We are star stuff.
November 28, 2011 7:09 PM   Subscribe

Hi. Here's Stephen Colbert (out of character) and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson having an 85 minute conversation about science, physics, and the universe.
posted by lazaruslong (49 comments total) 186 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not to get too picky, but credit where credit is due:
We are star stuff.
- Carl Sagan
[Every time I read that. I hear it in his voice, and I miss him.]
posted by benito.strauss at 7:24 PM on November 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


Yay!
posted by odinsdream at 7:32 PM on November 28, 2011


Yay, my workplace! I was unable to attend this lecture two years ago. Glad I'm getting to see it now. Most excellent. The greatest thing about Colbert (to me) is that he often shows up to our school events just to be a dad, supporting his kids in our school. He's a stand-up guy.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 7:40 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm about a half-hour in and loving every minute. Thanks so much for taking the time to post this.
posted by 4ster at 7:43 PM on November 28, 2011


I love this..thank you! I also love the audience pi count at the 23 minute mark.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:45 PM on November 28, 2011


Skip to 6:30 to avoid unnecessary boring pre-interview stuff.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:53 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I hate to say this, but wouldn't it fit where it already is, as a comment in the NdGT thread from two days ago?
posted by filthy light thief at 7:55 PM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is wonderful so far. Our culture, our society, is in dire need of this conversation.
posted by odinsdream at 7:55 PM on November 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


*sigh*

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON!

*swoooooon*
posted by scody at 8:03 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


And thank you for this, by the way, lazaruslong. As odinsdream so aptly says, we are in dire need of this conversation.
posted by scody at 8:04 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


45 minutes in. this is fantastic. Worth it for the victory dance at the end of the James Cameron story.
posted by the bricabrac man at 8:05 PM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


God damn it. I need to go to bed.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:10 PM on November 28, 2011


posted by lazaruslong

Eponysterical?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:33 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


If that man was forming an army, I'd join it and attack whatever he pointed at.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:49 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not to get too picky, but credit where credit is due: We are star stuff. - Carl Sagan

I'm kind of embarrassed to say when my child picks a 'fact' book about planets for a bedtime story I read it aloud using a faux-Sagan accent.

And enjoy every minute of it!
posted by mazola at 9:36 PM on November 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Then he'd be very dissapointed in you for attacking someone without first asking why. I can't think of anything worse than Neil Degrasse Tyson sitting me down to tell me how he's not mad at me, but dissipointed in how I acted.
posted by Quack at 9:38 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Awesome from start to finish. Thanks.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:04 PM on November 28, 2011


In future, I want the last 10 or 15 minutes of that linked every time we get one of those 'we're wasting money on space exploration' comments here. Because the man nails it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:22 PM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Much obliged, Lazaruslong.

Random question: did anyone else see the Tyson cameo in "The Muppet Movie" or was I completely tripping on Gummi Bears?
posted by wensink at 10:25 PM on November 28, 2011


You mean The Muppets, wensink? What scene? With so many cameos it would be easy to miss one.
posted by brundlefly at 10:56 PM on November 28, 2011


Fantastic! Colbert is a superb interviewer and deGrasse Tyson is a superb interviewee - which made this very entertaining to watch (not boring in the least bit). That hour flew by.
posted by littlesq at 11:01 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not to get too picky, but credit where credit is due: We are star stuff. - Carl Sagan

Not to get too picky, but as Tyson points out, this concept of stellar nucleosynthesis goes back to a paper published in 1957 by Burbidge, Burbidge, Fowler, and Hoyle (known as B2FH) with the title Synthesis of the Elements in Stars.

I personally heard Nobelist William Fowler, one of the authors, speak this phrase or something very similar in a lecture at least a decade before Sagan's Cosmos. Fowler emphasized not just that our bodies are made of stars but more precisely that we are made of ancient supernovas.
posted by JackFlash at 11:11 PM on November 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


As a city dweller, I completely identify with his anecdote about comparing the night sky to the Hayden planetarium. "You mean it actually looks like that? Holy shit!" I thought the stars in Star Wars were overwrought -- they weren't -- and it blew my mind. Not enough to become an astrophysicist, mind you...
posted by smidgen at 11:26 PM on November 28, 2011


Excellent. Thanks Lazaruslong. I so enjoy Dr. Tyson's passion.

