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About Neil deGrasse Tyson



Neil deGrasse Tyson (born 1958) is an American astrophysicist, planetary scientist, author, and science communicator. Tyson studied at Harvard University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Columbia University. From 1991 to 1994, he was a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University. Wikipedia

References:   Encyclopaedia Britannica

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Quotes by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson

  • The past is another planet.
  • People like death and mayhem.
  • No one is dumb who is curious.
  • You know, dark matter matters.
  • I don’t need my name anywhere.
  • It’s my duty to enlighten people.
  • Revelation replaced investigation.
  • What’s up with chicks and science?
  • Photography is a form of time travel.
  • Our nation is turning into an idiocracy.
  • We went to the moon and discovered Earth.
  • How much would you pay…for the Universe?
  • This universe knows about me and my crops.
  • We are only intelligent by our own measures
  • A scientist is just a kid who never grew up.
  • We need more science in the world. Train me.
  • The telescope… is a conduit to the cosmos.
  • I always wanted to be respected for my mind.
  • Thomas Jefferson basically secularized Jesus.
  • Some air you inhale was exhaled by Cleopatra.
  • All information is good, even when it is bad.
  • Enjoying science shouldn’t be rocket science.
  • Science reveals that all life on Earth is one.
  • If there’s a Devil, that mean’s there’s a God.
  • Facts are true whether or not you believe them.
  • Science is a fundamental part of our existence.
  • Intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance.
  • I love the smell of the universe in the morning.
  • We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.
  • I’m not hard to find. I’m all over the Internet.
  • Plenty of people get excited about the universe.
  • I can’t think that leaving Earth once is enough.
  • I don’t live life to be remembered for anything.
  • Everyone should have their mind blown once a day.
  • We are in the universe and the universe is in us.
  • If I’m looking fit and I’m not, then I’m cheating.
  • Not everyone is going to like science as a subject.
  • I have thoughts every day that are themselves tweets.
  • Words that make questions may not be questions at all.
  • Science is basically an inoculation against charlatans.
  • Dreams about the future are always filled with gadgets.
  • The world, I think, has too many late-night talk shows.
  • Pop culture is the scaffold we all carry around with us.
  • The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.
  • Science is not just a topic we can step around or ignore.
  • God is an ever receding pocket ofÔªø scientific ignorance.
  • The greatest explorer of recent decades is not even human.
  • Only when you question does society move or advance at all.
  • There is no greater education than one that is self-driven.
  • I’ve accomplished enough in life so that I do not fear death.
  • Not only do we live among the stars, the stars live within us.
  • There’s no denying the public’s appetite for cosmic discovery.
  • It’s better to understand something than to memorize something.
  • Follow the evidence wherever it leads, and question everything.
  • The dinosaurs never saw that asteroid coming. What’s our excuse?
  • In life and in the universe it’s always best to keep looking up.
  • You don’t take a dead cat to the vet. I mean you might, but why?
  • Deep in the world of atomic nuclei, life is not always tranquil.
  • We need to look at NASA, not as a handout, but as an investment.
  • The Earth is just one place of many that we could hang our hats.
  • In the end, it’s the people who are curious who change the world.
  • Also, where does your identity come from? Your memory, of course.
  • As areas of knowledge grow, so too do the perimeters of ignorance.
  • 95, 96 percent of all that drives the universe has no known origin.
  • Our five senses are faulty data-taking devices, and they need help.
  • I don’t see why there is no intelligent alien life in the universe.
  • The worst thing that ever happened to America was the 19th Amendment.
  • I bought it, I read it, and I heeded its advice. I remain unabducted.
  • Wanting to do one thing can require that you take on other interests.
  • Rational thoughts never drive people’s creativity the way emotions do.
  • What do you call those knobby things on doors that help you open them?
  • There are no articles any more that dream about the cities of tomorrow.
  • ‘Boldly going where hundreds have gone before’ does not make headlines.
  • When you are a hammer, all of your problems will look like nails to you.
  • Hunting for meteorites is like trying to find a pebble on miles of beach.
  • Give a kid a book, and you change the world. In a way, even the universe.
  • Feeling a little small? Well, in the context of the cosmos, we are small.
  • The theory of evolution, like the theory of gravity, is a scientific fact.
  • Space only becomes ordinary when the frontier is no longer being breached.
  • WhenIWasYourAge: It took a week to learn whether your photos came out okay.
  • Where ignorance lurks, so too do the frontiers of discovery and imagination
  • I try to educate the public and let them make the decisions for themselves.
  • Science, and its impact on a person’s livelihood is the common denominator.
  • When you’re advancing a frontier it stimulates creativity to find solutions.
  • I know of no time in human history where ignorance was better than knowledge.
  • One should not be too distracted by definitions. Ideas transcend definitions.
  • It’s part of our pop culture to give animals human personalities and talents.
  • I love the future we might invent for ourselves that I have not yet dreamt of.
  • You can get an Egg McMuffin all day; you just can’t get the hamburger all day.
  • Knowing how to think empowers you far beyond those who know only what to think.
  • The more of us that feel the universe, the better off we will be in this world.
  • Whether or not you can become great at something, you can always become better.
  • The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.
  • It’s a weird state to be in to go to the Bible and try to invoke science, right?
  • What are you doing? Why are you concerning yourself with the meaning of meaning?
  • Pretending to know everything closes the door to finding out what’s really there.
  • I’m not criticizing the science in Star Wars. That’s a waste of everybody’s time.
  • We live in the kind of society where, in almost all cases, hard work is rewarded.
  • There’s no shortage of people that we can put on, because science touches us all.
  • It turns out that the history of astrophysics is where we perfected time keeping.
  • Any astrophysicist does not feel small looking up at the universe; we feel large.
  • The universe’s destiny has very little to do with the near-term destiny of Earth.
  • Physics is the only profession in which prophecy is not only accurate but routine.
  • The Venus transit is not a spectacle the way a total solar eclipse is a spectacle.
  • We have people who believe they are scientifically literate but, in fact, are not.
  • Never presume that just because you disagree with an idea that you must be correct.
  • Once something is answered, then there’s another question. Hence the eternal quest.
  • If you want a nation to have space exploration ambitions, you’ve got to send humans.
  • We fail in even the simplest of all scientific observations-nobody looks up anymore.
  • Many people feel small because they’re small and the universe is big, but I feel big.
  • It makes good sense to revere the sun and the stars … because we are their children
  • I’m fascinated by the deaths of stars and the havoc they wreak on their environments.
  • The universe is so amazing and so limitless, who wouldn’t want to study the universe?
  • I think the material that inspires artists is the fabric of the soul of civilization.
  • If God to you is where science has yet to tread, then God is an ever-receding pocket.
  • No doubt, the most challenging class of questions in science is the origin of things.
  • Modern science is under no obligation to satisfy the expectations of your five senses.
  • When NASA says they’re going into space, they don’t mean up and back. They mean orbit.
  • Science literacy is the artery through which the solutions of tomorrow’s problems flow.
  • If the people of Comic-Con ruled the world…then tomorrow would be invented every day.
  • I love being wrong because that means in that instant, I learned something new that day.
  • Newton came up with Newton’s laws of motion and gravity. They worked. They were working.
  • I’m not writing for myself. I’m writing as an educator, I’m writing to stimulate others.
  • A state of negative energy means that you are essentially getting something for nothing.
  • WhenIWasYourAge: We had to open all doors by ourselves. None of them knew we were coming.
  • You can’t be a writer and have nothing to write about. You have to have life experiences.
  • Space enthusiasts are the most susceptible demographic to delusion that I have ever seen.
  • All of the full moons for the entire year are special in that they have particular names.
  • After all, what nobler thought can one cherish than that the universe lives within us all?
  • People generally don’t recognize how long it takes to conceive, publish, and write a book.
  • Nothing is a thing: it’s nothing. So I can imagine a place where there’s not even nothing.
  • Space in general gave us GPS – that’s not specifically NASA, but it’s investments in space.
  • The tenacity of life is mind-boggling. We keep finding it where no one thought it could be.
  • The only accounting we had of the origins and the structure of nature was Biblical Genesis.
  • Space exploration is a force of nature unto itself that no other force in society can rival.
  • 85 percent of the gravity of the universe has a point of origin about which we know nothing.
  • I never volunteer to talk about god or religion, but people feel compelled to talk about it.
  • I think the best thing a parent can do, when raising a child, is simply get out of their way.
  • The show [ StarTalk ] was born as a radio program out of a National Science Foundation grant.
  • Science is not a subject you took in school. It’s life. We are wrapped by it, in it, with it.
  • For your own safety, do not ever tell an astrophysicist, I hope all your stars are twinkling.
  • It’s short-sighted to think ads won’t one day end up wherever humans are – even the moon.
  • For centuries, magicians have intuitively taken advantage of the inner workings of our brains.
  • I see myself in pop culture. I listen to pop music, I do pop things, and I’m also a scientist.
  • Science is a way of equipping yourself with the tools to interpret what happens in front of you.
  • Like a snowplow in overdrive, a supernova shockwave might sweep away any gas clouds in its path.
  • The last person I ever want working for me is someone who says ‘that’s not in my job description.
  • We are star dust in the highest exalted way, called by the universe, reaching out to the universe
  • Imagine a world in which we are all enlightened by objective truths rather than offended by them.
  • I never got into ‘Star Wars.’ Maybe because they made no attempt to portray real physics. At all.
  • I’d like to live in a world where people embrace objective truths rather than be offended by them.
  • I object to religion in science classrooms not because it’s religion but because it’s not science.
  • Any time we are answer-driven rather than idea driven, we have lost the true meaning of education.
  • If a scientist is not befuddled by what they’re looking at, then they’re not a research scientist.
  • Scientific inquiry shouldn’t stop just because a reasonable explanation has apparently been found.
  • The most successful scientists in the history of the world are those who posed the right questions
  • The most creative people are motivated by the grandest of problems that are presented before them.
  • Some of us wake up in the morning and just wonder how it is any of us actually sustain a paid job.
  • The cosmic calendar is quite a fertile mode for communicating how small we are over time and space.
  • The iron from that meteorite and the iron from your blood have common origin in the core of a star.
  • Science literacy is a vaccine against the charlatans of the world that would exploit your ignorance.
  • WhenIWasYourAge: People were never “living with their disease.” We cured them. Or they died from it.
  • For the film to ‘earn’ the right to be criticized on a scientific level is a high compliment indeed.
  • I bet most of the crowd does not know that there are six moons in the solar system bigger than Pluto.
  • It’s odd that the word ‘atheist’ even exist. I don’t play golf, is there a word for non-golf players ?
  • You don’t discard Newton. Newton becomes the limiting case of how you would apply Einstein’s theories.
  • We’re talking about a being whose very existence challenges our own sense of priority in the universe.
  • Doing what has never been done before is intellectually seductive, whether or not we deem it practical.
  • If you find life on Europa [Jupiter’s moon], like, what would you call it? Would it be, like, Europeans?
  • I don’t want to die … I don’t want to die poor. Two great motivators in the history of human cultures.
  • No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don’t ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives.
  • Science is like an inoculation against charlatans who would have you believe whatever it is they tell you.
  • The educated elite is not without their own actual snobbery. And I kind of an anti-elitist in that regard.
  • If you look at Einstein’s equations and put in low speeds and low gravity, they become Newton’s equations.
  • The very nature of science is discoveries, and the best of those discoveries are the ones you don’t expect.
  • I lose sleep at night wondering whether we are intelligent enough to figure out the universe. I don’t know.
  • Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope.
  • When you innovate, the jobs can’t go overseas because other countries haven’t figured out how to do it yet.
  • To be scientifically literate is to empower yourself to  know when someone else is full of bullshit.
  • I don’t want people to say, ‘Something is true because Tyson says it is true.’ That’s not critical thinking.
  • If the purpose of the universe was to create humans then the cosmos was embarrassingly inefficient about it.
  • Scientific literacy is an intellectual vaccine against the claims of charlatans who would exploit ignorance.
  • Computers have proved to be formidable chess players. In fact, they’ve beaten our top human chess champions.
  • No one is saying you’re possessed by the devil anymore except the most ignorant of people in modern culture.
  • If you want to assert a truth, first make sure it’s not just an opinion that you desperately want to be true.
  • When students cheat on exams, it’s because our school system values grades more than students value learning.
  • If we have the power to turn another planet into Earth, then we have the power to turn Earth back into Earth.
  • Dinosaurs are extinct today because they lacked opposable thumbs and the brainpower to build a space program.
  • So not enough people in this world, I think, carry a cosmic perspective with them. It could be life-changing.
  • To believe in a universe as young as 6 or 7,000 years old is to extinguish the light from most of the galaxy.
  • Curious that we spend more time congratulating people who have succeeded than encouraging people who have not.
  • If you’re scientifically literate, the world looks very different to you, and that understanding empowers you.
  • My view is that if your philosophy is not unsettled daily then you are blind to all the universe has to offer.
  • I remain unconvinced that anything other than rapid decomposition is the fate of my body and mind after death.
  • If you’re really successful at bullshitting, it means you’re not hanging around enough people smarter than you.
  • If each dead person became a ghost, there’d be more than 100 billion of them haunting us all. Creepy, but cool.
  • Today, in this, the 21st century, bedtime doesn’t matter at all. All that matters is what you set for your DVR.
  • Imagination alone is not enough, because the reality of nature is far more wondrous than anything we can imagine
  • Math is the language of the universe. So the more equations you know, the more you can converse with the cosmos.
  • If we’re going to affect policy, or affect attitudes, for me, the adults have always been the target population.
  • With automatic spell checkers running unleashed over what we compose, our era is that of correctly spelled typos.
  • When I would lose matches, I fully respected the person who beat me, because they beat me. I can’t blame anybody.
  • The solar system should be viewed as our backyard, not as some sequence of destinations that we do one at a time.
  • There’s a lot of memorization that goes on in school. You memorize vocabulary words and all these sorts of things.
  • NASA has spin-offs, and it’s a huge and very impressive list, including accurate and affordable LASIK eye surgery.
  • Passion is what gets you through the hardest times that might otherwise make strong men weak, or make you give up.
  • The greatest teachers are the ones that turn a B student into an A student, or a failing student into a B student.
  • When scientifically investigating the natural world, the only thing worse than a blind believer is a seeing denier.
  • You could do math early, but there are no brilliant 16-year-old novelists. They don’t know the human condition yet.
  • Before we start talking about genetic differences, you gotta come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity.
  • We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.
  • Down there between our legs, it’s like an entertainment complex in the middle of a sewage system. Who designed that?
