Bill Nye speaks the truth.
[Video credit: Big Think]
In science, it’s rare that you can actually state with certainty that something is wrong. Young-Earth creationism is wrong. The Universe is old.
However, I’ll disagree with Bill over one thing, and I’ll throw Neil Tyson into the mix too. First, here’s something Neil said about adults, children, and nonsense (from an image that’s gone around the web a few times):
Funny, Neil and Bill are saying the same thing, essentially, but Neil is saying he doesn’t worry about the kids, while Bill is saying he doesn’t worry about the adults.
I worry about both, for, oddly enough, the reasons Bill and Neil both give. We have entrenched adults teaching things to their kids that are clearly wrong, and will be damaging to them and others. Creationism, global warming denial, antivaccination, ridiculous ideas about women and their bodies… it’s a cycle from adults to kids who then grow up to teach more kids.
We need to break this cycle. Make sure the education kids get in school is reality-based. Keep religion (or the lack thereof) out of schools. Vote fundamentalists out of office. And keep making sure the facts are out there and our voices are heard. Facts aren’t enough. Science has facts on its side, but they’re simply not enough. We need to make our stories personal, emotional, and make sure they stick.
And I’d love to agree with Bill when he says that in the future creationism will go away. I sure hope so. But YEC’s been around for a while now, and is as strong as ever – after all, there are creationists on the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Science! Still, maybe Bill’s right. But it’s up to us to make sure his prediction comes true.
Speaking of climate change, my pal Bill Nye doesn’t let a CNN anchor run over the facts.
"The two sides aren’t equal here." Love it.
This morning, the Space Shuttle Orbiter Discovery took one last flight. Mated on top of a specially-adapted 747, it flew from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Dulles airport just west of Washington DC.
My brother-in-law works in DC and got this phenomenal shot of it:
Discovery’s ultimate destination is the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center, an annex outside of DC. It will be put on display for people to see, which is nice, if bittersweet.
I have mixed emotions about all this. Discovery is special to me; it was the only Shuttle I saw launch live, in 1997, when it carried a camera I helped build up to Hubble Space Telescope. And of course, for decades the Shuttles were the main rocket fleet of NASA.
But they were expensive, and had a host of other problems (I enumerate many in an article I wrote for the NY Post). I really wish we had stuck with Werner von Braun’s plan to keep building bigger and better rockets, back when the Saturn V was thundering into the sky and it looked like we’d be walking on Mars by the 1980s.
But that future didn’t happen. We made that shining tomorrow into the somewhat drab today, where shifting political winds — both inside and exterior to NASA itself — have had us going around in circles for 30 years.
Still… sometimes that wind blows fresh. We’re still exploring the solar system, still looking up. Hubble’s still going strong with its 22nd anniversary next week. We have rovers on Mars, a spacecraft around Saturn, another on its way to Jupiter, and yet another orbiting the asteroid Vesta while setting its sights to move on to Ceres soon. Space X is about to launch its first rocket to the space station.
But all of this is still fragile, still tentative, still threatened. We need a far, far stronger presence in space. If you’re a US citizen, let your Senators and Representative know you support a strong space effort.
Listen to Bill Nye:
I know there’s a wave of support for space exploration. People want to touch the sky; as my brother-in-law wrote me about the Discovery flyby today, "Every building that had roof access was full, maintenance folks had ‘jobs’ to do on the roof between 10 and 11." They wanted to be a part of that piece of history.
Always remember: Ships are safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.
In July 2011, at the JREF’s TAM 9 meeting in Las Vegas, I moderated a panel discussing the future of space exploration. On that panel were some familiar faces: Bill Nye (the Science Guy), astronomers Neil Tyson and Pamela Gay, and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss. All of us have, ah, some experience talking to the public about matters spacey, so I knew it would be a fun panel to moderate.
I had no idea. The video of the panel has been made available by the JREF, so you can see it for yourself! I’ve embedded it below. It’s an hour long, but I think you’ll find it absolutely worth your time to watch all the way through. A lot of people came up to me afterwards and said it was the best panel at the meeting, and one of the best we’ve ever had at TAM! As a participant, modesty forbids me from saying more, but then, who am I to disagree?
It was a rollicking discussion, and very interesting. Neil was in rare form, and I think my favorite moment was when Pamela was making a point, and Neil jumped in to give an opinion… and Pamela held up a finger and "shusshed" him! It was extremely funny, especially when Neil got this, "OK, fine, you got me" expression on his face. After the panel, Neil was signing books, and I got Pamela to sit down next to him and recreate the moment:
Just some quick notes, to
fill my quota give you some interesting reading:
1) Scientific American has a great article online about why it’s important to vaccinate, and how to talk to parents about it. [via George Valenzuela]
2) Speaking of which, the Autism Science Foundation — a non-profit that supports real research into autism, instead of trying to link it to vaccines despite all the evidence — was chosen as the number 1 startup charity in the "Disabilities" category by Philanthropedia/Guidestar. Congrats to them! [via Dawn Crawford]
3) The Discovery Institute isn’t completely honest? Unpossible!
4) Bill Nye helps create a sundial at Cornell University that glows when the Sun reaches its daily peak in the sky. [via Beth Quittman (my agent!)]
5) Frying pans that look like planets. Seriously. Very cool.
A fun and lively interview I did with Mat Kaplan on Planetary Radio — The Planetary Society’s radio/podcast — is now online. Mat and I talked about the terrible media reporting lately on science and astronomy stories, including Apophis, a possible planet in the outer solar system, and, of course, the "Supermoon". As usual, I’m bombastic and occasionally accurate, so give it a listen.
Other segments of the half-hour podcast have my pal Emily Lakdawalla talking solar system missions (MESSENGER, Dawn, Mars and more), Bill Nye (yeah, that Bill Nye!) talking Kepler and Earth-like planets, and Bruce Betts on a biological experiment going up on Endeavour’s final flight.
I hope you like it! And please consider becoming a member of TPS. They do a great job promoting scientific exploration of the solar system.