For a few hours I will answer any question you have. And I will tweet this fact within ten minutes after this post, to confirm my identity.

Comments: 10741 • Responses: 57  • Date: 

epohs2458 karma

Since time slows relative to the speed of light, does this mean that photons are essentially not moving through time at all?

neiltyson3438 karma

yes. Precisely. Which means ----- are you seated?

Photons have no ticking time at all, which means, as far as they are concerned, they are absorbed the instant they are emitted, even if the distance traveled is across the universe itself.

[deleted]2029 karma

If you could add one course to a student's curriculum, what would it be?

neiltyson5297 karma

Course title every university should offer: "How to tell when someone else is full of shit"

guitard00d1231989 karma

What never fails to blow your mind in physics?

neiltyson3455 karma

1) The fact that an electron has no known size -- it's smaller than the smallest measurement we have ever made of anything.

2) That Quarks come only in pairs: If you try to separate two of them, the energy you sink into the system to accomplish this feat is exactly the energy to spontaneously create two more quarks - one to partner with each of those you pulled apart.

3) That the space-time structure inside a rotating black hole does not preclude the existence of an entire other universe.

MindBlown x 3

epicjackson1974 karma

What do you think it will take for the US to seriously reinvest in the space program?

neiltyson3443 karma

A foreign threat. That seems to be the only thing around that motivates bickering political parties to act in harmony.

h3h1678 karma

Can we inspire more kids to pursue space-related science and research? If so, how?

neiltyson3804 karma

Kids are never the problem. They are born scientists. The problem is always the adults. The beat the curiosity out of the kids. They out-number kids. They vote. They wield resources. That's why my public focus is primarily adults.

Redwater1508 karma

What is your favorite short science fact you like to tell people to really make them think?

neiltyson2617 karma

That our bodies atoms are traceable to supernova stars that scattered their chemical enrichment across the cosmos, spawning the birth of star systems that contain planets, at least one of them containing life.

climberslacker1463 karma

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment scientifically? In life as a whole?

neiltyson2276 karma

Made a prediction some years ago that there were 10x as many galaxies in the universe than had then been catalogued. based on a careful review of observation bias in how people obtained data on the universe. The actual number turned out to be about 5x as many galaxies. I got the wrong answer but for the right reasons, and it stimulated much further work on the subject.

el-fish1091 karma

Mad predictions are often the best. Especially Grade A ones.

neiltyson1430 karma


jesusismoney1343 karma

What seemingly far-fetched aspect of science fiction do you think humans will reach first? (For example: Time Travel, lightsabers, invisibility, etc.)

neiltyson2383 karma

None of it. Not even the costumes.

lordatlas1296 karma

Will our minds ever be able to truly comprehend the vastness of the universe?

neiltyson2310 karma

I lose sleep worrying that we, as a species, are indeed simply too stupid to figure out the universe. There's even some YouTubes of me offering this lament. I other words, we are not as candid as we should be about our neuro-biological limitations.

dahud1295 karma

You've always been an inherently funny guy. Will that transfer to your take on Cosmos, or will you seek to emulate Sagan's more sober wonder?

neiltyson2110 karma

Excellent question. Sagan's "sober wonder" was a fundamental dimension of Cosmos's gravitas. Something that we all in this new production deeply respect. But I can't be something I'm not. Nor should I be. So right now we are exploring the best mix of sober wonder, charming humor, and intellectual depth. I think we'll land in a new place, respectful of Carl's legacy, but allowing me room to express my pedagogical enthusiasm for the subject.

DuckFeetPro1258 karma


neiltyson1744 karma

Thanks for asking. Spring 2012. On FOX network. Likely primetime. UK will likely follow shortly thereafter.

antaresiv1252 karma

Who are the unknown scientists of the 20th Century that people should know?

neiltyson1756 karma

M. Burbidge, G. Burbidge, W. Fowler, & F. Hoyle. Google them.

themantis50001231 karma

Do you agree with the idea (Carl Sagan was a proponent) that humans should prepare to, one day, forever leave the surly confines of Earth? In other words, should we plan to colonize other planets?

neiltyson2013 karma

Because it would be fun. And because we will probably learn something new about ourselves and our own planet. But not as a place to escape from an incoming asteroid. For that I'd rather stay on Earth and deflect the damn thing.