  • The first colony on Mars is not going to be built by a private company. How are you going to make money? You’re not.
  • As important as the civil rights movement was, I think what will rise to the top is that we left Earth in that time.
  • I’m just recommending you find other things to base your spirituality on, rather than where science is yet to tread.
  • I’m often asked whether I believe in Global Warming. I now just reply with the question: “Do you believe in Gravity?”
  • Photons are accurately and legitimately described as waves and particles at the same time. They are genuine wavicles.
  • No matter what eyewitness testimony is in the court of law, it is the lowest form of evidence in the court of science.
  • The greatest of people that have ever been in society, they were never versions of someone else. They were themselves.
  • Who knows how dead Lazarus was? Was Lazarus decomposing in a six-foot grave when Jesus resurrected him? No, he wasn’t.
  • That’s the point, to get the people who wouldn’t otherwise think to eavesdrop on a conversation that involves science.
  • In any city with lots of skyscrapers, lots of skyline, the moon seems bigger than it is. It’s called the moon illusion.
  • Italy valued cathedrals while Spain valued explorers. So worldwide, five times as many people speak Spanish than Italian.
  • To achieve this density of a neutron star at home, just cram a herd of 50 million elephants into the volume of a thimble.
  • Does the full moon affect people’s behavior, you ask? Yup. It makes people think the full moon affects people’s behavior.
  • People think about life from day-to-day rather than thinking about life as something that invents a new kind of tomorrow.
  • If aliens did visit us, I’d be embarrassed to tell them we still dig fossil fuels from the ground as a source of energy.
  • In modern times, if the sole measure of what’s out there flows from your five senses then a precarious life awaits you.
  • I was born the same week NASA was founded, so we’re the same age and feel some of the same pains, joys, and frustrations.
  • One of the most significant events in our distant past is still perhaps the greatest mystery: the origins of life itself.
  • Without new economies, our old economies get our jobs taken from them because everyone else has figured out how to do it.
  • If your belief system is not founded in an objective reality, you should not be making decisions that affect other people.
  • God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance that’s getting smaller and smaller and smaller asÔªø time moves on.
  • Would a NASA reality show “Lunar Shore” be more popular than “Jersey Shore?” Civilization’s future depends on that answer.
  • If you want to come behind the Bible and explain everything scientifically, then you’re denying God’s power over miracles.
  • Curiously, light-loving green plants reject the Sun’s green light, reflecting it back at you, which is why they look green.
  • The day we stop exploring is the day we commit ourselves to live in a stagnant world, devoid of curiosity, empty of dreams.
  • Merry Christmas to all. A Pagan holiday (BC) becomes a Religious holiday (AD). Which then becomes a Shopping holiday (USA).
  • Your center of mass is a place you cannot visit but you always carry with you. Like memories, it is part of life’s baggage.
  • I dream of a world where the truth is what shapes people’s politics, rather than politics shaping what people think is true.
  • What would aliens say when told earthlings shift clocks twice a year to fool themselves into thinking there’s more sunlight?
  • There is no true understanding of Biology without Chemistry. And there’s no true understanding of Chemistry without Physics.
  • There’s an old saying in the space community: ‘If God wanted us to be a spacefaring species, he would have given us a moon’.
  • Wanna lose 1200 Calories a month? Drink a liter of ice water a day. You burn the energy just raising the water to body temp.
  • If you seek only easy problems to solve, then ultimately, there’ll be nothing about you to distinguish yourself from others.
  • Odd how often blood is shed to obtain freedom from those in power. Oppressors must be the most insecure people in the world.
  • If you’re a scientist, and you have to have an answer, even in the absence of data, you’re not going to be a good scientist.
  • In this 21st century, bedtime doesn’t matter at all. All that matters is what you set for your DVR [Digital Video Recorder].
  • Just to settle it once and for all: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The egg, laid by a bird that was not a chicken.
  • America 2012: The Learning Channel has HoneyBooBoo, History Channel has PawnStars: and the Science Channel has PumpkinChunkin
  • On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642
  • On Venus you could cook a 16-inch pepperoni pizza in seven seconds, just by holding it out to the air. (Yes, I did the math.)
  • You don’t need to be a scientist to know Earth’s age or that life evolved. You just need be one who embraces objective truths
  • If Pizza sizes were given in area not diameter, you’d see instantly that a 7 inch is less than half the size of a 10 inch pie
  • Only when creative people take ownership of cosmic discovery will society accept science as the cultural activity that it is.
  • Gravity. Quantum. Electrodynamics. Evolution. Each of these theories is true, whether or not you believe in them.
  • Evidence my 14yr old daughter is geek-literate: In lieu of OK, one might type K while texting. She instead typed “Potassium”.
  • Ignorance is a virus. Once it starts spreading it can only be cured by reason. For the sake of humanity, we must be that cure.
  • If you need to invoke your academic pedigree or job title for people to believe what you say, then you need a better argument.
  • If the only time you think of me as a scientist is during Black History Month, then I must not be doing my job as a scientist.
  • When I shop for fruit & melons I like to hold a grape next to a cantaloupe & think of Earth next to Jupiter. Then I eat Earth.
  • The chances that your tombstone will read ‘Killed by Asteroid’ are about the same as they’d be for ‘Killed in Airplane Crash.’
  • The limits on your enlightenment come not from the age you stopped going to school but from the age you stopped being curious.
  • Santa knows Physics: Of all colors, Red Light penetrates fog best. That’s why Benny the Blue-nosed reindeer never got the gig.
  • It seems that we’re better at finding someone to blame for our problems than we are at finding creative solutions to fix them.
  • When a coincidence seems amazing, that’s because the human mind isn’t wired to naturally comprehend probability & statistics.
  • Aliens might be surprised to learn that in a cosmos with limitless starlight, humans kill for energy sources buried in the sand
  • Some of the greatest poetry is revealing to the reader the beauty in something that was so simple you had taken it for granted.
  • Don’t know if it’s good or bad that a Google search on Big Bang Theory lists the sitcom before the origin of the Universe
  • It’s progress I think, that science has joined philosophy, metaphysics & religion as subjects drunk people argue about in bars.
  • One trait stands out in nearly all meteorites: metal; they’ve got it. So, the best way to find a meteorite is to hear it first.
  • Next time you’re stunned by a large moon on the horizon, bend over and view it between your legs. The effect goes away entirely.
  • On some issues, I’m a staunch Conservative ‚Äî like curtailing greenhouse gas emissions so that we can Conserve the environment.
  • Wow, monitor lizards are pretty gnarly creatures. I want to go with the monitor lizard. That’s just weird enough to be true. No?
  • Einstein’s theory, we know that it fails. In advance, we know it fails. So that a deeper understanding of nature is awaiting us.
  • People like it when they understand something that they previously thought they couldn’t understand. It’s a sense of empowerment.
  • I’d rather enjoy the money, and then be buried, offering my body back to the flora and fauna of which I have dined my whole life.
  • The discovery of any kind of life [in Space] at all would be a tremendous watershed moment in biology, as well as all of science.
  • That is a big question we all have: are we alone in the universe? And exoplanets confirm the suspicion that planets are not rare.
  • The Big Bang Theory: When geeky scientists can be main characters in a hit prime time series, you know there’s hope for the world.
  • Need a distraction today? Not only does 12 + 1 = 11 + 2, but the letters “twelve plus one” rearrange to give you “eleven plus two.”
  • Perhaps we’ve never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon earth and decided there’s no sign of intelligent life.
  • Not only are we in the universe, the universe is in us. I don’t know of any deeper spiritual feeling than what that brings upon me.
  • In five billion years, the sun will expand and engulf our orbit as the charred ember that was once Earth vaporizes. Have a nice day
  • I think if everyone had the luxury to pursue a life of exactly what they love, we would all be ranked as visionaries and brilliant.
  • With ticket prices, do you ask yourself, why I’m paying $70 to see the arts? You say, “No, that’s what the symphony is costing me.”
  • God displayed a sense of humor when he configured the region between our legs an entertainment complex built around a sewage system.
  • When we try to look farther into the universe we come to what appears to be the end of space but actually it’s the beginning of time.
  • The supermoon is a 16-inch pizza compared with a 15-inch pizza. It’s a slightly bigger moon; I ain’t using the adjective ‘supermoon.’
  • When everyone agrees to a single solution and a single plan, there’s nothing more efficient in the world than an efficient democracy.
  • One of the things that fascinates me most is when people are so charmed by the universe that it becomes part of their artistic output.
  • You innovate in ways that stoke your economy. Because innovations in science and technology are the engines of 21st century economies.
  • One thing in life is for certain, the more profoundly baffled you have been in your life, the more open your mind becomes to new ideas.
  • In just one year, the expenditure of of the U.S.’s military budget is equivalent to the entire 50-year running budget of NASA combined.
  • Kids are born curious about the world. What adults primarily do in the presence of kids is unwittingly thwart the curiosity of children.
  • If Mars formed life, then life on Earth could have been seeded by life on Mars, making every life form on Earth descended from Martians.
  • Society needs to see science not as a luxury of funding but as a fundamental activity that drives enlightenment, economics, and security.
  • Extreme skepticism and extreme gullibility are two equal ways of not having to think at all. And I don’t think I’m the first to say that.
  • I didn’t even know there were stars to look at to not see. If you don’t know that they’re there, you don’t know that you’re missing them.
  • 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.
  • … there is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational thought and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance.
  • If you don’t question you’re stuck within a pre-existing parameters of knowledge. Questions are what take you outside of those parameters.
  • I am proud to be part of a species where a subset of its members willingly put their lives at risk to push the boundaries of our existence.
  • The typical person has no trouble believing without knowing. What people need to realize is simply that you do not need to believe to know.
  • The value of the space program is beyond science, it’s beyond military; it’s a cultural shift in how we think of our place in the universe.
  • Dark matter and dark energy are two things we measure in the universe that are making things happen, and we have no idea what the cause is.
  • Cutting PBS support (0.012% of budget) to help balance the Federal budget is like deleting text files to make room on your 500Gig hard drive
  • You gotta be a good sport! So when I would lose, I would say, “That guy was better than I was; what do I have to do to be better next time?”
  • In physics, opinions don’t matter, only demonstrated experiments. The day the fellow succeeds, if ever, he won’t need anybody else’s opinion.
  • When we went to the moon and realized that the Soviet Union had no realistic plans of getting to the moon, then we stopped going to the moon.
  • Let’s invent a new tomorrow and then make it happen. Let’s invent the city of tomorrow, the home of tomorrow, the transportation of tomorrow.
  • When NASA dreams big America dreams big. People…kids say, ‘I want to do that when I grow up’. Because you want to do what’s visible to you.
  • 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.
  • The more I learn about the universe, the less convinced I am that there’s any sort of benevolent force that has anything to do with it, at all.
  • In the first year of a child’s life we teach them to walk and talk. And then for the rest of their lives we want them to sit down and be quiet.
  • So when I think of, what is the meaning of life, to me, that’s not an eternal unanswerable question. To me it is in arms reach of me every day.
  • I have yet to see a successful prediction about the physical world that was inferred or extrapolated from the content of any religions document.
  • All the traditional STEM fields, the science, technology, engineering, and math fields, are stoked when you dream big in an agency such as NASA.
  • Claiming there is no other life in the universe is like scooping up some water, looking at the cup and claiming there are no whales in the ocean.
  • We didn’t go to the moon to explore or because it was in our DNA or because we’re Americans. We went because we were at war and we felt a threat.
  • Evil or not, the recording industry kept Auto-Tune on the down-low. Cher’s producer forced Auto-Tune to jump suddenly from one pitch to the next.
  • If the Sun exploded, we wouldn’t know about it for 8 minutes and 20 seconds. Light and gravity take that long to reach us. Then we would vaporize.
  • Humans aren’t as good as we should be in our capacity to empathize with feelings and thoughts of others, be they humans or other animals on Earth.
  • If Neptune were analogized with a Chevy Impala in mass, then how big is pluto compared to that? Pluto would be a matchbox car sitting on the curb.
  • If factual information upsets you, then you are creating a world that is not embracing objective truths, and that’s not how you advance a democracy.
  • Somehow it’s O.K. for people to chuckle about not being good at math. Yet if I said, ‘I never learned to read,’ they’d say I was an illiterate dolt.
  • I think everyone should have a personal mission to leave the Earth a better place for them having lived in it and let Earth then take it from there.
  • So what is true for life itself is no less true for the universe: knowing where you came from is no less important than knowing where you are going.
  • If there’s something that someone else can do, let them do it. If I couldn’t do it uniquely, let someone else do it and I would get back to the lab.
  • The most successful people recognize that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation.
  • Why can’t we summon the ingenuity and courage of the generations that came before us? The dinosaurs never saw that asteroid coming. What’s our excuse?
  • Gamma rays are the sort of radiation you should avoid. Want proof? Just remember how the comic strip character “The Hulk” became big, green, and ugly.
  • Access to science is greater than ever before. There are more vehicles out there that grant the public access to science. Not to mention the Internet.
  • After 50 years of television, there’s no other conclusion the aliens could draw, but that most humans are neurotic, death-hungry, dysfunctional idiots.
  • We spend the first year of a child’s life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down. There’s something wrong there.
  • Kids should be allowed to break stuff more often. That’s a consequence of exploration. Exploration is what you do when you don’t know what you’re doing.
  • Climate change has taken on political dimensions. That’s odd because I don’t see people choosing sides over E=Mc2 or other fundamental facts of science.
  • Whenever people have used religious documents to make accurate predictions about our base knowledge of the physical world, they have been famously wrong.
  • What are we promoting in society? Well-behaved automatons that spew back what they learned in a book. That’s not science. You can get a parrot to do that.
  • I want to encourage people to not think in terms of gifts, but think in terms of, wow. You work hard to succeed at that, because that’s exactly what I do.
  • When your reasons for believing something are justified ad hoc, you are left susceptible to further discoveries undermining the rationale for that belief.
  • I like seeing how people have succeeded when others would have presumed they would have failed, and others just go along with whatever everyone else does.
  • There’s nothing a teacher likes better than ten minute videos. It’s not the whole class, but it’s not too short, it’s enough to wrap a lesson plan around.
  • You can make a stack high enough to reach the moon and back, and only then will you have used your 100 billion hamburgers. This is terrifying news to cows.
  • There are countless space activities that would be no less exciting than the moon missions were, I have no doubt. The search for life on Mars, for example.
  • I want to put on the table, not why 85% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences reject God, I want to know why 15% of the National Academy don’t.
  • Everyone has all different experiences in school. I just know that throughout my life, at no time did any teacher ever point to me and say, hey. He’ll go far.
