A couple weeks ago, my fiance and I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Neil deGrasse Tyson speak at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. I honestly cannot describe how awesome this event was; as I sit here trying to think of works to properly convey everything, emotions are welling up inside of me. Where to begin….
The event was scheduled to begin at 7 PM, so I arrived at the Nutter Center around 4:50PM. Even then there was a sizable line down the sidewalk. As we waited for the doors to open at 6, more and more people began to show up and the line grew longer and longer…
Eventually the line progressed to circle the parking lot (pictured above) and go clear back beyond the tree line in the distance, along the sidewalk. Before I go on, I must say that seeing so many people arrive and wait in this long line was and AWESOME sight! This was something you’d only see at a rock concert or perhaps die-hard sport fans waiting to enter an arena. This is unprecedented when it comes to seeing a scientist! This gave me chills down every inch of my body. I was absolutely amazed to see such a turnout to see one of the greatest science communicators of our time.
We eventually made it inside a little after 6PM and was ushered to the front of the non-reserved seating (my fiance had a twisted ankle and was on crutches). We sat, rather impatiently I might add, while everyone got seated. There were more people than they anticipated and so they had overflow into an adjacent room where they had TVs to live broadcast the event. OVER FLOW FOR A SCIENTIST. Can you believe that?! So, we waited. 7PM rolled around before we knew it and out Dr. Tyson came to a marvelous standing ovation. Seriously, the atmosphere rivaled the biggest concert you’ll ever go to.
So the talk begins, and let me tell you not a word was uttered when Dr. Tyson started to speak. I could sit here and tell you about everything that was said, but it would be a long endeavor. I will, however, leave you with a motivation poster I put together with a quote from that night. I hope you enjoy it 🙂
I’ve been thinking a lot lately on how science and science fiction continually inspire each other. Science comes out with a new discovery that revolutionizes the way we view things, science fiction takes that idea and runs with it. The converse is true, too! Doubly so!
The Submarine – American inventor Simon Lake had been captivated by the idea of undersea travel and exploration ever since he read Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870. Lake’s innovations included ballast tanks, divers’ compartments and the periscope. His company built the Argonaut—the first submarine to operate successfully in the open ocean, in 1898*
The Rocket – Robert H. Goddard, the American scientist who built the first liquid-fueled rocket—which he successfully launched on March 16, 1926—became fascinated with spaceflight after reading an 1898 newspaper serialization of H.G. Wells’ classic novel about a Martian invasion, War of the Worlds. As Goddard would recall later, the concept of interplanetary flight “gripped my imagination tremendously.”*
The Cell Phone – Martin Cooper, the director of research and development at Motorola, credited the “Star Trek” communicator as his inspiration for the design of the first mobile phone in the early 1970s. “That was not fantasy to us,” Cooper said, “that was an objective.”*
Quicktime – Apple scientist Steve Perlman says that he got the idea for the ground breaking multimedia program QuickTime after watching an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” wherein one of the characters is listening to multiple music tracks on his computer.*
The list doesn’t end there. Space exploration owes quite a bit to dreamers who imagined what may be on neighbouring planets. The more we discover about our universe, the more fiction we write; the more fiction we write, the more inspiration there is to fledgling scientists.
This is the only feedback loop that matters, all boiling down to inspiring our youth and fledgling scientists to make more and more discoveries about the universe and our place within it.
What are your thoughts?
The Apollo missions were the result of a political response to the Cold War with Soviet Russia, this everyone knows. But if not for this reason would we have gone at all? Would we have gone by now? This question is certainly unknown and quite possibly unknowable altogether. It’s frustrating that such endeavors were the result of super-powers flexing their political muscles instead of genuine curiosity about the universe, but nonetheless, it got us to space and has spurred many missions since. In fact, the first (and subsequent only) scientist on an Apollo mission was the very last one sent up the night of December 7th, 1972.
Forty years since we had lost interest in going back to the Moon. Until now. Various privately owned companies have expressed interest in sending missions to the Moon and beyond; NASA announced of its plans to head back, including missions to Mars by 2030. But will this happen? I can honestly say that I believe it will. Thanks to the help of great promoters like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye and many others, the public’s interest in space has never been so high.
Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy), who is a BIG fan of science, has great sway with prime-time television. He has personally backed the reboot of Cosmos, by Carl Sagan. He’s teamed up with Ann Druyan and Neil deGrasse Tyson and has convinced Fox to air all new episodes on their prime-time viewing hours. This is absolutely unprecedented! Science programs have pretty much been limited to the Discovery Networks, PBS or various other strictly educational channels…. But not any more!
I think that this will be a turning point in TV programming, I really do. You know how major networks are – they always compete with each other. One airs a new show about police detectives and the other responds with their own version. I think that the very same will happen once Cosmos airs, and I really hope that other networks will respond and jump on the bandwagon.
I know this entry has been pretty scatter-brained, but this is something that excites me. I look forward to the public getting bombarded with more science and less reality TV, which I think is the reason why we’ve become a dumbed-down society.
I’d like to extend a warm welcome to two new contributors to the blog! Please welcome David (davidcurry348050155) and Alex (sassymaps)!
Together we have a wide-range of interests that will be covered in the future; some will be editorial and opinion on various topics, others will be cut-and-dry coverage of the latest scientific discoveries. Either way, we hope that you will enjoy what we have to offer!
Enveloping darkness all around, the marble before you is a planet called Earth. Its image at this vantage point is that of a beautiful marble, ever changing in appearance and horrifyingly fragile. And just as if it really were a marble, you want to reach out and save it before it is consumed by total blackness.
This picture was taken in 1968 by the Apollo 8 crew. Can you imagine being there? Seeing your home grow smaller in apparent size; realizing that most everything you know, all of your experiences, everything, is more-or-less confined to a single pin prick on that dot. I can imagine it being a very humbling and stomach-churning experience as the true circumstance of our being is finally digested.
How lucky we are to live in this time; the first moment in human history when we are, in fact, visiting other worlds.”
Carl Sagan said these words in his hit TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which first aired on PBS in 1980. 30 years later, not only is Cosmos still one of the most-watched PBS series, but these words still ring true as our exploration of the universe continues. What was once a fantastic idea, purely in the realm of fantasy and wishful thinking, is now upon us. With new explorations come new discoveries. I may not personally have a direct connection with these missions, but the emotional connection one gets through the act of collective discovery is immense. The sense of elation for me is no different than for those who pour through the data collected; I’ve shared in celebrating wonderful successes to mourning when something goes wrong.
I, like Dr. Sagan, consider myself very lucky to be alive at this point in time where we are learning new and exciting things and probing the unknown. Even though we’ve been at this for a number of years, space exploration is still technically in its infancy and will only grow from here. How wonderful would it be if I could share with my grand kids some day that I was around when we discovered life on another world? We’ve already discovered thousands of other planets orbiting other stars, what will be next?
There’s nothing like the idea of telling these stories to the next generation and being able to say, “Yeah, and I was there when it happened”.
Many Americans have a favorite sports team; teams for whom they cheer when they take on rivals. When a group of people congregate to root on their favorite football team, say in a local pub, the energy involved and the sense of camaraderie experienced can be spine-chilling. Even if the sports team loses, the sense of connection remains and is still indescribable; through ups and downs all leading up to the point to where your team has either succeed or they have not.
This is how I see the state of affairs when it comes to NASA and their quests into space. When Curiosity lands on Mars on August 5th, do you think every-day people are going to be out at a local pub eagerly watching the big screen TVs? Every time there is a mission such as this, it is the football equivalent of throwing a Hail-Mary pass blindfolded from the 1-yard line of your own end zone into heavy coverage with one second left in the game, down 7 points and still needing a 2-point conversion to pull out the win. Very difficult, but not impossible if you know what you’re doing, and it is stupefying that so few people know about it or care to watch it.
Missions like this are the ultimate nail-biter that every football nut loves and actively seeks. There is no “Team NASA”. In that I mean it seems as if there are very few hard-core fans of our own ability to do these difficult and wondrous things. I wish that pioneering events such as these were taken into the public eye much more and appreciated. Major network stations won’t air these events and so they go unnoticed.
I truly wish that I could walk into my local brew pub (packed to the brim) on the 5th with all the TVs airing the events as they happen. I would like to be able raise my glass to the success or failure of the mission with dozens of other like-minded fanatics, just as I would in supporting my Alma Mater.