Symphony of Science: Onward to the Edge

By Phil Plait | November 9, 2011 5:20 pm

A new Symphony of Science has come out today, in honor of Carl Sagan’s birthday. And I’m pleased to see it features three people I call friends: Neil Tyson, Brian Cox, and Carolyn Porco:

Isn’t that wonderful? Symphony of Science is the work of musician John Boswell, who takes the words of scientists and creates these lovely videos. You should watch them all.

I mention that Neil, Brian, and Carolyn are all friends for two reasons; one is that sharing a love of science is not a zero-sum game, a conserved quantity. The more we share it, the more people who are heard and seen doing it, the more desire there is for it. Each of us broadens the audience for all. There is no fixed capacity for learning and wonder.

But also, it’s more than that. It’s a reason I think Sagan would’ve agreed with as well: we’re all in this together. Paupers and kings, famous and infamous, men, women, black, white, all flavors of humanity. We are all riding this planet, and where we go is largely up to us. We can make the most of it, or we can squander it.

I am personally inspired by pieces like this. Like most people, I sometimes lose sight of my own goals, I sometimes get mired in the day-to-day business of life. But when I see Neil and Brian and Carolyn and, yes, Carl Sagan, letting their passion show, mine returns as well.

Keeping the passion is what drives the personal thirst for learning. Showing that passion is what instills it in others.

Show a little passion now and again. Who knows who you’ll inspire?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Piece of mind, Science

Comments (31)

  1. Chris

    Autotune, NOOOOO!

  2. David Zimmerman

    Phil, when will you be autotuned?

  3. Lexy

    I’m going to have this playing on repeat all day; thank you for all your posts about Carl Sagan. They’re such a pleasure to read <3

  4. Nerdista

    I love these things so much, they really have kept me motivated in school.

  5. Adam

    This is the best one since A Glorious Dawn. Can’t wait until my kids are a bit older so they can marvel at this stuff too.

  6. Orlando

    I definitely love SoS videos.

    I don’t mind at all about autotune, I think the important thing is the message and how it is effectively delivered to the audience.

    Besides, I can’t listen to them just once!

  7. David H

    @David Zimmerman: Phil was in “A Wave of Reason”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PT90dAA49Q

  8. Messier Tidy Upper

    Breath-takingly superluminously marvellous. Love it. :-D

    Greatest opening scene ever. Not usually a big fan of autotune – but in this case it works really well, methinks.

    Here’s hoping Humanity listens to the message here and does indeed continue going onwards into the Black, the Sacre Noir as Sagan called it.

  9. Michal

    Haha this is great. I didn’t know Neil Degrasse Tyson did a great courses lecture

  10. I was a teenager in mid highschool when I saw “Cosmos” for the first time. I was mesmerized, atonished and marveled when I began to undestand what Science really is and that we all leave in the shore of that vast Cosmic Ocean. A few months later, my late father made a wonderful gift: a hardcore copy of Cosmos. And I literally ate that book with hunger.

    Since then, some 20 years ago, my love for astronomy and the passion for teaching, outreaching and sharing the wonders of Sky has been growing and growing… and I really hope it would never stop.

    And I am not the only in Nicaragua that shares that passion. Actually, our amateur society carries the name of Carl Sagan, in his sake.

    Thank you Carl.

  11. Ari

    I love that a scientist, in promoting science, quotes a poet who was encouraging a young writer. (“try to love the questions themselves” — R.M. Rilke.) Here we are together, indeed. :)

  12. Crux Australis

    You *literally* ate the book? Surely, you mean ‘figuratively’.

  13. @Crux: that’s the idea :) Thanks for the correction. (eating the book would have caused a severe pain hehe)

  14. Al

    @2: Phil’s here:

    http://youtu.be/1PT90dAA49Q

    “Teach a man to reason… and he’ll think for a life time.”

  15. Beau

    Ok, this is my new favorite of SoS. Thanks for posting!

  16. VinceRN

    Tyson and Cox are awesome scientists and teachers. Don;t really know anything about Porco, but I’ll be looking into her now too. This is a very good piece, I haven’t seen the talk Tyson’s stuff comes from, but I should try to find it.

    (Insert redundant complaints about autotune). This is a good piece regardless.