  • I know that the molecules in my body are traceable to phenomena in the cosmos. That makes me want to grab people on the street and say: Have you HEARD THIS?
  • I have a multivolume history of the world from the 19th century that begins with Noah’s flood as though it’s as historical a fact as the rise and fall of Rome.
  • The depth of experience fine wine can bring to a dinner, particularly a bottle that has been through the past 100 years, makes you take stock of your own life.
  • The center line of science literacy – which not many people tell you, but I feel this strongly, and I will go to my grave making this point – is how you think.
  • Private enterprise can never lead a space frontier. It’s not possible because a space frontier is expensive, it has unknown risks and it has unquantified risks.
  • To learn more about science, turn off your electronic device and go outside and look around a bit. Nature is calling you. Go on. The internet will still be here.
  • I’m a fan of the planets in any combination. When I was born, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, the Sun, and the Moon were all in the sky.
  • Curiosity is missing. Curiosity in particular is something that the system, not only the educational system but, the parental… what you do as a parent at home.
  • Practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified food. There are no wild, seedless watermelons. There’s no wild cows.
  • It would be amazing if something completely spiritual sounding happened. Oh, my gosh! We’d be all over it. Because it’s something new about the physical universe.
  • Part of me thinks that I’ve been called by the universe, to get all sort of spiritual about it. Like, I’ve had no actual say in the matter. The universe found me.
  • I agree that we should go back to the moon and on to Mars. We should treat all objects in the solar system, including comets and asteroids, as exploration targets.
  • It is in the best interests of civilization and our economy and our nation to understand what objective truths are as revealed by the methods and tools of science.
  • Science is not there for you to cherry pick … You can decide whether or not to believe in it but that doesn’t change the reality of an emergent scientific truth.
  • All Plutophiles are based in America. If you go to other countries, they have much less of an attachment to either the existence or preservation of Pluto as a planet.
  • One of the reasons we’re here, that we exist at all, is that Earth, cosmically speaking, is in a relatively peaceful place: orbiting our Sun in a near perfect circle.
  • I as an astrophysicist, see the universe, feel the universe, smell the universe every day. Every day. And for people to say, I’m cool, I’m right here, it’s all I need.
  • If you’re interested in something, that’s all that matters. You’ll spend more time doing it, that than anything else, and possibly more time doing it than anybody else.
  • No one wants to die, and no one wants to die poor. These are the two fundamental truths that transcend culture, they transcend politics, they transcend economic cycles.
  • I wake up and I go to work. I don’t look for the cup of coffee. The universe is enough of a draw for me – to awaken me and have me bound out of bed and go to my office.
  • The day that you stop looking – because you’re content God did it – I don’t need you in the lab. You’re useless on the frontier of understanding the nature of the world.
  • The persistent failures of controlled, double-blind experiments to support the claims of parapsychology suggest that what’s going on is nonsense rather than sixth sense.
  • As an educator, I think educators should meet the people wherever they are. Don’t even ask them to come half-way. Find them where they are, and sit on a couch with them.
  • Today secular philosophers call that kind of divine invocation God of the gaps-which comes in handy, because there has never been a shortage of gaps in people’s knowledge.
  • The remarkable feature of physical laws is that they apply everywhere, whether or not you choose to believe in them. After the laws of physics, everything else is opinion.
  • The history of science shows that great mysteries get solved. It may be that there’s an answer that humans are too stupid to understand. I’m intrigued by that possibility.
  • For decades, we’ve been trying to cook up the building blocks of life, in the lab, and recreate the origins of it all, but the parts didn’t seem to fit together, until now.
  • The methods and tools of science perennially breach barriers, granting me confidence that our epic march of insight into the operations of nature will continue without end.
  • In America, there are people who don’t read science fiction but still think about tomorrow, so it’s not only the force of science-fiction that makes you a tomorrow thinker.
  • Politics will take whatever shape it needs for people to get elected. But at the end of the day, the population remains and that’s really, as an educator, who I care about.
  • So maybe part of our formal education should be training in empathy. Imagine how different the world would be if, in fact, that were ‘reading, writing, arithmetic, empathy.’
  • You get to say that the Earth is flat because we live in a country that guarantees your free speech. But it’s not a country that guarantees that anything you say is correct.
  • I try to show the public that chemistry, biology, physics, astrophysics is life. It is not some separate subject that you have to be pulled into a corner to be taught about.
  • A conspiracy theorist is a person who tacitly admits that they have insufficient data to prove their points. A conspiracy is a battle cry of a person with insufficient data.
  • Mars once was wet and fertile. It’s now bone dry. Something bad happened on Mars. I want to know what happened on Mars so that we may prevent it from happening here on Earth.
  • If it’s a new planet, sign me up. I’m tired of driving around the block, boldly going where hundreds have gone before in orbit around earth-give me a place to go and I’ll go.
  • Here’s what I’m wondering: if, digitally, you can remove red-eye, smooth over wrinkles, make people look thinner, then why don’t we have the technology to make me sing better?
  • I’m not as famous as Stephen Hawking, but certainly in the U.S., I have a very high profile for a scientist. It is an awesome responsibility, one that I don’t shoulder lightly.
  • To the scientist, the universality of physical laws makes the cosmos a marvelously simple place. By comparison, human nature-the psychologist’s domain-is infinitely more daunting.
  • Here’s something that intrigues me: If you have faith, you believe regardless of the evidence, yet if there’s ever evidence to support faith, everyone goes to it and points to it.
  • Today, scientists sound the alarm on other environmental dangers. Vested interests still hire their own scientists to confuse the issue. But in the end, nature, will not be fooled.
  • Curiosity is a self-driven motivation to explore and to learn. Learning is like… you know, you have to take your medicine. And that is what it has become. And that’s unfortunate.
  • So much of what we understand comes from knowing what something is and what that something used to be, which allows us to figure out, or at least imagine, what happened in between.
  • For me, the most fascinating interface is Twitter. I have odd cosmic thoughts every day and I realized I could hold them to myself or share them with people who might be interested.
  • Scientists are human. We have our blind spots and prejudices. Science is a mechanism designed to ferret them out. Problem is we aren’t always faithful to the core values of science.
  • Astronauts are the only kind of celebrity I know who can have a line of people waiting for their autograph, even if the line of people does not know in advance the astronaut’s name.
  • If there’s some kind of rock star status, would I be irresponsible if I didn’t somehow use it for a continued greater good? I’m always involved in some way with reaching the public.
  • I don’t even understand why I have 1.7 million Twitter followers. Every day, I want to remind them and say, “Do you realize I’m an astrophysicist? Do you know what you’re doing here?”
  • We are not simply in the universe, we are part of it. We are born from it. One might even say we have been empowered by the universe to figure itself out – and we have only just begun.
  • Space is the ultimate frontier. I think when people historically thought of the frontier, there was where you were living and then there was some edge beyond which no one had explored.
  • Newton, Einstein, and every other great scientist in history…They all made mistakes. Of course they did. They’re human! Science is a way to keep from fooling ourselves and each other.
  • I don’t ever tell people what to do! Even if it seems and feels that way sometimes, I don’t think I should tell a person how to spend their money. I try not to tell people what to read.
  • I can’t tell you how many people say they were turned off from science because of a science teacher that completely sucked out all the inspiration and enthusiasm they had for the course.
  • All tweets are tasty. Any tweet anybody writes is tasty. So, I try to have each tweet not simply be informative, but have some outlook, some perspective that you might not otherwise had.
  • The only way you can invent tomorrow is if you break out of the enclosure that the school system has provided for you by the exams written by people who are trained in another generation.
  • 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.
  • I wonder if, in fact, we have been observed by aliens and upon close examination of human conduct and human behavior they have concluded that there is no sign of intelligent life on Earth.
  • All the great advances in cinema came about from technology. The 3-D camera was not invented by a movie director. The new industries are driven by the innovations in science and technology.
  • Science is a philosophy of discovery; intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance… Something fundamamental is going on in people’s minds when they confront things they don’t understnd.
  • I’m a little fatigued of adults saying we’ve got to worry about the kids. And these are the same adults that don’t know science and are running things and wielding resources and legislation.
  • Why can’t Pluto be a planet? Some people like Pluto. And if it doesn’t exist then they don’t have a favorite planet. Right? Please write back but not in cursive because I can’t read cursive.
  • There are as many atoms in each molecule of your DNA as there are stars in the typical galaxy. This is true for dogs, and bears, and every living thing. We are, each of us, a little universe.
  • 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.
  • In the animal kingdom, one of the keys to survival is to outwit your enemies. And when you’re surrounded by carnivores, one of the best strategies is to fade into the background and disappear.
  • For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And along the way, lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.
  • As they are currently practiced, there is no common ground between science and religion… Although just as in hostage negotiations, it’s probably best to keep both sides talking to each other.
  • As a citizen, as a public scientist, I can tell you that Einstein essentially overturned a so strongly established paradigm of science, whereas Darwin didn’t really overturn a science paradigm.
  • They [scientists of centuries past] call on God only from the lonely and precarious edge of incomprehension. Where they feel certain about their explanations, however, God gets hardly a mention.
  • When I reach to the edge of the universe, I do so knowing that along some paths of cosmic discovery, there are times when, at least for now, one must be content to love the questions themselves.
  • Let us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do.
  • If you love what you do, you’ll be your best at it compared to anything else you might have chosen as a career. Or at least you will love it more, and you won’t lead a depressed day of your life.
  • Miniaturization of electronics started by NASA’s push became an entire consumer products industry. Now we’re carrying the complete works of Beethoven on a lapel pin listening to it in headphones.
  • I want people to see that the cosmic perspective is simultaneously honest about the universe we live in and uplifting, when we realize how far we have come and how wonderful is this world of ours.
  • I see all this talk about jobs going overseas as a symptom of the absence of innovation. And the absence of innovation is a symptom of there being no major national priority to advance a frontier.
  • In the New Testament, Thomas Jefferson cut out everything that was mystical, magical, miracle – physically with scissors – and then pasted in all that remained, such as Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount.
  • I think we are all the sum of that which has happened in our lives. And if you’re successful, it would be wrong to think that you’d be more successful had something been easier. That’s not a given.
  • I don’t have specific television ambitions in the sense that I remain fundamentally and academic, and so, my innermost ambitions are what’s the next discovery I can make; that’s in my direct center.
  • We live in a world where not everyone has the urge to help others… It is OK to encourage others to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, but if you do, just remember that some people have no boots.
  • You know that passage in the Bible that says, ‚ÄúAnd the meek shall inherit the Earth‚Äù? Always wondered if that was mistranslated. Perhaps it actually says, ‚ÄúAnd the geek shall inherit the Earth.
  • Science is a cooperative enterprise spanning the generations. It’s the passing of a torch from teacher to student to teacher. A community of minds, reaching back to antiquity and forward to the stars.
  • Let’s create a World’s Fair that captures everybody’s visions of tomorrow together and let’s celebrate that vision. Let’s have articles on it with illustrators imagining how we’d be living differently.
  • You don’t want to raise a kid in a culture where the kid who asks the most questions is annoying. You want a culture where the kid who asks the most questions gets awards and gets another piece of cake.
  • My goal is not to shove information into your head. It’s to find ways to reignite the curiosity that we all had as children for the natural world. You don’t have to tell a child to explore the backyard.
  • I don’t want to make a member of Congress do something that that member of Congress’s constituents would not approve of, or would not agree to. So in that regard, I’m kind of the opposite of a lobbyist.
  • I think on some level, role models are overrated If you require a role model who looks just like you to be something you wanna be and you can’t find one, is that a reason to not be what you wanna be? No!
  • Luckily, there are some rocks left over from our earliest days, asteroids formed during our solar system’s birth. Occasionally, some of them drop in on Earth, and when they do, they’re called meteorites.
  • Emotional truths woven by lawyers in the court of law are apparently more important than the truths of actual events. I have grown to fear for those whose innocence became trapped within the legal system.
  • Speaking as just simply an American who cares about the economic health of our country, I see one of the surest ways to bring wealth and prosperity to the country is to innovate in science and technology.
  • America has an economy reversing relative to other nations in the world. And I want to turn that around. And one way I know to turn it around is to get everyone excited about what it is to innovate again.
  • If there were biologists among the extremophiles organisms that live in extreme conditions, they would surely classify themselves as normal and any life that thrived in room temperature as an extremophile.
  • Knowledge of the natural world and how it works should be counted as fundamental to informed governance. You can’t have a functioning democracy, if the electorate is under-informed or, worse, mis-informed.
  • It is astonishing to realize that until Galileo performed his experiments on the acceleration of gravity in the early seventeenth century, nobody questioned Aristotle’s falling balls. Nobody said, Show Me!
  • Quantum physics fluctuates all the time. But now the fluctuations are not just particles coming into and out of existence, which happens all the time. It’s whole universes coming into and out of existence.
  • The idea that God resides in the unknown is what philosophers call the God of the gaps. And we have this thing called science, which marches on and makes discoveries in those gaps, ultimately closing gaps.
  • We’re an elective democracy where science and technology will define where the economically strong countries in the world will be. And science and technological literacy is important for security, as well.
  • Who you are, where you’ve been and what you’ve done is all up here, captured and preserved in your memories. If you lost that – the story of your own origins – you’d lose your identity, your sense of self.
  • The people that first climbed Mt. Everest weren’t scientists, right, they were adventurers. If you’re an adventurer, you want to go yourself. It’s different than a scientist, who is simply wanting to learn.
  • Something we all have as kids and is beaten out of us as adults. Parents come up to me, “How do I get my kids interested in science?” They’re already interested in science. Just stop beating it out of them.
  • Our history, in the cosmos and on planet Earth, was shaped by countless events, some obviously epic, some seemingly trivial, yet all vital in getting us to this point, here and now, the people we are today.
  • There’s no tradition of scientists knocking down the Sunday school door, telling the preacher, That might not necessarily be true. That’s never happened. There’re no scientists picketing outside of churches.
  • I try to keep this in mind when tied in to a rope 75 feet up in a tree… The history of ideas about our place in the universe has been a long series of let-downs for those who like to believe we are special.
  • When you’re enlightened, you don’t have to reference other people, because you yourself are enlightened. And that’s a better Earth. People can make more informed decisions politically, culturally, personally.
  • If we want to unlock the secret behind the origin of our sun and its planets, it would be helpful to find some remnants from the birth itself, an event that took place about four-and-a-half-billion years ago.
  • Too many people view on [space exploration] as a luxury rather than as a fundamental driver to stimulate interest in science to everyone in the educational pipeline. It’s vital to our prosperity and security.