Question: Assuming the Big Bang occurred, and the universe is expanding away from it, shouldn't we be able to triangulate the exact location of the Big Bang? Let's send a probe thataway! Even if it's just an empty hole in space... but how could it be empty? The birth of everything? Did it fizzle?

Always wondered that. (I was raising my hand, glaring at my monitor going OO OO PICK ME during the Q&A. Space and time be damned.) (Colbert didn't see me)
posted by Drewstre at 12:37 AM on November 29, 2011


the universe is expanding away from it

That's the thing, though. It's a bit boggling to get your head around, but the idea is that every point in space is rushing away from every other point -- the universe itself is expanding. The entire universe, at some fantastically miniscule time after the big bag, was the size of an atom (or a bull terrier, or a school bus, or whatever you like), and the entirety of it has been expanding since.

So it's not a matter of something expanding to fill a notional universe, it's the universe itself expanding.

The thing that I love about this is that the latest theory (or latest I've read about) is that variations in the cosmic background radiation we see at the limits of the observable universe are manifestations of the quantum 'fizz' when, immediately after the big bang, the entire universe was at quantum scale.

WOWSERS.

Also, please correct me if I'm wrong on details, there, Real Physics People.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:52 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am going to see NdGT speak at Princeton tonight. I'm honestly irrationally psyched about a science lecture.
posted by mintcake! at 12:59 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am not a Real Physics Person, but my own understanding of it is that stavros is correct. The space between the stars is getting bigger. The universe isn't spreading away from a central point, and there's no "edge" that's rushing away from it. Analogous to the two-dimensional surface of a balloon that's being inflated, the three-dimensional space of the universe is increasing in size. (I'm not sure about this, but I'd think the analogy also holds in that if you go one way long enough, and somehow overcame the expansion of the universe, you'd "cycle" through space, or else you would eventually reach an edge.)
posted by JHarris at 1:43 AM on November 29, 2011


You mean The Muppets, wensink? What scene?

Aye. Sorry about that. It was the interior of someone's home or office; Tyson is being interviewed on TV and his face appears briefly.
posted by wensink at 5:00 AM on November 29, 2011


Hah, yeah, I always read the Star Stuff quote in Sagan's voice too. I just thought it was an appropriate title to capture the excitement and enthusiasm that I felt watching this.

Totally missed the previous NdgT thread, too! Wow! Well, hopefully folks that missed that thread got to see this video, and now those same get to see that thread! Win-win!

I do want to discuss some of the physics but it's off to work so...maybe later!
posted by lazaruslong at 5:40 AM on November 29, 2011


Fowler emphasized not just that our bodies are made of stars but more precisely that we are made of ancient supernovas.

Something I loved in the in the Culture books by Ian Banks: There was a death ritual practiced whereby the corpse was transferred into the centre of a star. It takes millions of years for the matter to make its way to the surface before being ejected.

I thought that was a fascinating concept for burial, renewal, continuous movement, etc. Just awesomely touching.
posted by odinsdream at 6:17 AM on November 29, 2011


Thanks for the info, JackFlash. I didn't think Sagan had discovered the fact; I just thought he made it sing. Because there is a (rhetorical) difference between
We are made of ancient supernovas.
(which sends a chill up my spine, but I'm a big nerd), and
We are star stuff.
which is poetry.

That said, this is about the third time this month I've heard someone refer to the B2FH paper — I'm going to go find it and see how understandable it is to a non-specialist.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:19 AM on November 29, 2011


Drewstre: Question: Assuming the Big Bang occurred, and the universe is expanding away from it, shouldn't we be able to triangulate the exact location of the Big Bang? Let's send a probe thataway! Even if it's just an empty hole in space... but how could it be empty? The birth of everything? Did it fizzle?

The Big Bang was a singularity... a point of infinite density and infinitely small size. Imagine the mathematical concept of a point: no size at all. As far as we know, there was nothing else at all in which that point with zero size could be said to have a location. Locations all began at that same point. Thus, literally: every point was the point at which the Big Bang exploded. Every point was originally its center.

