This is an excellent video with a fascinating scientist (Neil DeGrasse Tyson), moderated by a very funny moderator (Stephen Colbert, out of character). It’s a bit long, I’ve queued it up to where it starts here.
Is it better to know or not to know?
Is knowledge always a good thing? There are people that don’t value science. If they don’t value science are they valuing ignorance?
“I say yes, because it empowers you to react.”
“If they are at maximal comfort in their ignorance, fine. Except that they will not be participants on the frontier of cosmic discovery. They will be disenfranchised. They’re not in a position to enhance their life for having access to those discoveries.”
Can knowledge ever be a bad thing [nuclear bomb, etc]?
“At the bottom of all that, there’s a politician funding that research. Scientists invented the bomb, yes, but somebody had to pay for the bomb, and that was taxpayers. There was a political action that called for it. We are collectively part of a society that is using or not using, to its benefit or detriment, the discoveries of science. At the end of the day a discovery itself is not moral, its our application of it that has to pass that test” (16:55).
What is the most beautiful thing in science?
“e=mc². It’s a gorgeous thing. E stands for energy and it’s mass, c is the speed of light, ignore that for the moment. The thrust of that equation is that energy and mass are equivalent to each other. Which means you can transmute one into the other and back. What makes it extraordinary is that hardly ever happens in our ordinary lives, but it’s happening all the time in the rest of the universe.
It’s simple yet it accounts for hugely complex things. That, for me, is where the beauty lies in the truth.”
[His discourse on Pi is quite captivating, it’s linked below, leading ‘My God we’re full of stars’ bit.]
“Another one, the atoms and molecules in your body are traceable to the crucibles of stars, that manufacture these elements in their lifespan, that unstable on death, exploding enriched guts across the galaxy, scattering them into gas clouds that would ultimately make a star and have the right ingredients to make planets, and people. Which means we are part of this universe.
Not only are we in the universe, the universe is in us. That is a profound concept. And I think it was the greatest gift that astrophysics gave culture in the 20th century. We knew that we are star stuff, we knew that we were star dust, that connects us to the universe like no other fact. That’s beautiful.”
That stars thing is amazing. I think that’s the basic of astrology, and much ‘superstition’. That the stars are connected to our individual fates. In a very long view, they actually are.
Since we thought we knew that these amazing things were out there, that flight and cell phones and other magic was possible, we just couldn’t do it in that lifetime. But we knew. We knew that these dreams were real, that they were possible. To reconcile this knowledge and external reality, we made up stories and rituals, but with science a more perfect union is possible.
As I’ve said before, science and wonder are not incompatible, indeed, they’re almost synonymous.
This is a great video cause it shows how exciting science is, how emotionally and spiritually fulfilling it can be, and also how fun.