  • I’d bet almost anything that life from another planet, if formed independently from life on Earth, would be more different from all species of Earth life than any two species of Earth life are from each other.
  • The people talking on their cell phone and following GPS instructions to where grandma’s house is saying I don’t need space – excuse me, that’s how you know where grandma lives, and when to make the left turn.
  • Science is a philosophy of discovery. Intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance. You cannot build a program of discovery on the assumption that nobody is smart enough to figure out the answer to a problem.
  • Like no other science, astrophysics cross-pollinate s the expertise of chemists, biologists, geologists and physicists, all to discover the past, present, and future of the cosmos-and our humble place within it.
  • A common way to compute density is, of course, to take the ratio of an object’s mass to its volume. But other types of densities exist, such as the resistance of somebody’s brain to the imparting of common sense.
  • If you get asteroids about a kilometer in size, those are large enough and carry enough energy into our system to disrupt transportation, communication, the food chains, and that can be a really bad day on Earth.
  • If cosmological theory were dominated by women, who are no strangers to cycles, how can we know for sure that we wouldn’t then be told that the oscillating universe is the more aesthetically fulfilling alternative?
  • I believe that the manned space program can engage the public by advancing the space frontier. Every next mission takes you farther out in space than you were before, either technologically or in terms of distance.
  • UV is bad for molecules because its high energy breaks the bonds between a molecule’s constituent atoms. That’s why UV is bad for you, too: it’s always best to avoid things that decompose the molecules of your flesh.
  • You have the illusion of free will, but, in fact, that illusion comes about because you don’t know the future. Because you are a prisoner of the present, forever locked in transition, between the past and the future.
  • My investment of time, as an educator, in my judgment, is best served teaching people how to think about the world around them. Teach them how to pose a question. How to judge whether one thing is true versus another.
  • There’s a saying in the scientific community, that every great truth goes through three phases. First, people deny it. Second, they say that it conflicts with the Bible. Third, they say that they’ve known it all along.
  • Publicly and among themselves biologists rightly celebrate the diversity of life on Earth… At the end of the day, however, their confession is heard by no one: they work with a single scientific sample-life on Earth.
  • There are books on my shelf that I’m not into. They are things I don’t know anything about yet. It’s going to lead me off into a new place. The books don’t represent an interest; they represent a source of my ignorance.
  • Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes…. The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms.
  • Part of knowing how to think is knowing how the laws of nature shape the world around us. Without that knowledge, without that capacity to think, you can easily become a victim of people who seek to take advantage of you.
  • What scientists want next is a thorough comparison of what we and exosolar planets and vagabonds look like. Only in this way will we know whether our home life is normal or whether we live in a dysfunctional solar family.
  • UFO (Unidentified Flying Object)sightings are not higher among amateur astronomers than they are in the general public. In fact, they’re lower. You say, why is that so? Well, because we know what the hell we’re looking at!
  • 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.
  • What I’m saying is, when different experiments give you the same result, it is no longer subject to your opinion. That’s the good thing about science: It’s true whether or not you believe in it. That’s why it works.
  • With one linear centimeter of your lower colon there lives and works more bacteria (about 100 billion) that all humans who have ever been born. Yet many people continue to assert that it is we who are in charge of the world
  • As a child, I was aware that, at night, infrared vision would reveal monsters hiding in the bedroom closet only if they were warm-blooded. But everybody knows that your average bedroom monster is reptilian and cold-blooded.
  • But the moment the politicians start saying they are in denial of what the scientists are telling them, of what the consensus of scientific experiments demonstrates, that is the beginning of the end of an informed democracy.
  • I want and need the artist to take me to new places, and the new place that Van Gogh took me not the sky as it is but the sky as he felt it. And the more of us that feel the universe, the better off we will be in this world.
  • I don’t want to go into space because of war. I think we would if it was triggered. If China said they want to put military bases on Mars, we’d be at Mars in two years. That would be quick. I don’t want that to be the reason.
  • For centuries, epilepsy was the exact expectation of someone being possessed by the Devil. There was no better explanation, and it allows you to admit the existence of the Devil. If there’s a Devil, that mean’s there’s a God.
  • Chimpanzees are an evolutionary hair’s-width from us…. Now imagine a species on Earth, or anywhere else, as smart compared with humans as humans are compared with chimpanzees. How much of the universe might they figure out?
  • I don’t want to go back into space for military reasons, but the economic driver still remains. And so it’s a matter of people understanding how that economic driver is revealed with healthy investments on the space frontier.
  • Kids are never the problem. They are born scientists. The problem is always the adults. They beat the curiosity out of kids. They outnumber kids. They vote. They wield resources. That’s why my public focus is primarily adults.
  • Everything we do, every thought we’ve ever had, is produced by the human brain. But exactly how it operates remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries, and it seems the more we probe its secrets, the more surprises we find.
  • Ever since there have been people, there have been explorers, looking in places where other hadn’t been before. Not everyone does it, but we are part of a species where some members of the species do, to the benefit of us all.
  • As the plow pushes through a parking lot of light fluffy snow, the snow clumps together in bigger and bigger chunks. Out in space, pressure hitting a gas cloud has a similar effect, except, instead of snowballs, you get stars!
  • With no gravitational force to work against, your body not only doesn’t need the same amount of muscle and bone, it starts breaking them down. As on Earth, so in space: use it or lose it. And exercise may not solve the problem.
  • The molecules that comprise our body are traceable to the crucibles of the centers of stars.These atoms and molecules are in us because, in fact, the universe is in us. And, we are not only figuratively, but literally, stardust.
  • I’ve known from long ago that the universe was calling me. If you were one of those annoying adults that said, ‘Oh, what are you gonna be when you grow up?’ I would say, ‘Astrophysicist .’ And then they’d walk away real quickly.
  • Seventy percent of Earth’s surface is water and over 99 percent is uninhabited, so you would expect nearly all impactors to hit either the ocean or desolate regions on Earth’s surface. So why do movie meteors have such good aim?
  • As a scientist, I want to go to Mars and back to asteroids and the Moon because I’m a scientist. But I can tell you, I’m not so naive a scientist to think that the nation might not have geopolitical reasons for going into space.
  • This past year, we received our second Emmy nomination for Outstanding Informational Series. While we’d all like to win, I can say with utmost sincerity that it mattered more to me that we got noticed than whether or not we win.
  • Note, however, that you cannot simply add temperatures the way you can add volumes or weights. Two people in bed, each with body temperatures of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, do not normally create a 197.2 degree under-the-cover oven.
  • I am not the most annoying person to bring to a movie ’cause I basically hold it in and write about it later or tweet about it. The most annoying people to bring to movies, I think we all agree, are those who read the book first.
  • When you innovate, you create new industries that then boost your economy. And when you create new industries and that becomes part of your culture, your jobs can’t go overseas because no one else has figured out how to do it yet.
  • Science is not just ‘Here are some facts, learn that’. There’s a thread through these stories that, if you know how to tell it because you know how they connect, then it’s a thread that will land right in your mind, body and soul.
  • The universe for me was other planets and other star systems and other galaxies. I enjoyed tracking it, but it had no specific influence on my ambitions for that reason. It wasn’t really far enough away from Earth to matter to me.
  • But you will hardly ever read about them. Why? Because once again, the media has predetermined what is not worthy of coverage, even when the news item is something as uninteresting as the cosmic origin of every element in your body.
  • A supernova is one of the most powerful explosions in the universe. It’s so luminous, it can be seen across billions of light years. It releases as much energy in an instant as our sun will produce over its 10-billion-year lifetime.
  • Some morning while your eating breakfast and you need something new to think about, though, you might want to ponder the fact that you see your kids across the table not as they are but as they once were, about three nanoseconds ago.
  • Even with all our technology and the inventions that make modern life so much easier than it once was, it takes just one big natural disaster to wipe all that away and remind us that, here on Earth, we’re still at the mercy of nature.
  • Jesus Christ rose up from the tomb. Well, he’s the son of God, and now he’s like God’s spirit at this point. Why would a spirit need to move a rock? Why not just pass through the rock? But also, why wait for the guards to go to sleep?
  • Companies want to innovate. Companies that don’t innovate wither on the vine. The connection between STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and the financial stability of a nation is what needs to established.
  • Perhaps these ancient observatories like Stonehenge perennially impress modern people because modern people have no idea how the Sun, Moon, or stars move. We are too busy watching evening television to care what’s going on in the sky.
  • There are street artists. Street musicians. Street actors. But there are no street physicists. A little known secret is that a physicist is one of the most employable people in the marketplace – a physicist is a trained problem solver.
  • When I grew up I assembled my role models √† 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.
  • We only went to the moon for military reasons. The space enthusiasts of the day kept saying, “Oh, we’re on the moon; we should be on Mars in ten years.” That’s if it was driven by exploration, but it’s never been driven by exploration.
  • Since life on Earth is, so far, the only known example of life in the universe, our dilemma may simply be that we have no other examples to compare us with. If we did, then the life/non-life transition might look downright simple to us.
  • The universe is hilarious! Like, Venus is 900 degrees. I could tell you it melts lead. But that’s not as fun as saying, ‘You can cook a pizza on the windowsill in nine seconds.’ And next time my fans eat pizza, they’re thinking of Venus!
  • I can tell you about the universe, but she feels it; and when you feel the universe, it has a whole other meaning to you. Otherwise, you just put a Wiki page on camera. You can learn something, but it won’t mean anything to you later on.
  • Grab something off the shelf that’s on the spaceship-an ashtray, it doesn’t matter what. Because I can tell you, if they flew here from another galaxy, no matter what you’ve pulled off the shelf, it’ll be unlike anything we have on Earth.
  • The whole society has to recognize the importance of the value in embracing what science is going into the 21st Century. Otherwise, we might as well start packing and moving back into the cave right now, because that’s where we’ll end up.
  • I would request that my body in death be buried not cremated, so that the energy content contained within it gets returned to the earth, so that flora and fauna can dine upon it, just as I have dined upon flora and fauna during my lifetime
  • What are the lessons to be learned from this journey of the mind through the universe? That humans are emotionally fragile, perennially gullible, hopelessly ignorant masters of an insignificantly small speck in the cosmos. Have a nice day.
  • There is a growing awareness that we’re losing our technological competitive edge. I think there’s an awareness that we’re losing our leadership, and that maybe our self image over the past several decades has been a little bit delusional.
  • If something comes up that is completely freaky, it’s spiritual-looking to the scientist, the first explanation is not going to be that it’s God, because the history of that has failed. It would have to be, like, the hundredth explanation.
  • Exploration is what you do when you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s what scientists do every day. If a scientist already knew what they were doing, they wouldn’t be discovering anything, because they already knew what they were doing.
  • Just before I said I wanted to be an astronomer I said I wanted to be a baseball player. I was quite athletic at the time, probably because I was bigger than other kids, and if you’re bigger than other kids and you’re 11 you win everything.
  • Life existed on Earth for nearly four billion years before anything remotely resembling a human being showed up. And even then, when we started to branch off from other apes about 10,000,000 years ago, our ancestors looked pretty different.
  • Right now people think God is dark energy and dark matter, the spirit. Go ahead and think that, but the day we can tell you exactly what it is – that it’s gremlins in the vacuum of space or whatever – then what’s your recourse at that point?
  • We’re quite happy with our Big Bang description of cosmic origins. But actually, the Big Bang accounts for what happened only after the beginning. The beginning itself, and especially what happened before, remains the biggest mystery of all.
  • It could be that these other civilizations, if they are far more advanced intellectually than we are, would not even measure our existence as a blip on the intelligence radar. They could be so advanced that we are to them what worms are to us.
  • I don’t even think much about politicians. I think about the people in the audience who applaud the politicians. They are your fellow countrymen and they’re the ones you live with – that should be who we target for education and enlightenment.
  • I would say – and paint doesn’t peel unless it’s acrylic paint, so maybe it is acrylic paint that they’re using, not oil paint. So let me say yes, it would be acrylic house paint, which, when it dries, peels very nicely. So let’s go with that.
  • If you look at the history of unexplained phenomena that was first explained by spiritual, mystical forces, the track record is not very good for the mystical, magical explanations to survive against more quote “mundane” physical explanations.
  • We already know the limits of Einstein’s theories. From the centers of black holes at the very beginning of the universe – we call these singularities – Einstein’s equations fail. In fact, people have joked that’s where God is dividing by zero.
  • I try to write in a way where you care deeply what the next paragraph will be. I hear the rhythm of prose and that, to me, distinguishes great writing from ordinary writing. By the way, I don’t even claim that I’m good. I claim that I value it.
  • While I’m a big fan of science fiction, especially as rendered in expensive Hollywood blockbusters, it’s the real universe that calls to me. To fall into a black hole, that is more amazing than anything I’ve ever read in a science-fiction story.
  • Once you’ve got the makings of a star, gravity draws leftover gas and dust into a giant swirling disk. The dust continues to stick together, clumping into rocky asteroids, which eventually become orbiting rocky planets. And voila: a solar system!
  • The urge to miniaturize electronics did not exist before the space program. I mean our grandparents had radios that was furniture in the living room. Nobody at the time was saying, ‘Gee, I want to carry that in my pocket.’ Which is a non-thought.
  • If all that you see, do, measure and discover is the will of a deity, then ideas can never be proven wrong, you have no predictive power, and you are at a loss to understand the principles behind most of the fundamental interconnections of nature.
  • And extracting one molecule’s signature in spectral analysis from the rest of the signatures is hard work, sort of like picking out the sound of your toddler’s voice in a roomful of screaming children during playtime. It’s hard, but you can do it.
  • How many times have you heard a person in a workplace say, “I wasn’t trained for this!” That’s an impossible reaction from a physicist, who would say, instead, “Cool. A problem I’ve never seen before. Let’s see how I can figure out how to solve it!”
  • 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 knew my interest in the universe and I owned a telescope that I bought with money I earned by walking dogs. 50 cents per walk, per dog, and that accumulated quickly. I bought a camera, a telescope. I taught myself astrophotography. I did all this.
  • No one with a living room radio that was a piece of furniture at the time would say, gee. I want to carry that around on my hip pocket. That was not a thought until NASA initiated this whole exercise. So there’s an influence that’s not just spinoff.
  • When Kennedy said, ‘Let’s go to the moon,’ we didn’t yet have a vehicle that wouldn’t kill you on launch. He said we’ll land a man on the moon in eight years and bring him back. That was an audacious goal to put forth in front of the American people.
  • I’m not a scientist, I was not a good science student, I felt effectively alienated from science throughout my young life, and it was only when I became an adult that I began to really appreciate from a completely different angle the power of science.