Malfi1195 karma

If you could change one thing about how the sciences are taught to American children, what would it be?

neiltyson2187 karma

Create a goal state for educational pipeline to see in broad daylight - some ambitious mission - like a voyage to mars - that is so compelling that the quality of your science teacher is irrelevant. Your consequent ambitions trump all other forces.

izibo1195 karma

If you could impress one thing on young people today, what would it be?

neiltyson2509 karma

That adults are not all they're cracked up to be. And most of them are wrong most of the time. This can be quite revelatory for a kid - often launching them on a personal quest of exploration, rather than of Q&A sessions with their parents.

bluengreen71139 karma

What are your thoughts on the reports of neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light?

neiltyson2275 karma

Three options:

1) Mistake in the data

VERY DISTANT 2) New particle traveling backwards through time. No need to modify relativity.

EVEN MORE DISTANT 3) Need to modify Relativity.

agoody1171120 karma

What do you think will be the biggest scientific breakthrough upcoming in the next 50 years?

neiltyson1968 karma

Life elsewhere in the solar system. Mars, most likely.

pneumo1118 karma

What is your favorite sci-fi movie?

neiltyson1961 karma

Three-way tie: The Matrix - The first one, of course. Contact Deep Impact.

And classical have: 2001 A Space Odyssey.

Seigge1103 karma

Not a question, just a thank you for inspiring thousands of teenagers like me to pursue science.

neiltyson1201 karma

Keep it going. Thanks.

aggieastronaut1049 karma

What is your opinion of the Symphony of Science videos?

neiltyson1876 karma

Only when creative people take ownership of cosmic discovery will society accept science as the cultural activity that it is.

And so I applaud all such efforts of artists.

detaer967 karma

If a taco and a burrito are traveling near the speed of light and collide, will the result be delicious?

neiltyson1997 karma

The result would be an explosion large enough to destroy a small village. high speed collisions do that, whether or not they are made of Mexican food.

The_Seeker945 karma

Have you fixed your time machine yet?

neiltyson1891 karma

Yup. That's what happens when I let Stewie touch my stuff.

neiltyson1345 karma

Yup. Stewie was meddling with it. But he's gone now.

imnottouchingyou919 karma

What is your favorite fact about the Universe?

neiltyson2155 karma

That is will never end. That it's on a one way trip of expansion. Something that many find to be philosophically unsettling. My view is that if your philosophy is not unsettled daily then you are blind to all the universe has to offer.

scurvydog00836 karma

Your thoughts on the upcoming Cosmos series? And thanks for all you do, you are like a rockstar in our household!

neiltyson1276 karma

Loooong overdue. Last one was 31 years ago. A generation, that it.

LoveBy137824 karma

How was it being a guest star on The Big Bang Theory? Do you think the show hurts or helps the perception of physicists?

neiltyson1685 karma

The funnest 24 hours I ever spent in my life. Flew to LA from NYC in the AM. Returned on the RedEye. It's mainstreaming the culture of science. Note to those who criticize it: Where were you when scientists were always portrayed as lab-coat donning crazy people hell bent on destroying the world?

darkerside794 karma

If you appeared on the game show Jeopardy, how do you think you would do?

neiltyson2421 karma

I've appeared on the Jeopardy board (a video clue) about three or four times. I think one was even a daily double. If I were a contestant, I'm sure I would make the first few rounds, but would surely lose in any tournament. The people who win these things have a different brain wiring than I have. Part of me echoes Einstein's edict: never memorize what you can look up in a book.

iamseb792 karma

What one improvement would you make to the way our society as a whole approaches science if it were within your power?

neiltyson1755 karma

Society needs to see science not as a luxury of funding but as a fundamental activity that drives enlightenment, economics, and security. Science agencies should never have to go hat in hand to congress.

One idea would be for the USA (or any other country for that matter) to earmark 10% of its budget to R&D. Like a good startup company might do. That way everyone knows what to expect annually. And long term research projects will have some hope of funding stability.

psyced734 karma

  1. What exactly do you do these days?
  2. Are you a fan of cats?
  3. What do you think of the current space-travel situation?

neiltyson1806 karma

1) My life is not especially private of late. So everything you see me do it what I do.

2) cats can be cute, and all. But in the end, I think there's no substitute for a dog. I walked dogs for money as a kid to pay for a telescope and my first SLR camera.

3) Current space travel situation is fine, if you are not American.

