The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.
We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.
The knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on earth - the atoms that make up the human body, are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures. These stars- the high mass ones among them- went unstable in their later years- they collapsed and then exploded- scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy- guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself. These ingredients become part of gas clouds that condense, collapse, form the next generation of solar systems- stars with orbiting planets. And those planets now have the ingredients for life itself. So that when I look up at the night sky, and I know that yes we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up- many people feel small, cause their small and the universe is big. But I feel big because my atoms came from those stars.
For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.
I know that the molecules in my body are traceable to phenomena in the cosmos. That makes me want to grab people on the street and say: ‘Have you HEARD THIS?
Down there between our legs, it's like an entertainment complex in the middle of a sewage system. Who designed that?
My view is that if your philosophy is not unsettled daily then you are blind to all the universe has to offer.
I would request that my body in death be buried not cremated, so that the energy content contained within it gets returned to the earth, so that flora and fauna can dine upon it, just as I have dined upon flora and fauna during my lifetime
In 5-billion years the Sun will expand & engulf our orbit as the charred ember that was once Earth vaporizes. Have a nice day.
The more I learn about the universe, the less convinced I am that there's any sort of benevolent force that has anything to do with it, at all.
People cited violation of the First Amendment when a New Jersey schoolteacher asserted that evolution and the Big Bang are not scientific and that Noah's ark carried dinosaurs. This case is not about the need to separate church and state; it's about the need to separate ignorant, scientifically illiterate people from the ranks of teachers.
... there is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational thought and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance.
I would teach how science works as much as I would teach what science knows. I would assert (given that essentially, everyone will learn to read) that science literacy is the most important kind of literacy they can take into the 21st century. I would undervalue grades based on knowing things and find ways to reward curiosity. In the end, it's the people who are curious who change the world.
... informed ignorance provides the natural state of mind for research scientists at the ever-shifting frontiers of knowledge. People who believe themselves ignorant of nothing have neither looked for, nor stumbled upon, the boundary between what is known and unknown in the cosmos.
Curious that we spend more time congratulating people who have succeeded than encouraging people who have not.
We spend the first year of a child's life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down. There's something wrong there.
If you removed all the arteries, veins, & capillaries from a person’s body, and tied them end-to-end…the person will die.
In our profession, we tend to name things exactly as we see them. Big red stars we call red giants. Small white stars we call white dwarfs. When stars are made of neutrons, we call them neutron stars. Stars that pulse, we call them pulsars. In biology they come up with big Latin words for things. MDs write prescriptions in a cuneiform that patients can’t understand, hand them to the pharmacist, who understands the cuneiform. It’s some long fancy chemical thing, which we ingest. In biochemistry, the most popular molecule has ten syllables—deoxyribonucleic acid! Yet the beginning of all space, time, matter, and energy in the cosmos, we can describe in two simple words, Big Bang. We are a monosyllabic science, because the universe is hard enough. There is no point in making big words to confuse you further.Want more? In the universe, there are places where the gravity is so strong that light doesn’t come out. You fall in, and you don’t come out either: black hole. Once again, with single syllables, we get the whole job done. Sorry, but I had to get all that off my chest.
In 2002, having spent more than three years in one residence for the first time in my life, I got called for jury duty. I show up on time, ready to serve. When we get to the voir dire, the lawyer says to me, “I see you’re an astrophysicist. What’s that?” I answer, “Astrophysics is the laws of physics, applied to the universe—the Big Bang, black holes, that sort of thing.” Then he asks, “What do you teach at Princeton?” and I say, “I teach a class on the evaluation of evidence and the relative unreliability of eyewitness testimony.” Five minutes later, I’m on the street. A few years later, jury duty again. The judge states that the defendant is charged with possession of 1,700 milligrams of cocaine. It was found on his body, he was arrested, and he is now on trial. This time, after the Q&A is over, the judge asks us whether there are any questions we’d like to ask the court, and I say, “Yes, Your Honor. Why did you say he was in possession of 1,700 milligrams of cocaine? That equals 1.7 grams. The ‘thousand’ cancels with the ‘milli-’ and you get 1.7 grams, which is less than the weight of a dime.” Again I’m out on the street.
There’s as many atoms in a single molecule of your DNA as there are stars in the typical galaxy. We are, each of us, a little universe.