  • My only hope is that every other alien civilization isn’t doing exactly what we are doing because then everybody would be listening, nobody would be receiving, and we would collectively conclude that there is no other intelligent life in the universe.
  • I don’t like trying to influence politicians, who are themselves representative of huge numbers of people. As an educator, I’d rather enlighten the people and educate the people and let they be the ones who put the pressure on their elected officials.
  • But one of the coolest things about meteorites is that most were formed four-and-a-half-billion years ago, during the birth of our solar system, when, for reasons not yet known, a cloud of gas and dust was transformed into a sun with circling planets.
  • Do you realize that if you fall into a black hole, you will see the entire future of the Universe unfold in front of you in a matter of moments and you will emerge into another space-time created by the singularity of the black hole you just fell into?
  • The greatest of people in society carve niches that represent the unique expression of their combinations of talents. If everyone had the luxury of expressing the unique combination of talents in this world, our society would be transofrmed over night.
  • when I wrestled, I would set aside the time to wrestle, so that in my mind it didn’t interfere with my study time. That helped me psychologically. When I’m wrestling, I’m not studying the universe. And when I’m studying the universe, I’m not wrestling.
  • My popularity does not derive from me pandering to people. People came to me. I don’t tell anyone to follow me on Twitter. I don’t tell people to like my Facebook page. I don’t tell people to fill the venue. I’m offered to people, and then people come.
  • The miniaturization of electronics, which ultimately was driven by the marketplace, was started by NASA, because it costs money to get something into orbit. So you want to trim your electronics, miniaturize your electronics, miniaturize your satellites.
  • Where there’s water on Earth, you find life as we know it. So if you find water somewhere else, it becomes a remarkable draw to look closer to see if life of any kind is there, even if it’s bacterial, which would be extraordinary for the field of biology.
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  • To get an Emmy nomination for a show that was the first-ever science talk show on television to us was an affirmation that there is an appetite for this content in the mainstream public, not just the erudite public. So we’re all completely thrilled by it.
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  • We should not measure our space-faring era by where footprints have been laid…. We should measure our era by how many people take no notice at all. A legacy rises to become culture only when its elements are so common that they no longer attract comment.
  • We didn’t build the interstate system to connect New York to Los Angeles because the West Coast was a priority. No, we webbed the highways so people can go to multiple places and invent ways of doing things not thought of by the persons building the roads.
  • I don’t have an issue with what you do in the church, but I’m going to be up in your face if you’re going to knock on my science classroom and tell me they’ve got to teach what you’re teaching in your Sunday school. Because that’s when we’re going to fight.
  • While we may lose track of certain goals intermittently throughout the decades, I think we as a nation can be nimble when we need to be. All the buzz today is on the need for science literacy. That is on the agenda in ways it hasn’t been in previous decades.
  • He invited people to sign a petition that demanded either strict control of, or a total ban on, dihydrogen monoxide…. Yes, 86 percent of the passersby voted to ban water (H2O) from the environment. Maybe that’s what really happened to all the water on Mars.
  • I simply go with what works. And what works is the healthy skepticism embodied in the scientific method. Believe me, if the Bible had ever been shown to be a rich source of scientific answers and enlightenment, we would be mining it daily for cosmic discovery.
  • I’m an educator, and I’m a scientist, and I speak what is objectively true. And if that offends you, I can try to have a conversation with you to ask why it offends you, and tell you why objective truth should not offend you because that’s how the world works.
  • I would rather enlighten the electorate so that when it’s time for them to put somebody in Congress, it will be self-evident that they will embrace the message and tools and discovery of science in a way that can transform our culture and even our civilization.
  • In science, if you don’t do it, somebody else will. Whereas in art, if Beethoven didn’t compose the ‘Ninth Symphony,’ no one else before or after is going to compose the ‘Ninth Symphony’ that he composed; no one else is going to paint ‘Starry Night’ by van Gogh.
  • I am convinced that the act of thinking logically cannot possibly be natural to the human mind. If it were, then mathematics would be everybody’s easiest course at school and our species would not have taken several millennia to figure out the scientific method.
  • Whether or not you can never become great at something, you can always become better at it. Don’t ever forget that! And don’t say I’ll never be good‚Äù. You can become better! and one day you’ll wake up and you’ll find out how good you actually became.
  • We hunger for significance, for signs that our personal existence is of special meaning to the universe. To that end, we’re all too eager to deceive ourselves and others, to discern a sacred image in a grilled cheese sandwich or find a divine warning in a comet
  • People are really excited about robotic exploration. I understand the feeling there because, in fact, robots can do things humans can’t. They can survive harsh conditions, they can explore places we would never go, plus you never actually have to bring them back.
  • Research in education has shown that we remember field trips long into adulthood. I remember visiting the post office in second grade and looking at the sorting machine. I have vivid memories of that, when I don’t even remember the name of the teacher who took me.
  • If an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader.
  • Something bad happened on both Mars with its dried-up watercourses and Venus with its runaway greenhouse effect. Could something bad happen on Earth too? Our species currently turns row upon row of environmental knobs, without much regard to long-term consequences.
  • Where did the concept of “without borders” come from? No one had that concept until you saw Earth from space, illustrated not by a mapmaker who’s color-coding political boundaries; it’s illustrated by nature itself and there’s land, there’s ocean, there’s atmosphere.
  • We still refer to sunrise, sunset. That only has meaning if you think that Earth is in the center of things, and everything is moving around us. So even though we know intellectually Earth goes around the sun, the language is still pre-Copernican, as we would call it.
  • Long ago Mars was an oasis of running water.Today the Martiansurfaceis a sterile,barren desert. Here on Earth, who knows what climactic knobs we unwittingly turn,which might one day render Earth as dry and lifeless as Mars. (From the cover of Old Poison by Joan Francis)
  • A television advertisement must illustrate the scientific method to substantiate any claim…. That is why stains are lifted, ring-around-the-collar is removed, paper towels become soaked, excess stomach acid is absorbed, and headaches go away-all during the commercial.
  • You say you’re worried about kids? I’m not worried about kids, I’m worried about grown ups… Children are not the problem here… We spend the first year of their lives teaching them how to walk and talk, and the rest of their lives telling them to shut up and sit down.
  • Three and a half million years ago our ancestors – yours and mine – left these traces [indicates footprints]. We stood up and parted ways from them. Once we were standing on two feet, our eyes were no longer fixated on the ground. Now, we were free to look up and wonder.
  • It would be great if we were on multiple planets, but I think that’s unrealistic. Hawking says we have to be on multiple planets so an asteroid could come and you’d still have some humans left. It’s a nice idea. It satisfies the multiple-eggs-in-multiple-baskets concept.
  • Because we all just function, the rest of us, just go to work and come home; artists make life bearable. They give perspectives on things we never knew you could have. They bring joy. They explore inner human emotion, and at its best, the full dynamic range of that emotion.
  • Deep down within anyone there’s a flame that maybe had gone dormant that can be fanned or ignited 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.
  • The best educators are the ones that inspire their students. That inspiration comes from a passion that teachers have for the subject they’re teaching. Most commonly, that person spent their lives studying that subject, and they bring an infectious enthusiasm to the audience.
  • Here’s the problem, when you’re stargazing on a mountain top you are partially oxygen-deprived and you’re in command of million dollars worth of hardware. So as much as I would like to sip wine under the stars, it’s contraindicated in the instructions on operating telescopes.
  • My interest in the space program has a certain purity to it because I recognize the romance of it but I was never seduced by it. That allowed me to view it through a more purely scientific lens. My interest in space while in school came about through my scientific activities.
  • The history of exploration across nations and across time is not one where nations said, ‘Let’s explore because it’s fun.’ It was, ‘Let’s explore so that we can claim lands for our country, so that we can open up new trade routes; let’s explore so we can become more powerful.’
  • We can trace the elements. They were forged in the centers of high-mass stars that went unstable at the ends of their lives, they exploded, scattered their enriched contents across the galaxy, sprinkled into gas clouds that then collapsed and formed stars and planets and life.
  • For me, one of the most fertile consequences of the space program is the extent to which it stimulates people to innovate because they want to create a different tomorrow than what they’re living in today. And it’s that culture of innovation that spawns entirely new economies.
  • You know, there’s black holes and what – could there be wormholes? Could – might there be a multi-verse? These are all fascinating frontiers. What is the nature of dark matter and dark energy? And what was around before the universe? And do we have access to higher dimensions?
  • This fear factor, this war driver is a very strong one and it’s been with the species ever since the beginning and it motivated the Great Wall of China. War can be aggressive or defensive, right? So it motivated the Great Wall of China. Our space program was reactive to Russia.
  • I’ve always been interested in pop culture. Some of my colleagues think of pop culture as beneath them, or there’s the ivory tower and then there’s everybody else, and I never could buy into that wall that’s been put up by so many people over the decades and even the centuries.
  • We account for all the matter and energy that we’re familiar with, measure up how much gravity it should have, it’s one-sixth of the gravity that’s actually operating on the universe. We call that dark matter. It really should be called dark gravity. We don’t know what that is.
  • I’m revealing information to people. I’m not creating it. And to the extent that people embrace it, I think they’re empowered by it, because any time you have a bigger perspective today than you did yesterday, it’s got to be only for the good of your mind, your body, your soul.
  • By the way, how much does NASA cost? It’s half a penny on a dollar. Did you know that? … The most powerful agency on the dreams of a nation is currently underfunded to do what it needs to be doing, and that’s making dreams come true … How much would you pay for the universe?
  • We think scientific literacy flows out of how many science facts can you recite rather than how was your brain wired for thinking. And it’s the brain wiring that I’m more interested in rather than the facts that come out of the curriculum or the lesson plan that’s been proposed.
  • Those who see the cosmic perspective as a depressing outlook, they really need to reassess how they think about the world. Because when I look up in the universe, I know I’m small but I’m also big. I’m big because I’m connected to the universe and the universe is connected to me.
  • … informed ignorance provides the natural state of mind for research scientists at the ever-shifting frontiers of knowledge. People who believe themselves ignorant of nothing have neither looked for, nor stumbled upon, the boundary between what is known and unknown in the cosmos.
  • One of the greatest features of science is that it doesn’t matter where you were born, and it doesn’t matter what the belief systems of your parents might have been: If you perform the same experiment that someone else did, at a different time and place, you’ll get the same result.
  • Typically, when you look for role models, you want someone who has your interests and came from the same background. Well, look how restricting that is. What people should do is take role models a la carte. If there’s someone whose character you appreciated, you respect that trait.
  • I [do not know] when the end of science will come. … What I do know is that our species is dumber than we normally admit to ourselves. This limit of our mental faculties, and not necessarily of science itself, ensures to me that we have only just begun to figure out the universe.
  • Spin-off technologies are changing the culture. Even if you don’t become an engineer you could be a poet, a journalist, a lawyer, but you will be thinking innovation and your actions within society, who you vote for, what you value, all become a participant in an innovation economy.
  • In fact, I think it was the philosopher Hume who argued that it’s far more likely that a miracle is a new physical phenomenon that we have yet to discover and have now discovered in that moment than it is a spiritual force coming down from God making something happen in front of you.
  • The number of people in the world engaged in this search for catastrophic impactors totals one or two dozen. How long into the future are you willing to protect Homo sapiens on Earth? Before you answer that question, take a detour to Arizona’s Meteor Crater during your next vacation.
  • But to measure cause and effect… you must ensure that a simple correlation, however tempting it may be, is not mistaken for a cause. In the 1990s the stork population of Germany increased and the German at-home birth rate rose as well. Shall we credit storks for airlifting the babies?
  • In terms of the most astonishing fact about which we know nothing, there is dark matter and dark energy. We don’t know what either of them is. Everything we know and love about the universe and all the laws of physics as they apply, apply to four percent of the universe. That’s stunning.
  • If you are that person, you are more likely to believe that God cured you, this invisible force, creator of the universe, cured you, than that you had three idiotic doctors diagnose you. … I taught physics to pre-med students who became doctors. Not all of them are smart, I assure you.
  • The history of exploration has never been driven by exploration. But Columbus himself was a discoverer. So was Magellan. But the people who wrote checks were not. They had other motivations. And there’s Columbus – he couldn’t even get Italy to pay for his voyage so he has to go to Spain.
  • I think I’m misunderstood when I post these comments about films. So here is Kate Winslet sitting on – you know, laying on this plank. This ship is down. She let her boyfriend drown. They didn’t even try a second time to get him to float on that with her. So I’m angry by that. I think…
  • Science surrounds you. It’s not something that you can step aside, step over or push out of your way because you were never good at science in school. Science is around you. Once you know and embrace that fact, it might stimulate curiosity within you to learn more about the natural world.
  • I want to create the airplane that flies in the rarified atmosphere of Mars. This is what galvanizes a generation to want to become scientists and engineers in the first place, not we need a scientist to develop a plane that’s 20 percent more fuel-efficient than the one your parents flew.
  • When I was a kid, I thought that if everyone looked up the way I did then everyone would want to study the universe just like me – how could they not? This naivet√© is what tells me that my interest was more a calling than a rational comparative assessment about what to be when I grew up.
  • It’s quite literally true that we are star dust, in the highest exalted way one can use that phrase. …I bask in the majesty of the cosmos. I use words, compose sentences that sound like the sentences I hear out of people that had revelation of Jesus, who go on their pilgrimages to Mecca.
  • If Earth ever suffers a runaway greenhouse effect (like what has happened on Venus), then our atmosphere would trap excess amounts of solar energy, the air temperature would rise, and the oceans would swiftly evaporate into the atmosphere as they sustained a rolling boil. This would be bad.
  • Most of what Einstein said and did has no direct impact on what anybody reads in the Bible. Special relativity, his work in quantum mechanics, nobody even knows or cares. Where Einstein really affects the Bible is the fact that general relativity is the organizing principle for the Big Bang.
  • (Space programs are) a force operating on educational pipelines that stimulate the formation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians… They’re the ones that make tomorrow come. The foundations of economies… issue forth from investments we make in science and technology.
  • The problem in society is not kids not knowing science. The problem is adults not knowing science. They outnumber kids 5 to 1, they wield power, they write legislation. When you have scientifically illiterate adults, you have undermined the very fabric of what makes a nation wealthy and strong.
  • You should chose your heroes a-la carte. Picking and choosing from one and then another, thereby assembling a kind of composite hero. That way when you discover something reprehensible about any one of them it matters nothing to you because that’s not the part of them that piqued your interest.
