July 10th, 2012 3:53 PM

    Neil deGrasse Tyson is amazing. I love that he makes really complex scientific principles accessible to anyone, he’s completely inspiring in how well he can communicate that stuff.

  • Alli July 11th, 2012 12:20 PM

    This was such a wonderful interview, Hazel! As an aspiring scientist, I definitely think getting more women feeling welcome and interested in scientific fields is a major priority. I really love what Neil said about not necessarily relying on a female role model- while it would be great, it shouldn’t define what you want to do. There are a lot of people I have encountered who try to be role models for science but they dumbing themselves down in the process and making science seem cutesy and fun and it ends up a mess. (e.g. the awful EU video) I have competed with my school’s Science Olympiad team at Nationals for the past couple of years, and I do feel like women and minority races were underrepresented (but still present)- I was the only white female on my team. There was an ambassador team from Saitama, Japan this year, and there was only one girl on their team. I do feel like it’s getting better though, as I have seen some inter-city teams start to compete at the regional level and they were probably the most enthusiastic out of anyone, they just need the exposure. At nationals they showed some videos that were great and very positive about getting all people involved in science (there was an autotuned one with Niel that was amazing), and it’s great to know that they (along with positive influences like Rookie! :D ) exist.

  • Caoimhe C. July 11th, 2012 3:21 PM

    My friend who’s super into physics tried multiple times to explain the ‘Higgs boson’ to me and now not only do I understand it but I think I could probably whoop his ass at explaining it.

  • Chimdi July 11th, 2012 9:59 PM

    omg.
    yay

  • lua July 12th, 2012 2:00 AM

    carl sagan made this interview happen <3:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeqrN3Bfro8&fb_source=message

  • necroticbird July 12th, 2012 5:19 PM

    “The not knowing is the actual attraction of it. So many people only want answers. To be a scientist you have to learn to love the questions. You’ll learn that some of the greatest mysteries of the universe remain unanswered, and that’s the fun part.”

    what an excellent interview! Neil deGrasse Tyson is the MAN and it is so inspiring to read about his thoughts and understandings. Thank you!!

  • TropicanaLuxx July 13th, 2012 3:29 PM

    Good Lord, this man is awesome. Just blew my mind

  • Paloma Rane July 13th, 2012 6:52 PM

    He is amazing!

  • Candysays July 15th, 2012 2:32 PM

    Me and my sister were on a boat in the Baltic when we heard they discovered it. We’d been hearing about it from steven hawking and we were soooo excited when we heard it was true.

  • artobsessed July 17th, 2012 12:19 AM

    I don’t get why someone has to be singing to help women understand a subject. It personally made it really hard to understand, like I wanted to snap my fingers instead of concentrate. When I muted the video, I actually understood the concept. MAYBE I’M SECRETLY A MAN?!

  • Eliza July 17th, 2012 4:52 AM

    Hey! He had made a guest appearance on Big Bang Theory! So, cool! Apparently, he was responsible for demotion of Pluto from planetary status. Sheldon was NOT impressed.

  • MsS July 30th, 2012 6:34 AM

    Great interview, with a great person who is wonderful role model for all humans! 

    Another great role model who you might be interested in talking to is Salman Khan from the Khan Acadamy. “Sal” created a free online tutoring website to help his nieces and nephews with their school work. The site features video mini lessons on a ton of topics, especially on high school math and science. It’s the perfect place to go to test your knowledge and to get help extending it.

    Thanks so much!!! :D