I am convinced that the act of thinking logically cannot possibly be natural to the human mind. If it were, then mathematics would be everybody's easiest course at school and our species would not have taken several millennia to figure out the scientific method.
When asked about which scientist he'd like to meet, Neil deGrasse Tyson said, Isaac Newton. No question about it. The smartest person ever to walk the face of this earth. The man was connected to the universe in spooky ways. He discovered the laws of motion, the laws of gravity, the laws of optics. Then he turned 26.
Kids are never the problem. They are born scientists. The problem is always the adults. They beat the curiosity out of kids. They outnumber kids. They vote. They wield resources. That's why my public focus is primarily adults.
When scientifically investigating the natural world, the only thing worse than a blind believer is a seeing denier.
I want to put on the table, not why 85% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences reject God, I want to know why 15% of the National Academy don’t.
As a child, I was aware that, at night, infrared vision would reveal monsters hiding in the bedroom closet only if they were warm-blooded. But everybody knows that your average bedroom monster is reptilian and cold-blooded.
But you can’t be a scientist if you’re uncomfortable with ignorance, because scientists live at the boundary between what is known and unknown in the cosmos. This is very different from the way journalists portray us. So many articles begin, “Scientists now have to go back to the drawing board.” It’s as though we’re sitting in our offices, feet up on our desks—masters of the universe—and suddenly say, “Oops, somebody discovered something!” No. We’re always at the drawing board. If you’re not at the drawing board, you’re not making discoveries. You’re not a scientist; you’re something else. The public, on the other hand, seems to demand conclusive explanations as they leap without hesitation from statements of abject ignorance to statements of absolute certainty.
While the Copernican principle comes with no guarantees that it will forever guide us to cosmic truths, it's worked quite well so far: not only is Earth not in the center of the solar system, but the solar system is not in the center of the Milky Way galaxy, the Milky Way galaxy is not in the center of the universe, and it may come to pass that our universe is just one of many that comprise a multiverse. And in case you're one of those people who thinks that the edge may be a special place, we are not at the edge of anything either.
How do we change the way science is taught?Ask anybody how many teachers truly made a difference in their life, and you never come up with more than the fingers on one hand. You remember their names, you remember what they did, you remember how they moved in front of the classroom. You know why you remember them? Because they were passionate about the subject. You remember them because they lit a flame within you. They got you excited about a subject you didn't previously care about, because they were excited about it themselves. That's what turns people on to careers in science and engineering and mathematics. That's what we need to promote. Put that in every classroom, and it will change the world.
Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes.... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms.
The good thing about the laws of physics is that they require no law enforcement agencies to maintain them
The gravitational waves of the first detection were generated by a collision of black holes in a galaxy 1.3 billion light-years away, and at a time when Earth was teeming with simple, single-celled organisms. While the ripple moved through space in all directions, Earth would, after another 800 million years, evolve complex life, including flowers and dinosaurs and flying creatures, as well as a branch of vertebrates called mammals. Among the mammals, a sub-branch would evolve frontal lobes and complex thought to accompany them. We call them primates. A single branch of these primates would develop a genetic mutation that allowed speech, and that branch—Homo Sapiens—would invent agriculture and civilization and philosophy and art and science. All in the last ten thousand years. Ultimately, one of its twentieth-century scientists would invent relativity out of his head, and predict the existence of gravitational waves. A century later, technology capable of seeing these waves would finally catch up with the prediction, just days before that gravity wave, which had been traveling for 1.3 billion years, washed over Earth and was detected.Yes, Einstein was a badass.
What we do know, and what we can assert without further hesitation, is that he universe had a beginning. The universe continues to evolve. And yes, every one of our body's atoms is traceable to the big bang and to the thermonuclear furnaces within high-mass stars that exploded more than five billion years ago. We are stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out - and we have only just begun.
During our brief stay on planet Earth, we owe ourselves and our descendants the opportunity to explore - in part because it's fun to do. But there's a far nobler reason. The day our knowledge of the cosmos ceases to expand, we risk regressing to the childish view that the universe figuratively and literally revolves around us. In that bleak world, arms-bearing, resource-hungry people and nations would be prone to act on their 'low contracted prejudices.' And that would be the last gasp of human enlightenment - until the rise of a visionary new culture that could once again embrace, rather than fear, the cosmic perspective.
We are stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out—and we have only just begun.