  • The school system is constructed to praise you if you get high grades. And if you get straight A’s, you’re the one that everyone puts forward, and they prognosticate that the straight-A person is the one most likely to succeed, because that’s the way the school system is constructed and conceived.
  • The caricature of science is that we hold tight to the theories we have, and shun challenges to them. That’s just not true. In fact, we hold our highest rewards for those scientists who can prove others wrong. And by the way, they are famous in their own lifetimes. We don’t wait until they’re dead.
  • When I needed to overcome the low expectations of others or the bias that would be expressed in one circumstance or another, I’d keep on keeping on. And I climb over the obstacle, go around it, dig under it, fly over it. That’s what kept me going. Otherwise I would have never been an astrophysicist.
  • Every account of a higher power that I’ve seen described, of all religions that I’ve seen, include many statements with regard to the benevolence of that power. When I look at the universe and all the ways the universe wants to kill us, I find it hard to reconcile that with statements of beneficence.
  • 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.
  • Some claim evolution is just a theory. As if it were merely an opinion. The theory of evolution, like the theory of gravity, is a scientific fact. Evolution really happened. Accepting our kinship with all life on Earth is not only solid science. In my view, it’s also a soaring spiritual experience.
  • Most science fiction is about tomorrow, a tomorrow brought to you by innovations in science and technology, and China was worried that if they just have everybody learning what is, they’re not going to be in a position to invent a tomorrow because their brain isn’t even wired to go in that direction.
  • ‘Cause a musician, you can’t tell me, “I’ve got this message I want share with the public,” and it’s three-and-a-half minutes long. That’s not it. If your message is only three-and-a-half minutes long, then we got nothing else to talk about. Because life is more complex than three-and-a-half minutes.
  • NASA was invented as a response to Cold War steps. There are those who presumed that we went to the moon because we’re explorers. We went to the moon because we were at war with the Soviet Union. And so when it became clear that they (Soviet Union) were not going to the moon, we’re done with the moon.
  • The value of science is not simply what the next model of the iPod you will buy next week, but its real value comes about when it’s time to distinguish reality from everything else. And to be scientifically literate is to be trained in what it is, to recognize your own frailty as a data-taking device.
  • We still don’t know for sure what the trigger was, but since we’ve discovered meteorites with supernova dust, we do know that a violent explosion rocked our cosmic neighborhood at the time of our birth, and it’s quite possible that without it, our stable, stately solar system would never exist at all.
  • You can deceive yourself into thinking that America is a technological leader, but if you don’t see what anyone else is doing you have no accurate assessment – you can’t make an accurate assessment of where you fit and why. I consider our moving frontier in space as the anecdote to that downward trend.
  • I’ve never been the critic of reality TV that others have, especially many of my colleagues who wonder if it’s just the end of America. It’s a free market and you just put it on. The fact that science has not been on neck-and-neck with it means that people believe science could not compete on that level.
  • If our solar system is not unusual, then there are so many planets in the universe that, for example, they outnumber the sum of all sounds and words ever uttered by every human who has ever lived. To declare that Earth must be the only planet with life in the universe would be inexcusably bigheaded of us.
  • The chunks of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 were so large, and were moving so fast, that each hit Jupiter with at least the equivalent energy of the dinosaur-killing collision between Earth and an asteroid 65 million years ago. Whatever damage Jupiter sustained, one thing is for sure: it’s got no dinosaurs left.
  • Last I checked, Bill Gates was worth $50 billion. If the average employed adult, who is walking in a hurry, will pick up a quarter from the sidewalk, but not a dime, then the corresponding amount of money given their relative wealth that Bill Gates would ignore if he saw it lying on the street is $25,000.
  • We in astrophysics we think of the universe all the time. So to us, Earth is just another planet. From a distance, it’s a speck. And I’m convinced that if everyone had a cosmic perspective you wouldn’t have legions of armies waging war on other people because someone would say, “Stop, look at the universe.”
  • I have a personal philosophy in life: If somebody else can do something that I’m doing, they should do it. And what I want to do is find things that would represent a unique contribution to the world-the contribution that only I, and my portfolio of talents, can make happen. Those are my priorities in life.
  • The news media reported the $250 million as an unthinkably huge waste of money and proclaimed that something was wrong with NASA. The result was an investigation and a congressional hearing. Not to defend failure, but $250 million is not much more than the cost to produce Kevin Costner’s film flop Waterworld.
  • Any time scientists disagree, it’s because we have insufficient data. Then we can agree on what kind of data to get; we get the data; and the data solves the problem. Either I’m right, or you’re right, or we’re both wrong. And we move on. That kind of conflict resolution does not exist in politics or religion.
  • I’m optimistic. I see no longer people accepting fuzzy thinking in the world. The change is not that people aren’t still saying under-informed things. The change is that if you’re in power and you say something under-informed, there are people out there with a voice who will take you to task for having done so
  • In the movie, the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs… we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky-one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?
  • Everybody’s got money for vacation time. Look at how much we all spend just to get – well, I get sick on the loop-the-loop roller coasters. People pay money for that kind of experience. So I would certainly save up money, save several vacations worth of money, to go on a suborbital flight or any rocket flights.
  • There are two ways you can receive energy from your environment: One is molecules bumping against you. That’s the air. The other is radiative energy. That’s what you’re feeling from the sun. When they say “Get out of the sun, out of the heat,” the air is the same temperature; it’s just you’re exposed to sunlight.
  • If your ego starts out, “I am important, I am big, I am special,” you’re in for some disappointments when you look around at what we’ve discovered about the universe. No, you’re not big. No, you’re not. You’re small in time and in space. And you have this frail vessel called the human body that’s limited on Earth.
  • On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death.
  • There is a theorem that colloquially translates, You cannot comb the hair on a bowling ball. … Clearly, none of these mathematicians had Afros, because to comb an Afro is to pick it straight away from the scalp. If bowling balls had Afros, then yes, they could be combed without violation of mathematical theorems.
  • Asteroids have us in our sight. The dinosaurs didn’t have a space program, so they’re not here to talk about this problem. We are, and we have the power to do something about it. I don’t want to be the embarrassment of the galaxy, to have had the power to deflect an asteroid, and then not, and end up going extinct.
  • The StarTalks – while kids can watch them, they’re actually targeted at adults. Because adults outnumber kids five to one, and adults vote, and adults wield resources, and adults are heads of agencies. So if we’re going to affect policy, or affect attitudes, for me, the adults have always been the target population.
  • FM signals and those of broadcast television…travel out to space at the speed of light. Any eavesdropping alien civilization will know all about our TV programs (probably a bad thing), will hear all our FM music (probably a good thing), and know nothing of the politics of AM talk-show hosts (probably a safe thing).
  • 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.
  • Eventually, the Sun will swell to occupy the entire sky as its expansion subsumes the orbit of earth. Earth’s surface temperature will rise until it matches the 3,000-degree rarified outer layers of the expanded Sun…. But not to worry. We will surely go extinct for some other reason long before this scenario unfolds.
  • And I don’t care what else anyone has ever told you, the Sun is white, not yellow. Human color perception is a complicated business, but if the Sun were yellow, like a yellow lightbulb, then white stuff such as snow would reflect this light and appear yellow-a snow condition confirmed to happen only near fire hydrants.
  • There is no science in this world like physics. Nothing comes close to the precision with which physics enables you to understand the world around you. It’s the laws of physics that allow us to say exactly what time the sun is going to rise. What time the eclipse is going to begin. What time the eclipse is going to end.
  • A successful day for me is when I teach people something. They become enlightened by an idea and learn how to think about it, so that later on when someone says, “Tell me about x, y, z,” they don’t have to say, “I know this because Tyson told me.” No, they’ll say, “Here’s why it’s true because I know and understand it.”
  • That the north star is the brightest in the night sky. I’d guess about 9 out of 10 people think this. But it does not require a grant from the National Science Foundation to learn the answer. The North Star is not even in the top 40 in the night sky. It’s the 49th brightest star. Rather dull and boring by most measures.
  • The universe has really never made things in ones. The Earth is special and everything else is different? No, we’ve got seven other planets. The sun? No, the sun is one of those dots in the night sky. The Milky Way? No, it’s one of a hundred billion galaxies. And the universe – maybe it’s countless other universes.
  • When you innovate no one else can figure out how to do what you’re doing because you’re too far ahead of them. And the day they do figure out, you’re on to the next object, the next widget, the next concept in innovation. And so America has benefited economically from the space race even though it was driven by military.
  • There’s the anti-intellectual movement in society and I don’t blame them entirely for feeling that way because we all know people, I have many colleagues where you try to hang out with them and they make you feel bad for not knowing what they know. If that’s how you interact with people, why would anyone want to be that.
  • I recognize that there’s an appetite that I’m now serving, and I’m happy to do so. I think it means quite a bit that science has achieved this level of public interest and access. And so I’m simultaneously astonished every day upon recognizing this, and I think it’s a good sign for the country and possibly for the world.
  • I’ve found that no one complains about pop culture being a source of someone lecturing to them. If someone’s telling you about Kim Kardashian, you’re not going to accuse them of lecturing to you. If I can explore an intersection between pop culture and science literacy, then it generally will not come across as a lecture.
  • If you’re denying God’s power, that means you don’t really believe they were miracles, and so then why believe they happened at all. What you’re saying is you’re taking the Bible’s account as literally true in need of a scientific explanation rather than just people coming up with stuff to fulfill their religious missions.
  • George Bush, within a week of this [the 9/11 attacks], in a speech, attempting to distinguish US from the Muslim fundamentalists, said Our God is the God who named the stars. The problem is: two-thirds of all stars that have names, have Arabic names. I don’t think he knew this. That would confound the point that he was making.
  • Darwin’s theory of evolution is a framework by which we understand the diversity of life on Earth. But there is no equation sitting there in Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’ that you apply and say, ‘What is this species going to look like in 100 years or 1,000 years?’ Biology isn’t there yet with that kind of predictive precision.
  • For all we know, the aliens have already done this and unwittingly concluded that there was no intelligent life on Earth. They would now be looking elsewhere. A more humbling possibility would be if aliens had become aware of the technologically proficient species that now inhabits Earth, yet they had drawn the same conclusion.
  • I can tell you that in my modern life I enjoy language. I enjoy words, their meaning, what they sound like to the ear, what they sound like to the listener. I strive to write the perfect sentence in all that I do, and when I write [the] perfect sentence I know it. If I had a second life I’d be a librettist for Broadway musicals.
  • When we see animals doing remarkable things, how do we know if we’re simply seeing tricks or signs of real intelligence? Are talented animals just obeying commands, or do they have some kind of deeper understanding? One of the biggest challenges for animal researchers is to come up with tests that can distinguish between the two.
  • People put clips of me up. There are quotes from me. I’ve written books, of course. I’m on Twitter. There are dozens of ways to consume my offerings, and a lecture in a large venue is really only just one of them. So I have no concerns about how much access people would have to me no matter what is the capacity of your pocketbook.
  • Astronomers do not commonly use Venereal, in favor of the less contagious-sounding Venutian. Blame the medical community, who snatched the word long before astronomers had any good use for it. I suppose you can’t blame the doctors. Venus is the goddess of beauty and love, so she ought to be the goddess of its medical consequences.
  • Trillions of years into the future, when all stars are gone…all parts of the cosmos will cool to the same temperature as the ever-cooling background. At that time, space travel will no longer provide refuge because even Hell will have frozen over. We may then declare that the universe has died-not with a bang, but with a whimper.
  • We are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.
  • But to carve the Grand Canyon, Earth required millions of years. To excavate Meteor Crater, the universe, using a sixty-thousand-ton asteroid traveling upward of twenty miles per second, required a fraction of a second. No offense to Grand Canyon lovers, but for my money, Meteor Crater is the most amazing natural landmark in the world.
  • Going into orbit around Earth – where the space station is today, and where the space shuttles and John Glenn and all those folks go-that’s three-eighths of an inch above a schoolroom globe, just FYI. That’s not very far from Earth. Yes, you are off Earth, but you’re not really going anywhere yet. The moon was the only real destination.
  • I remain fearless of airplanes after 9/11. But during a trip to Los Angeles on a Boeing 767, I couldn’t keep my mind from drifting: What’s the largest piece of this airplane that could crash into the World Trade Center, explode out the other side, and survive intact? The landing gear? My computer battery? My belt buckle? My wedding ring?
  • People cited violation of the First Amendment when a New Jersey schoolteacher asserted that evolution and the Big Bang are not scientific and that Noah’s ark carried dinosaurs. This case is not about the need to separate church and state; it’s about the need to separate ignorant, scientifically illiterate people from the ranks of teachers.
  • After your first job, is anyone asking you what your GPA was? No, they don’t care. They ask you: Are you a good leader? Do people follow you? Do you have integrity? Are you innovative? Do you solve problems? Somebody’s got to do that homework and redesign the educational system so that it can actually train people to be successful in life.
  • The trend lines in research and innovation look good for places such as India and China and less good for America as we go forward. So even if you’re not enchanted by the prospect of cosmic discovery, the prospect of dying poor may be what it takes to understand the role of this adventure in the future of the natural world in which we live.
  • I’ve said multiple times that the world’s first trillionaire is going to be the person who exploits the resources of asteroids, the natural resources that are rare on earth and common on selected asteroids. So there are many different reasons you might want to go into space. You might want to spend your honeymoon on the far side of the moon.
  • You like to explore things, and your parents don’t like it because it gets the pots and pans dirty, and because it’s noisy – but for you it’s fun, you’re resting. You’re actually doing experiments… Just tell your parents that they’re experiments, and you want to become a scientist, and then they won’t stop you from doing anything you want.
  • Once you have an innovation culture, even those who are not scientists or engineers – poets, actors, journalists – they, as communities, embrace the meaning of what it is to be scientifically literate. They embrace the concept of an innovation culture. They vote in ways that promote it. They don’t fight science and they don’t fight technology.
  • But my vote for Venus’s most peculiar feature is the presence of craters that are all relatively young and uniformly distributed over its surface. This innocuous-sounding feature implicates a single planetwide catastrophe that reset the cratering clock… turning Venus’s entire surface into the American automotive dream-a totally paved planet.
  • I think that intelligence is such a narrow branch of the tree of life – this branch of primates we call humans. No other animal, by our definition, can be considered intelligent. So intelligence can’t be all that important for survival, because there are so many animals that don’t have what we call intelligence, and they’re surviving just fine.
  • Now imagine a world in which everyone, but especially people with power and influence, holds an expanded view of our place in the cosmos. With that perspective, our problems would shrink-or never arise at all-and we could celebrate our earthly differences while shunning the behavior of our predecessors who slaughtered each other because of them.