Boneman22721 karma

Neil- As a new social studies high school teacher, how can I best impart a love and respect for science and the importance of learning to my students who see school as a waste of their time? I struggle with this aspect of teaching more than any other.

neiltyson1162 karma

I thrive on exploring all the ways science impacts life, society, and culture. It's the founding principle of StarTalk radio:

So a goal as teacher, perhaps ought to include knowing as much as you possibly can about pop culture and referencing it at every turn as you teach the syllabus. I am there with my Tweets:!/neiltyson Takes a while to build up that utility belt of songs, TV shows, harry potter, etc. But it pays great dividends.

Reasonable_Roger691 karma

What are you feelings on religion and the afterlife, and are you scared to die?

neiltyson2226 karma

I remain unconvinced that anything other than rapid decomposition is the fate of my body and mind after death. I've accomplished enough in life so that I do not fear death. In fact, I've left instructions for my Epitaph - a quote from the educator, Horace Mann: "Be Ashamed to Die, Until You Have Scored Some Victory for Humanity". That's the creed I live by. And will die by.

BonzTM687 karma

Do you think that Humans in our lifetime will achieve the technology to be able to live forever?

If so, what is your greatest dream that you may someday be able to do that we don't yet have the technology to do?

neiltyson1424 karma

Yes, I think it's inevitable. But that would eventually make for a very crowded Earth. So perhaps that's what we need to jumpstart the space program.

Would love to live long enough to know what dark matter and dark energy actually are.

tppatterson123654 karma

I just want to say that I can't wait for your new Cosmos series. And I also love it whenever you appear on The Daily Show.

That is all.

neiltyson1183 karma

Thanks. We're all working hard on it right now. Except, at this moment, me.

nortab608 karma

When do you think we would be able to explore Europa, given the current pace and funding of space exploration?

neiltyson1143 karma

Europa is not on the planetary scientist's priority list, for an obscure combination of reasons that relate to cost and whether we are technologically prepared to undertake such mission versus missions to other tasty targets in the solar system.

[deleted]606 karma

What do you prefer NASA to explore more of?

neiltyson1375 karma

Asteroids that might one day hit us.

bearsfan043587 karma

What is the simplest thing in your life that makes you happy?

neiltyson1481 karma

Watching a person learn something new - not simply a new fact (those are cheap and easy) -- but achieve a new understanding for how the world works. That's the only reward a (true) educator ever seeks.

fluterecorderdecool536 karma

What are some very interesting DIY science experiments that a person can do as hobby?

neiltyson1077 karma

There's no substitute for Oobleck. Easy to concoct in the kitchen. Weeks of amazing experiments on the counter. Google it.

sat0pi529 karma

What is your opinion on the whole idea of the technological Singularity and do you think such a monumental leap in science and technology is ever likely to happen to the degree that Moore's Law supposedly dictates (according to Kurzweil)?

neiltyson1092 karma

I find the entire movement to be entertaining, in spite of my skepticism that the singularity will have the meaning ascribed to it. I'm primarily pissed off that they stole a perfectly good word from black-hole physics.

pillon488 karma

What issues or ideas keep you up at night? Also, are you a Queen fan?

neiltyson1264 karma

That America has lost its technological and scientific compass.

Gotta love Brian May and his PhD in astrophysics.

First heard Bohemian Rhapsody on the radio when I was only half asleep. An incident like that can accidentally alter your brain wiring.

[deleted]483 karma

What is one of the most common misconceptions about space/time/astrophysics that you encounter, and how would you clear up that subject?

neiltyson1001 karma

That the north star is the brightest in the night sky. I'd guess about 9 out of 10 people think this. But it does not require a grant from the National Science Foundation to learn the answer. The North Star is not even in the top 40 in the night sky. It's the 49th brightest star. Rather dull and boring by most measures.

lambo91469 karma


neiltyson1480 karma

A marvelous way to just convince people to give you money. Offer to freeze them for later. I'd have more confidence if we had previously managed to pull this off with other mammals. Until then I see it as a waste of money. I'd rather enjoy the money, and then be buried, offering my body back to the flora and fauna of which I have dined my whole life.

mrrobinson451 karma

What are you most proud of at the Hayden Planetarium? What current exhibit should a visitor absolutely not miss?