  17. Wzrd1

    @Al, #15, so, what do you thinkof me?
    I believe in a God. But, I firmly believe in reason too.
    That said, I also understand daily immersion in life and occupation and the “blindness” it induces. I’ve not personally experienced it, but have observed it in many, many, many, many co-workers.
    As an example, I started a new job a few weeks ago. I’m STILL awaiting a logon for our network, but have a local account on my computer.
    I have NO duties to attend to, as our client has thoughtfully not provided my token to access their VPN.
    So, I’ve spent 1/4 of my workday of one day in learning all there is to know about what I’m the “expert” in. As such research has proved in the past, many times, to MAKE me the subject matter expert, I’ll trust to that experience whenever they get around to letting me access that which I am contracted TO access.
    The rest of my time was learning.
    I’ve learned quite a few things specific to my current career (in my half century of life, I’ve changed careers as many times as I have decades of life, all a subject matter expert and all analytic in nature.)
    The majority were on many, many, many topics. Ranging from current DNA research to drug shortages, to current disease outbreaks, to astronomy, to physics, to IP traffic analysis, to current European economic trends and issues and far, far, far more.
    So, I get paid a couple of grand a week to be hopelessly bored OR LEARN SOMETHING NEW.
    I’ll stop learning, POSSIBLY, three days after I’m dead. The backlog is that extensive, I read THAT fast and I process even faster. ;)
    So, what does a believer like me, who can quote special and general relativity equations verbose and UNDERSTAND THEM INTUITIVELY mean?
    Other than one who can think outside of the box, whateverinhell the box LOOKS like? ;)

    As for autotune, I halted the video, as there was no verbal content after a few minutes of reading all posts and every time I typed, it halted to consider, as I have over a hundred tabs open on things I monitor daily at least…
    Pretty music, cute slideshow, I prefer INFORMATION, not gesticulation. If I wanted the latter, I’d seek tea party candidates or even Hitler films, BOTH prefer inflammatory speech and gesticulation over FACT AND CONTENT.
    JUST the facts. Your religion is only of interest in OTHER matters, in a different field of study. :D

  18. Teshi

    What? Who me? I’m not tearing up!

    Oh wait, I definitely am. This one was really brilliant.

  19. Random Excess

    #10 @ Micheal

    NdGT did a series of 12 30-min lectures in a class room type setting. It is very good, here is a link to the first one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sidLNXlTyU4

  20. Autotune in these cases are great because it’s being used in an artistic creative way. Autotune for existing, popular and “talented” artists is something I dislike very much. Anyhow, I’m a huge fan of the SoS series. :)

  21. icewings

    I wish Neil deGrasse Tyson would run for President. But he’s too smart for that. I just hope he inspires lots of kids to become scientists. Maybe they can save the human race.

  22. Joseph G

    Superluminous. Hyperluminous, even!

    Y’know, I agree that autotune is acceptable in this case, but I wonder – given the popularity of SoS, and the (as far as I can tell) relatively approachable nature of the “performers,” isn’t it possible that Tyson, Porco and Cox would be willing to go back and actually sing the relevant lines? Not unlike an actual music video, where the video portion is just lip-synced, with the recorded vocals added later.

  23. oldebabe

    Never heard of `autotune’ before or how it applies here, but this was surely a delightful video/audio in every way. Thanks, Phil.

  24. oldebabe

    Oh, most excellent. I can’t stop re-listening… and re-listening… ah, and the punch line …

  25. Joseph G

    @26 oldebabe: Autotune is the electronic effect used in the video to turn speech into “singing.” It was originally invented to make singers who couldn’t carry a note in a bucket sound decent. These videos, I think you’ll agree, is a much better use of the technology.

    Also, if you have the misfortune of listening to any pop or hip-hop from the last 18 months or so, you’ve undoubtedly heard autotune at some point :)

  26. Grand Lunar

    The SoS videos are often inspiring, and this here is no exception!

    Always loved Dr. Tyson’s roles in them.

    Perhaps NASA could make use of this video.
    Maybe post it on their site.
    Or show it to Congress….

  27. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Grand Lunar : YES!

    Seconded by me – & think that applies to a lot of this series as well. :-)

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