  • So while you’re getting ripped apart head to toe as you fall into a black hole, you will also extrude through the fabric of space and time, like toothpaste squeezed through a tube. To all the words in the English language that describe ways to die (e.g., homicide, suicide, electrocution, suffocation, starvation) we add the term spaghettification.
  • Nature is not here to keep you alive. It has just as many ways to kill you as it does to sustain you. And if you cherry-pick this fact, you are left thinking that earth is some haven for life, but 96, 97 percent of all species that ever lived on earth are now extinct from the actions of the earth itself and an occasional asteroid to stir the pot.
  • We should not be ashamed of not having answers to all questions yet… I’m perfectly happy staring somebody in the face saying, ‘I don’t know yet, and we’ve got top people working on it.’ The moment you feel compelled to provide an answer, then you’re doing the same thing that the religious community does: providing answers to every possible question.
  • There are two kinds of comments that I get. One is, oh, you’re such a natural up there, and the other one is, you’re working hard up there. And the ones who say I’m working hard are teachers, they’re the educators; they’re the people who are the performers. It’s a huge investment of my psycho-emotional energy to pull that off and to make it look smooth.
  • If an artist is reaching for the universe as a source of creative muse, then I’m there. I’m gonna say, “Yeah. Here’s Saturn. Here’s a black hole. Here’s twisted space-time. Talk to me. What do you need? What do you want?” And I’ll just feed you, because I think only then does science become mainstream – when science becomes a legitimate topic for artists.
  • I don’t require that the main guest [of StarTalk] have any science knowledge or background at all. It’s just, I have a conversation with them, it’s long and winding, and we find out what parts of what we learn about the person lend themselves to further scientific discussion with an expert who is brought into the studio. So that’s how that comes together.
  • You could be a poet, an artist, a comedian – if you’re in the culture of innovation then you embrace those who do and you’re going to protect the science curriculum in the classroom because you understand the meaning and the value of it. And science discoveries don’t scare you. You say, “Give me more science”, not less. “Give me more technology”, not less.
  • 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 ‚Äî many people feel small, because they’re small and the Universe is big, but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars.
  • You will never find scientists leading armies into battle. You just won’t. Especially not astrophysicists -we see the biggest picture there is. We understand how small we are in the cosmos. We understand how fragile and temporary our existence is here on Earth. We understand there are bigger problems we need to solve as a species than what God you pray to.
  • In any case, the leading edge of our “on purpose” radio signals is 30 light-years away and, if intercepted, may mend the aliens’ image of us based on the radio bubble of our television shows. But this will happen only if the aliens can somehow determine which type of signal comes closer to the truth of who we are, and what our cosmic identity deserves to be.
  • You ask people, do you pray to [a person or] God. If you say yes to that, you’re religious by, presumably, anybody’s standards of your conduct. And it’s the yes to that question that applies to 40% of scientists. So, there’re plenty of atheists who are scientists or not scientists. There maybe a conflict but many people in this country coexist in both worlds.
  • Everything we do understand about the universe – the periodic table of elements, Einstein’s laws, Newton’s laws, all of chemistry, all of biology – that’s 4 percent of the universe. We got to the moon on the 4 percent we do understand. We landed on Mars on the 4 percent we do understand. So the day we crack the nut of the rest of that 95 percent… Oh my gosh.
  • The great tragedy is that they’re removing art completely, not because they’re putting more science in, but because they can’t afford the art teachers or because somebody thinks it’s not useful. An enlightened society has all of this going on within it. It’s part of what distinguishes what it is to be human from other life forms on Earth – that we have culture.
  • The press still thinks [global warming] is controversial. So they find the 1% of the scientists and put them up as if they’re 50% of the research results. You in the public would have no idea that this is basically a done deal and that we’re on to other problems, because the journalists are trying to give it a 50/50 story. It’s not a 50/50 story. It’s not. Period.
  • The moment when someone attaches you to a philosophy or a movement, then they assign all the baggage and all the rest of the philosophy that goes with it to you. And when you want to have a conversation, they will assert that they already know everything important there is to know about you because of that association. And that’s not the way to have a conversation.
  • Great scientific minds, from Claudius Ptolemy of the second century to Isaac Newton of the seventeenth, invested their formidable intellects in attempts to deduce the nature of the universe from the statements and philosophies contained in religious writings…. Had any of these efforts worked, science and religion today might be one and the same. But they are not.
  • When you’re a hammer (as the saying goes), all your problems look like nails. If you’re a meteorite expert pondering the sudden extinction of boatloads of species, you’ll want to say an impact did it. If you’re an igneous petrologist, volcanoes did it. If you’re into spaceborne bioclouds, an interstellar virus did it. If you’re a hypernova expert, gamma rays did it.
  • The most accessible field in science, from the point of view of language, is astrophysics. What do you call spots on the sun? Sunspots. Regions of space you fall into and you don’t come out of? Black holes. Big red stars? Red giants. So I take my fellow scientists to task. He’ll use his word, and if I understand it, I’ll say, ‚ÄúOh, does that mean da-da-da-de-da?
  • Stars die and reborn [‚Ķ] They get so hot that the nuclei of the atoms fuse together deep within them to make the oxygen we breathe, the carbon in our muscles, the calcium in our bones, the iron in our blood. All was cooked in the fiery hearts of long vanished stars. ‚Ķ The cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.
  • When you visit countries that don’t nurture these kinds of ambitions, you can feel th absence of hope…people are reduced to worrying only about that day’s shelter or the next day’s meal. It’s a shame, even a tragedy, how many people do not get to think about the future. Technology coupled with wise leadership not only solves these problems but enables dreams of tomorow.
  • The word smart is not applied to all professions, even if you are smart in that profession. No one talks about smart lawyers. They may say a brilliant lawyer. They’ll talk about a creative artist. Smart is saved for scientists. It just is. It’s not even really applied to medical doctors. It applies to scientists in the lab figuring out what hadn’t been figured out before.
  • Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body…are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically.
  • Don’t get in the way of children who find it natural and obvious to explore the world around them – even if it means they make a mess of your kitchen or living room. It’s all about your perspective on these things. Let them play. When you do, the kids do not have to be reintroduced to ways of questioning nature, and the task of promoting science would be a trivial exercise.
  • If NASA were advancing a space frontier there would be challenges you’ve never seen before. You have to be creative and you have to patent some new idea. You get to Mars…well, how do we get the water from the soil? I gotta invent a new device that will do that. And the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, how can we use that? Can we breathe the oxygen from the carbon dioxide?
  • Curiosity is unknown. All adults were once kids and once curious, but as adults you don’t remember that and you see curiosity when it’s expressed in children as a pathway to household disaster. They’re simply exploring their environment, manifesting their curiosity. So what you need to do is create an environment where curiosity is rewarded rather than punished, or thwarted.
  • Some memories are best absorbed through your eyes in real time, even if you have no record of it later. Because then you can access that memory and how you felt in that moment. If you’re looking at your cellphone screen, taking a video of something that is otherwise unforgettable, watching it later will not recover the emotion you would have had, had you witnessed it directly.
  • Whatever I am, I’m not as bad as the person that read the novel before watching the film. I’ll enjoy whatever they [producers] are putting in front of me. If they made an attempt to get things right, then I’ll criticize them for what they got wrong. If they made no attempt to get things right, and yet they stumble on something that’s right, I’ll comment on what they got right.
  • I’d go back and hang out with Isaac Newton. I’m torn between do I hang out with him or do I bring him into the present to hang out with me. See, that might be terrifying because his head will just explode once he sees everything that was derived from his discoveries, but I’d spend more time with someone who I think is one of the most brilliant minds our species has ever known.
  • This influential, yet controversial idea requires that the mixture of species on Earth at any moment acts as a collective organism that continuously (yet unwittingly) tunes Earth’s atmospheric composition and climate to promote the presence of life… But I’d bet there are some dead Martians and Venusians who advanced the same theory about their own planets a billion years ago.
  • I have a very high respect for professional comedians. What they do astonishes me. You have to be really smart and absorb everything, repackage it, bring it back to the person, and make them laugh at themselves. I can make people laugh during my talks because they didn’t come to have me make them laugh. It’s added value. So my job is way easier than that of a professional comic.
  • Anyone who has wrestled knows that it’s the hardest thing in the world to do. Anyone who says something else is the hardest thing has never wrestled. That’s what I have found. … You don’t wrestle because it’s easy, you wrestle because it’s hard. I don’t do astrophysics because it’s easy, I do it because it’s hard. And I juxtapose the two in my mind, body, and soul all the time.
  • If that god is described as being all-powerful and all-knowing and all-good, I don’t see evidence for it anywhere in the world. So I remain unconvinced. If that god is all-powerful and all-good, I don’t see that when a tsunami kills a quarter-million or an earthquake kills a quarter-million people. I’d like to think of good as something in the interest of your health or longevity.
  • In astrophysics, we care about how matter, motion and energy manifest in objects and phenomenon in the universe. Stars are born. They live out their lives. They die. Some of the ones that die explode. Our sun will not be one of those, but it will die. And it’ll take Earth with us. So we make sure we have other destinations in mind when that happens. And I’ve got it on my calendar.
  • I think science has a better story to tell than anyone else has been able to tell and that’s because it’s based on the rigorous winnowing that science and scientists are always doing in order to find out what’s really happening. I think it’s really good to encourage generally our ability to tell stories and that’s a great skill that we come by naturally, so I’m excited about that.
  • So many people have that kind of attitude and approach to learning that it gives me great hope for the world. I say hope in the sense that innovations in science and technology will be the engines of a 21st century economy and I don’t want to go broke, as a nation. So, the hope I have is that, if people embrace it, we’ll have a healthier, more secure, wealthier nation than we have.
  • Our planet has been around only for four and a half billion years. Let’s imagine a planet that has life on it such as life is on Earth and it’s seven billion years old. Let’s say that planet evolved intelligence. Well, that intelligence would be way more advanced than what we call intelligence here on Earth. How long has intelligence been around on Earth as we’ve come to define it?
  • People say, oh we just need charismatic leaders to continue on to Mars. Now we’ve gone to the moon, of course Mars is next. No. Mars was never, of course, next. It is next if you think we went to the moon because we’re explorers, but if you know we went to the moon because we were at war then we’re never going to Mars. There’s no military reason to do it, to justify the expenditure.
  • It’d be a shame to talk about the universe and not show some images of it, because we have some of the more stunning representations of our field relative to any of the sciences. But I don’t use the imagery as a substitute for the insights and wisdom I can convey so that when you leave you say to yourself, “Wow, I’m a little more deeply connected to the universe, and I want to learn more.”
  • Apart from the obvious advantages of having ice to melt, filter, then drink, you can also break apart the water’s hydrogen from its oxygen. Use the hydrogen and some of the oxygen as active ingredients in rocket fuel and keep the rest of the oxygen for breathing. And in your spare time between space missions, you can always go ice skating on the frozen lake created with the extracted water.
  • Not enough of our society is trained how to understand and interpret quantitative information. This activity is a centerpiece of science literacy to which we should all strive-the future health, wealth, and security of our democracy depend on it. Until that is achieved, we are at risk of making under-informed decisions that affect ourselves, our communities, our country, and even the world.
  • I would teach how science works as much as I would teach what science knows. I would assert (given that essentially, everyone will learn to read) that science literacy is the most important kind of literacy they can take into the 21st century. I would undervalue grades based on knowing things and find ways to reward curiosity. In the end, it’s the people who are curious who change the world.
  • I would expunge the word “aptitude” from our vocabulary, because if you’re interested in something, that’s all that matters. You’ll spend more time doing it, that than anything else, and possibly more time doing it than anybody else. And that’s all that matters, because in the end, if you love what you do, you’ll be your best at it compared to anything else you might have chosen as a career.
  • Americans live in a free country, which allows you to believe what you want. Because you think that something is true does not require that it is objectively true. The value of science concerning itself with objective truths is that we can make decisions and statements that affect everyone, which is why legislation really should be based on objective truths, not what is going on in your head.
  • We only recently figured out the origin of our own moon. And we have some idea of how the Sun and Earth formed, but that’s only because modern telescopes empower us to see other stars and planets freshly hatched within gas clouds across the galaxy. As for the origin of life itself, the transition from inanimate molecules to what any of us would call life remains one of the great frontiers of biology.
  • When provoked, the itsy-bitsy invertebrates known as tardigrades can suspend their metabolism. In that state, they can survive temperatures of… 73 K for days on end, making them hardy enough to endure being stranded on Neptune. So the next time you need space travelers with the right stuff, you might want to choose yeast and tardigrades, and leave your astronauts, cosmonauts, and taikonauts at home.
  • I suppose I can live with missing decimals, missing floors to tall buildings, and floors that are named instead of numbered. A more serious problem is the limited capacity of the human mind to grasp the relative magnitudes of large numbers. Counting at the rate of one number per second…to count to a trillion takes 32,000 years, which is as much time as has elapsed since people first drew on cave walls.
  • Artificial selection turned the wolf into the shepherd, and the wild grasses into wheat and corn. In fact, almost every plant and animal that we eat today was bred from a wild, less edible ancestor. If artificial selection can work such profound changes in only ten or fifteen thousand years, what can natural selection do operating over billions of years? The answer is all the beauty and diversity of life.
  • Lots of people think, well, we’re humans; we’re the most intelligent and accomplished species; we’re in charge. Bacteria may have a different outlook: more bacteria live and work in one linear centimeter of your lower colon than all the humans who have ever lived. That’s what’s going on in your digestive tract right now. Are we in charge, or are we simply hosts for bacteria? It all depends on your outlook.
  • New generations of humans inherit the acquired discoveries of generations past, allowing cosmic insight to accumulate without limit. Each discovery of science therefore adds a rung to a ladder of knowledge whose end is not in sight because we are building the ladder as we go along. As far as I can tell, as we assemble and ascend this ladder, we will forever uncover the secrets of the universe – one by one.
  • When you advance a frontier, you’re doing something that no one has done before. Every time that happens, you have to innovate. You have to think in new ways that hadn’t been thought before. You have to invent a new piece of hardware, a new concept, a new law of physics, a new material, a new construction material to enable you to accomplish what it is that you chose to reach for by dreaming about tomorrow.
  • They all knew the mothership was coming, they all knew it was a flying saucer, they all knew it came from another planet through the vacuum of space. And so what do they do, to the left of that monument? They set up runway lights. And I’m thinking, if you could travel through the vacuum of space, you don’t need runway lights. Runway lights are if you’re using air for lift. Aliens would not need air for lift.
