Life, the Universe and Everything

Monday, May 28, 2007

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History, director of the Hayden Planetarium, host of NOVA scienceNOW and author Death By Black Hole And Other Cosmic Quandaries (W.W. Norton, 2006), talks about the space elevators and the universe.

Death By Black Hole And Other Cosmic Quandaries is available for purchase at


Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Comments [3]

Mike Choi

Great interview! However, I think Dr. Tyson may have misspoken when he said weight is not a function of gravity. My recollection of first-year physics is that weight is calculated using the Newtonian law of force (F) equals mass (m) times acceleration (a). In this case, a is that due to gravity. Weight, the force your body exerts on the bathroom scale, is the product of your mass and gravity. I think Dr. Tyson meant that MASS is independent of gravity. Weight is not, which is why the Apollo astronauts seemed to be floating a bit as they moved about in the relatively weaker gravity of the Moon. (And the readout on your bathroom scale would probably horrify you on Jupiter.)

May. 29 2007 10:08 AM
Thane Papke from Halifax NS

I am just coming to terms with the modern idea of the multiverse. The idea as I understand it is that there are a limited number of particles in our known universe, and therefore only a limited number of combinations for them. On the other hand, the number of universes in a multiverse is infinite and therefore, it is statistically likely that the same combinations of particles will come together in a different universe and will be identical to the one we live in. In fact, there could be an infinite number of universes that are identical to the one we live in. It could be true, but I am skeptical. I understand at least on the surface, that there are finite combinations when starting with finite starting material, even if that number is extraordinarily large. Its just that evolution is a powerful creative force, that could find ways to make infinite use of finite particles. Interestingly, you made a comment to the questioner regarding multiverses. You said that in a different universe, the very same conversation could be occurring, but in a different language. This made me wonder. I realize that language is based on our brains working and is therefore material, but isn't it also an idea, built on experiences and historical contingencies and possibly a unique construct such that no two universes could invent the same languages that exist in ours? Furthermore, it changes constantly. Is it possible that intelligence can generate an infinite number of ideas and be excluded from the finite particle/finite number of combinations that can possibly exist hypothesis? If so, would there be another universe just like ours? Or, one that was just highly similar?

May. 28 2007 11:50 AM
Bill Koslosky, MD

I'd like to challenge Dr. Tyson's assertion that a particle cannot travel faster than the speed of light. Google Cherenkov radiation.

You must stipulate the speed of light IN A VACUUM.

May. 28 2007 11:02 AM

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