neiltyson777 karma

Birthing a scientific research department of Astrophysics. You don't see them but it's a thriving department with faculty, postdocs, graduate students, research publications etc. In this world administrative victories are always the greatest.

lionbologna447 karma

Hi Neil, I'm a massive fan! I'm currently a junior in college studying physics and want to pursue a PhD. Do you have any advice for the next generation of scientists like me?

neiltyson1373 karma

There are street artists. Street musicians. Street actors. But there are no street physicists. A little known secret is that a physicist is one of the most employable people in the marketplace - a physicist is a trained problem solver. How many times have you heard a person in a workplace say, "I wasn't trained for this!" That's an impossible reaction from a physicist, who would say, instead, "Cool. A problem I've never seen before. Let's see how I can figure out how to solve it!". Oh, and, have fun along the way.

asiatownusa378 karma

what is the key to rooting out the anti-science view in America, especially in regards to things like evolution and climate change?

neiltyson1068 karma

I don't mind anti-science views. We've all bought into America being free - which means, above all else, freedom of speech. What concerns me is when those who are anti science, try to prevent others from doing science. When that happens, that's the beginning of the end.

therosetta369 karma

What do you think about the state of science reporting? Is there more of a burden on the scientific community to articulate their findings to the media, or on the media to be more informed before they report? Or should one side just step up?

neiltyson618 karma

It's much better than a few decades ago - in quality and especially quality. Documentarians have raise the bar on the depth of science that gets talked about on television. And there's no end of science on line. In the 1970s you could go months before you saw any news or treatment of scientific discoveries. Now you're treated to them weekly, if not daily.

VikingMop366 karma

If you think 5 and 10 years from now, what are you most looking forward to in science? Any expectations?

neiltyson914 karma

Cure for Cancer. Fully funded space exploration. Physics recognized as the foundation of chemistry. Chemistry recognized as the foundation of biology. And free market structured in a way that brings these discoveries to market efficiently and effectively.

Zestycookie349 karma


neiltyson1037 karma

Not enough space or time here to rant on that one.


Hello! What inspired you to be an astronomer? How old were you when you decided to do this career path?

neiltyson671 karma

That's why I wrote this book: :"The Sky Is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist"

it all started at age Nine. And it was the universe that called me.

CheatingCheetos339 karma

Do ever feel pressured into being the figure-head for promoting people into supporting astronomy? That's how I view you. :D

neiltyson701 karma

No pressure at all. Instead, I feel compelled to get people to support science for their own survival.

torchestogether266 karma

Do you believe that we will see civilian trips into space during our life time that aren't millions of dollars to book?

How about a manned trip to Mars?

neiltyson481 karma

No. But millions of dollars is a good start. I'd buy a lottery ticket for that.

projectFT265 karma

What do you think of the current downfall of the History channel and it's onslaught of psuedo-scientific programming on ancient aliens, monsters, ghosts and other ridiculousness?

neiltyson833 karma

Do we blame them or the viewers who watch it?

FoxHarem242 karma

If there is one single accomplishment you'd like to see in space exploration or discovery within your lifetime, what would it be?

neiltyson591 karma

Search for aquatic life in the oceans of Jupiter's moon Europa.

Ihsahn_214 karma

How does it feel to be voted 'Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive'?

neiltyson439 karma

I always wanted to be respected for my mind...

But seriously, it turned out to be much more harmless than I had feared. More a fun novelty than either a curse or a burden to carry

Jyan199 karma

What is your opinion about science/math education in high school? It seems to me like we emphasize far to much on facts that most people will never need, rather than encouraging people to think creatively and logically.

neiltyson425 karma

Agree 100%. Any time we are answer-driven rather than idea driven, we have lost the true meaning of education.

radioscott160 karma

What are you scared of?

neiltyson559 karma

I'm too rational to be deeply scare of anything. But I'm deeply worried for America.

KrapBag95 karma

What are your views on Mars? I read that a few volunteers in Moscow took part in a year-long experiment to replicate the time it would take to get to Mars.

Would it be worth it? Can it become a 'second' home of sorts in the foreseeable future? Or is it unfeasable? (Can America do the same would be secondary, after all the Cold War has ended, but that too would be cool)

neiltyson242 karma

Gotta love Mars. But it's colder and dryer than Antarctica. And I don't see people lining up to build condo's at the South Pole. So until we perfect Terraforming, I see colonizing Mars with civilization as a fun fantasy.