  • One of the biggest problems with the world today is that we have large groups of people who will accept whatever they hear on the grapevine, just because it suits their worldview‚ not because it is actually true or because they have evidence to support it. The really striking thing is that it would not take much effort to establish validity in most of these cases but people prefer reassurance to research.
  • Essentially every scientist, when posed with the question, “If you want to get science knowledge from Mars, do you want to send a geologist or do you want to send a robot?” Well, the real answer is, you can send 100 robots for the price of sending one geologist, so let’s send 100 robots to 100 different locations, and then we would all benefit. So that’s the answer you would get. And I agree with that answer.
  • I was raised Catholic. But if someone says I was raised in some religion, that’s insufficient information to actually know what was going on. The real question is Was the religion in the household? The answer is no. Important decisions in the household were executed rationally and secularly. So as a result, the foundations of my reasoning derive not from religion but from the rational analysis of circumstances.
  • Astrophysicists perfected navigation. We perfected all these things that matter to the power of nations manifest on the world stage. So we want to go into space. That’s the new high ground, right? We care about multispectral imaging of things. Well, that’s what reconnaissance wants to do. So our expertise has been in bed with national security needs forever. So maybe, secretly, that’s why they keep us employed.
  • I want upon death to be buried, just like in the old days, where I decompose by the action of microorganisms, and I am dined upon by any form of creeping animal or root system that sees fit to do so…. I will have recycled back to the universe at least some of the energy that I have taken from it. And in so doing, at the conclusion of my scientific adventures, I will have come closer to the heavens than to Earth.
  • I don’t know why a beauty salon would have a cop’s hat and the curling irons are not deadly unless they’re still plugged in and they’re hot. So I’m not quite sure about that. But I don’t know who remembers anymore that you can ignite spray cans, plus there aren’t really any spray cans anymore ’cause that was destroying the ozone layer. So I’m – actually, I’ll have to go with they chased him with the curling irons.
  • These are two different exercises. One of them is, “You don’t know and I know, so just shut up and listen,” and the other one is, you’re curious and you’re learning, and I have a way where you can learn this so you’ll know it as well. And when you know it, and know why you know it, then you don’t have to reference me ever again because you take ownership of the knowledge, and you can then share it with someone else.
  • The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.
  • As religion is now practiced and science is now practiced, there is no intersection between the two. That is for certain. And it’s not for want of trying. Over the centuries, many people‚Äîtheologians as well scientists – have tried to explore points of intersection. And anytime anyone has declared that harmony has risen up, it is the consequence of religion acquiescing to scientific discovery. In every single case.
  • As an educator, I try to get people to be fundamentally curious and to question ideas that they might have or that are shared by others. In that state of mind, they have earned a kind of inoculation against the fuzzy thinking of these weird ideas floating around out there. So rather than correct the weird ideas, I would rather them to know how to think in the first place. Then they can correct the weird idea themselves.
  • Do you realize that the 850 billion dollar bank bailout, that sum of money is greater than the entire 50 year running budget of NASA. And so when someone says, ‘We don’t have enough money for this space probe.’ No, it’s not that you don’t have enough money. It’s that the distribution of money that you’re spending is warped in some way that you are removing the only thing that gives people something to dream about tomorrow.
  • Our entire universe emerged from a point smaller than a single atom. Space itself exploded in a cosmic fire, launching the expansion of the universe and giving birth to all the energy and all the matter we know today. I know that sounds crazy, but there’s strong observational evidence to support the Big Bang theory. And it includes the amount of helium in the cosmos and the glow of radio waves left over from the explosion.
  • By the way, were we to find life-forms on Venus, we would probably call them Venutians, just as people from Mars would be Martians. But according to rules of Latin genitives, to be ‚Äúof Venus‚Äù ought to make you a Venereal. Unfortunately, medical doctors reached that word before astronomers did. Can’t blame them, I suppose. Venereal disease long predates astronomy, which itself stands as only the second oldest profession.
  • That is a cosmic perspective, that’s correct. And in tandem with that, you will never find people who truly grasp the cosmic perspective such as the entire community of astrophysicists leading nations into battle. No, that doesn’t happen. When you have a cosmic perspective, there’s this little speck called Earth and you say you’re going to do what? You’re on this side of a line in the sand and you want to kill people for what?
  • In whatever you choose to do, do it because it’s hard, not because it’s easy. Math and physics and astrophysics are hard. For every hard thing you accomplish, fewer other people are out there doing the same thing as you. That’s what doing something hard means. And in the limit of this, everyone beats a path to your door because you’re the only one around who understands the impossible concept or who solves the unsolvable problem.
  • I don’t want students who could make the next major breakthrough in renewable energy sources or space travel to have been taught that anything they don’t understand, and that nobody yet understands, is divinely constructed and therefore beyond their intellectual capacity. The day that happens, Americans will just sit in awe of what we don’t understand, while we watch the rest of the world boldly go where no mortal has gone before.
  • So this show [Cosmos] does not only operate on you intellectually, because telling you stories of how science works and why it works and what was discovered and why it matters, but combines that with stunning visualizations of the cosmos. This has 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.”
  • There are no wild, seedless watermelons. There’s no wild cows… You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself, is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it’s not as large, it’s not as sweet, it’s not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it. We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them. It’s called artificial selection.
  • When I wrestled, I would set aside the time to wrestle, so that in my mind it didn’t interfere with my study time. If I’d say, “I’m going to study this many hours, then I’m going to go work out and wrestle,” then when that time comes, you don’t feel like you should be doing something else. That helped me psychologically. But otherwise? When I’m wrestling, I’m not studying the universe. And when I’m studying the universe, I’m not wrestling.
  • When NASA makes discoveries they are profound and they make headlines, everyone takes notice. It drives dialogue and, today, it would drive the blogosphere. It would drive the projects the kids do in school. So you wouldn’t even need programs to try and stimulate curiosity. You wouldn’t need programs to try to convince people that science literacy is good. Because they’re going to want to participate on this epic adventure that we call space exploration.
  • There are photons that have been traveling for 30,000 years, and I’m… snatching them from this journey and planting them into my digital detector. And then I started feeling bad for the photon, and I said maybe it wanted to continue but I got in its way. But then I said, no, those are probably happier photons than the one that slammed into the mountainside that will go unanalyzed and will not contribute to the depth of our understanding of the universe.
  • Robots are important also. If I don my pure-scientist hat, I would say just send robots; I’ll stay down here and get the data. But nobody’s ever given a parade for a robot. Nobody’s ever named a high school after a robot. So when I don my public-educator hat, I have to recognize the elements of exploration that excite people. It’s not only the discoveries and the beautiful photos that come down from the heavens; it’s the vicarious participation in discovery itself.
  • I have found that when calculating what no one has calculated before, like my observing sessions on the mountain, my mental acuity peaks. Ironically, these are the times that I would flunk the reality check normally reserved for mental patients and dazed boxers: What is your name? What day is it? Who is the president of the United States?… I do not know, and I do not care. I am at peace with my equations as I connect to the cosmic engines that drive our universe.
  • Scientific truth is not what any one scientist puts forth. It can be that, but it is generally not. It is the sum of multiple studies that all lean in the same direction in their results conducted by different people at different times of different nationalities with different competitive urges who all end up getting the same result. Then you have an emerging scientific truth, and then you put that in the textbooks, and that will never be shown to be wrong later on.
  • Imagine a life-form whose brainpower is to ours as ours is to a chimpanzee’s. To such a species, our highest mental achievements would be trivial. Their toddlers, instead of learning their ABCs on Sesame Street, would learn multivariable calculus on Boolean Boulevard. Our most complex theorems, our deepest philosophies, the cherished works of our most creative artists, would be projects their schoolkids bring home for Mom and Dad to display on the refrigerator door.
  • ‘As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?’ Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar.
  • If humans one day become extinct from a catastrophic collision, there would be no greater tragedy in the history of life in the universe. Not because we lacked the brain power to protect ourselves but because we lacked the foresight. The dominant species that replaces us in post-apocalyptic Earth just might wonder, as they gaze upon our mounted skeletons in their natural history museums, why large headed Homo sapiens fared no better than the proverbially peabrained dinosaurs.
  • I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a ‘Save Pluto’ campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, ‘Dr. Tyson – Pluto is a Planet!’
  • Some molecules – ammonia, carbon dioxide, water – show up everywhere in the universe, whether life is present or not. But others pop up especially in the presence of life itself. Among the biomarkers in Earth’s atmosphere are ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons from aerosol sprays, vapor from mineral solvents, escaped coolants from refrigerators and air conditioners, and smog from the burning of fossil fuels. No other way to read that list: sure signs of the absence of intelligence.
  • To view space as, “Well, let’s go to Mars now,” or “Let’s do this now,” maybe we should rethink of space as our backyard and have a suite of launch vehicles that can enable any ambition a person has regarding space. It’s the same way you can go to buy a car: I want to go offroading, I’ll buy this model. I’m a city driver, that’s this model. I want to use less fuel, well, that’s this model. They’re not selling you one car, you have options. So when I think of space, I think of having options.
  • We went to the moon using just Newton’s laws of motion and gravity. Newtonian dynamics we call it. So then we find out, “Well, this works because there’s certain regimes we’ve never tested it in.” Had we done so, we would show that it didn’t work: For example, at very high speeds, very high gravity, Newton’s laws fail. They just fail. You need Einstein’s laws of motion and gravity. Those would be his special theory of relativity and general theory of relativity. Now you invoke those and it works.
  • Civilization just takes it as a given that the whole world was flooding. Then science came and you had geology and modern astrophysics, and time became well understood going back billions of years. So enlightened religious people, as a necessity, had to shed the magical elements of the Bible. A little known fact is that Thomas Jefferson did just that. There’s something called the Jefferson Bible. It’s not widely publicized because it sort of conflicts with certain people’s ideas of what the founding fathers were.
  • Many people are unhappy because there was some point in their past where there was some glory day, and as they get older they’re not creating more glory days. They reflect on a time that they will never reach again, and it brings some level of dissatisfaction into their lives. I have circumvented that by simply making incumbent upon myself to always be productive in ways that are consistent with my physical body, my mental state of knowledge, but more important, my presumed growth in wisdom that would come with age.
  • The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people 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 along the way, lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.
  • There was a transition going on – Baghdad being the intellectual capital of the world where major advances were made in agriculture and mathematics and engineering and medicine and astronomy, and then that all sort of collapsed. And I was trying to understand how such a intellectually fertile environment can lose its compass bearing. Because I think about the creative centers today – countries, or even regions. Will Silicon Valley always be as innovative? Will the United States be innovative, or will we become complacent?
  • While the Copernican principle comes with no guarantees that it will forever guide us to cosmic truths, it’s worked quite well so far: not only is Earth not in the center of the solar system, but the solar system is not in the center of the Milky Way galaxy, the Milky Way galaxy is not in the center of the universe, and it may come to pass that our universe is just one of many that comprise a multiverse. And in case you’re one of those people who thinks that the edge may be a special place, we are not at the edge of anything either.
  • Creativity is seeing what everyone else sees, but then thinking a new thought that has never been thought before and expressing it somehow. It could be with art, a sculpture, music or even in science. The difference, however, between scientific creativity and any other kind of creativity, is that no matter how long you wait, no one else will ever compose “Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony” except for Beethoven. No matter what you do, no one else will paint Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Only Van Gogh could do that because it came from his creativity.
  • During the 1970s and 1980s, the popular television soap opera As The World Turns portrayed sunrise during the opening credits and sunset during the closing credits… The soap-opera sunrise showed the sun moving toward the left as it rose rather than to the right. They obviously had gotten a piece of film showing a sunset and played it in reverse… Had they called their local astrophysicists, any one of us might have recommended that if they needed to save money, they could have shown the sunset in a mirror before they showed it running backward.
  • There’s no greater sign of the failure of the American educational system than the extent to which Americans are distracted by the possibility that Earth might end on December 21, 2012. It’s a profound absence of awareness of the laws of physics and how nature works. So they’re missing some science classes in their training in high school or in college that would empower them to understand and to judge when someone else is basically just full of it. Science is like an inoculation against charlatans who would have you believe whatever it is they tell you.
  • Part of what it is to be scientifically-literate is how you think about information that’s presented in front of you. I think that’s the great challenge. You have people who believe they do know how to think about the information, but don’t, and they’re in the position of power and legislation. You can’t base a society on non-objectively verifiable truth. Otherwise, it’s a fantasy land and science is the pathway to those emerging truths that are hard-earned and that some have taken decades, if not centuries, to emerge from experiments all around the world.
  • Does it mean, if you don’t understand something, and the community of physicists don’t understand it, that means God did it? Is that how you want to play this game? Because if it is, here’s a list of things in the past that the physicists at the time didn’t understand [and now we do understand] […]. If that’s how you want to invoke your evidence for God, then God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance that’s getting smaller and smaller and smaller as time moves on – so just be ready for that to happen, if that’s how you want to come at the problem
  • When you advance a frontier and you do tomorrow what’s never been done today, you have to innovate to make that happen. You become an innovation culture. When I grew up, every time I turned around it was, “Oh, here’s the longest bridge or the deepest tunnel or the fastest airplane.” And I originally thought that was just kind of like a pissing contest with men with too much testosterone. And then I realized that to make the tallest building you have to innovate. To make the fastest train you have to design the train in a way that it’s never been designed before.
  • To assert that the universe has a purpose implies the universe has intent. And intent implies a desired outcome. But who would do the desiring? And what would a desired outcome be? That carbon-based life is inevitable? Or that sentient primates are life’s neurological pinnacle? Are answers to these questions even possible without expressing a profound bias of human sentiment? Of course humans were not around to ask these questions for 99.9999% of cosmic history. So if the purpose of the universe was to create humans then the cosmos was embarrassingly inefficient about it.
  • I grew up in New York City where there is no night sky. Nobody has a relationship with the sky, because, particularly in the day, there was air pollution and light pollution, and you look up, and your sight line terminates on buildings. You know the sun and maybe the moon, and that’s about it. So what happens is that I am exposed to the night sky as you would see it from a mountaintop, and I’m just struck by it. Suppose I grew up on a farm where I had that sky every night of my life – then you’re not going to be struck by it. It’s just the wallpaper of your nighttime dome.
  • I don’t have an issue with what you do in the church but I’m going to be up in your face if you’re going to knock on my science classroom and tell me I got to teach what you’re teaching in your Sunday school. That’s when we’re going to fight… There’s no tradition of scientists knocking down the Sunday school door, telling the preacher ‘that might not necessarily be true.’ That’s never happened. There are no scientists picketing out front of churches. There’s been this coexistence forever, so to have religious communities knocking down the science door, there’s something wrong there.