It does boggle a bit.
posted by gilrain at 6:21 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


...and I think it's always important to remember that as we approach "the big bang", everything we understand about time and matter really breaks down. So while we see that as the start of the universe, we're only looking at it through the lens of our comprehension of "time".
posted by Theta States at 6:33 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Theta States: ...and I think it's always important to remember that as we approach "the big bang", everything we understand about time and matter really breaks down. So while we see that as the start of the universe, we're only looking at it through the lens of our comprehension of "time".

Yes, that's true... as you approach infinite density, time slows. At infinite density, if time can even be said to exist meaningfully at all, it stops. Which is a bit hard for time-bound creatures to fully comprehend.
posted by gilrain at 6:42 AM on November 29, 2011


Pony request: Does this exist in podcast format anywhere? I'd love to listen to this on the way home tonight.
posted by schmod at 7:06 AM on November 29, 2011


Dr Tyson is the greatest.

Just had to say it.
posted by grubi at 7:14 AM on November 29, 2011


Pony request: Does this exist in podcast format anywhere? I'd love to listen to this on the way home tonight.

I don't immediately see a podcast form of this, but you can probably use one of the many available free YouTube downloaders to grab the video, or find an audio stripper to grab just the audio track.
posted by hippybear at 7:20 AM on November 29, 2011


This brilliant, thank you.
posted by nickrussell at 7:27 AM on November 29, 2011


For those of you (including myself) who wanted to listen to this as a Podcast, I've taken a copy of the audio, trimmed the intro/outro to just the interview and re-compressed from YouTube's 192MB to just under 41MB as an MP3, available here. Should play on all media players, MP3-capable car stereos, smartphones etc.
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 8:13 AM on November 29, 2011 [15 favorites]


Thank you, NordyneDefenceDynamics! you are awesome.
posted by grubi at 8:22 AM on November 29, 2011


This is a fantastic interview and conversation. Thanks for posting it.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:48 AM on November 29, 2011


Because there is a (rhetorical) difference between
We are made of ancient supernovas.
(which sends a chill up my spine, but I'm a big nerd), and
We are star stuff.
which is poetry.


And of course, Every Man and Every Woman is a Star, which is Crowley's Liber AL vel Legis.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:43 AM on November 29, 2011


I started thinking I'll watch it for 5 minutes and go back to work. Stupid!
posted by savitarka at 9:54 AM on November 29, 2011


Absolutely fantastic! I love the passion in him.
posted by TheMidnightHobo at 10:05 AM on November 29, 2011


Thank you, Nordyne! That was very nice of you!
posted by JingleButt_HiRes_REAL.gif at 10:21 AM on November 29, 2011


Man, I really wish Stephen Colbert wasn't a Catholic.
posted by Decani at 11:50 AM on November 29, 2011


That was some great interplay that could only be done by those two. Great stuff!

I had an English teacher who, while trying to help me with some tedious writing assignment, told me, "Just ask questions. Ask lots of them and the answers you find will be the story that you write."

Not only did I get my first A+ ever, that simple statement changed my life. Everything is science.
posted by snsranch at 4:20 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't suppose anybody has a transcript...? I can't play video over this connection.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 4:13 PM on December 1, 2011


Well, I wanted to help you out jsnlxndrlv so I ran Dragon Dictate on the audio provided by NordyneDefenceDynamics.

This is the result of the first 3 minutes:
Well you have any problems with the latest news on television and I'll see you later on today just reminding you know that I'll be your lifelong love you all know what are you lost Lisa I'll see you in the hinterlands are always walls are really like you wanted to surprise you… On each hello how are you sure the Ashes I just wanted you know I like you to love those are you sure you were probably in your address and what time are we going on when I was in it otherwise I will numbers are you going to be coming out on TRU sure how she's in general number and I'll tell you what are you hello… I'm working today… I will do that right now add on my way to college… And then I'll go outside and I'll sort it me or let me know what are you doing? I am on my birthday if you're lonely knowledge wondering when you were thinking that you know all for night you know so well.
So what do you think, worth listening to?
More like Markov Dictate amirite?
posted by unliteral at 3:32 AM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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