Neil deGrasse Tyson at NJPAC
Last night I went to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) with my 12-year-old son to see Neil deGrasse Tyson, whom we both love from the Cosmos series. I also loved this rant on women and blacks in science:
So here’s what he talked about last night, which was stimulating and interesting. I’m not covering absolutely everything, of course, and I am doing my best to summarize what he said:
- You can follow scientific progress by who gets to name things, because naming follows discovery.
- For example, looking at the history of the discovery of the periodic table, you learn a lot. Except for Sweden, which just had a lucky break with some weird cave.
- By this token, from 800 AD to around 1100 AD, mathematical and scientific advancements were happening in the Middle East (see for example the history of algebra and mathematician Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, who invented the terms algebra and algorithm). Then some imam decided it was anti-religious to do anything like that, and progress – scientific and otherwise – stopped.
- Cultures that embrace science have more growth.
- In the U.S., about half of the people don’t acknowledge evolution, and that’s a bad sign for our future.
- In fact we are a hugely prolific scientific force, like Europe and Japan, but unlike them, our power is shrinking rather than expanding.
- We should go back to the 1960’s, at least in terms of the way we promoted and dreamed about scientific progress, and bottle up the energy and enthusiasm, and bring it back to today.
- Space flight is a great thing and we should reinvest in it as an inspiration for science in this country and in the world.
- We should stay curious, and investigate things we don’t understand, and talk to people about their beliefs even if we don’t agree. Childlike and insatiable curiosity and wonderment is the goal.