The Stream - 'Astrophysics for People in a Hurry' with Neil deGrasse Tyson
Protons. Electrons. Neutrons. Quarks. These tiny particles are the fundamental building blocks of the universe, but what are they exactly? And what can people in a constant rush to pay the bills and feed their families learn about the origins of the universe by studying them? Enter: American astrophysicist and StarTalk podcast host Neil deGrasse Tyson.
From the Big Bang theory to quantum mechanics, Tyson’s new book, "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry", aims to bring “the universe down to Earth succinctly ... in digestible chapters consumable anytime and anywhere”. But can such a book improve scientific literacy at a time when some people in the United States wonder if there’s a “war on science”?
From climate change skeptics to the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts to scientific research, scientific inquiry and advancement in the US are under pressure. This so-called “war” has inspired a new wave of activism, with marches organised across the country to combat “alternative facts” with scientific facts.
Tyson, who is the director of New York City’s Hayden Planetarium, says science is “a fundamental part” of the US’ industrious reputation, but Americans have “lost the ability to judge what is true and what is not”. Although Pew Research Center surveys note at least three-quarters of Americans trust scientists to act in the public’s interest, partisan politics often inform opinions about such matters as climate change, energy policy, and whether evolution should be taught in public schools.
According to Tyson, the denial of scientific truths stunts conversations about problems that should have been solved “years ago”. He adds that science should be “in the service of civilization” and the sooner Americans recognize that, “the faster we can get on with the political conversations about how to solve the problems that face us”.
Join Tyson as he returns to The Stream to explore how educators like himself can use the public’s rejuvenated interested in science to improve and promote scientific literacy in an era of “alternative facts”.
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This episode’s story:
On The Stream: Popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson discusses the state of scientific literacy in the US.
Thumbnail: Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson speaks onstage at the Long Center on January 18, 2017 in Austin, Texas.(GETTY IMAGES/RICK KERN)