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Who Wants to Interview Neil deGrasse Tyson?

Actually, that’s a bit of a trick question. I’m interviewing Neil on Monday (air date to be determined) about his new book, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier.

Now that NASA has put human space flight effectively on hold—with a five- or possibly ten-year delay until the next launch of astronauts from U.S. soil—Tyson’s views on the future of space travel and America’s role in that future are especially timely and urgent. This book represents the best of Tyson’s commentary, including a candid new introductory essay on NASA and partisan politics, giving us an eye-opening manifesto on the importance of space exploration for America’s economy, security, and morale. Thanks to Tyson’s fresh voice and trademark humor, his insights are as delightful as they are provocative, on topics that range from the missteps that shaped our recent history of space travel to how aliens, if they existed, might go about finding us.

I’m reading the book, so I can handle questions about that. Feel free to add questions if you’re particularly interested in some part of the U.S. space program, however.

Mostly, though, the number of media appearances Neil does makes me curious. If you had the chance to sit down and talk with him for an hour, what would you ask him? What do you want to know (keep it appropriate for radio, Neil fans) that you haven’t heard a million other interviews?

Comments

  1. Rando says

    Where do you stand on the cosmic crunch hypothesis? Can you explain the mathematical principle’s behind the formation of Dark Matter and it’s counter part Dark Energy?

    I’m always curious about these two. I have a hard time with the mathematics of Dark Matter. I would like to see some explanation on the formation of Dark Matter. I’ve read Stephen Hawking’s books but he is way too hard for me. I invariably find myself reading usually five more books just to understand ONE of Stephen Hawking’s books.

  2. Franklin says

    I want to hear his take on the asteroid-mining proposal. Does he think it’s feasible? Does he think it will eventually be profitable? What does he think the role of the government should be versus the role of the market with regard to spaceflight and space exploration?

  3. Kevin says

    I don’t know if this is his area of expertise, but I’ll continue with the dark matter/dark energy theme.

    What’s the difference between DM/DE and “aether”? Seems to me that we’ve just replaced one imaginary/mathematical construct with another.

  4. Brad says

    With all the writing/speaking/popularizing he does, I’m not sure how much chance he gets to actually stargaze, but here’s my question:

    If you had a little private observatory on the moon (no atmosphere, no light pollution), what would you look at with your telescope? What’s your favorite stuff in the sky?

    If space tourism takes off, would you/will you take a ride into space?

  5. Robert B. says

    Eh, I guess I shouldn’t answer questions that are intended for an expert more qualified than I. But I can say a little about Dark Matter if Dr. Tyson doesn’t.

    As for my question: planets around other stars. How common are they, how interestingly weird are they, are there any that are like Earth, and if so, how much like Earth? Also, what Franklin said, because the asteroid-mining thing has me psyched.

  6. Robert says

    This is more of a suggestion than a question, but considering the uproar over the demotion of Pluto, we should rename “Icy dwarf planets” to “Plutoids”. It’s shorter, and more descriptive, and honors everyone’s favorite ex-planet? Sure Pluto isn’t a planet any more, but it was the first of a whole class of celestial objects.

  7. Cuttlefish says

    What’s your favorite poem?

    (Seriously, I wanna know! Nobody asks this sort of thing!)

  8. Duff says

    Should the unit for quantifying a ‘planet killer’ asteroid be called the ‘Tyson’? And does he often get confused with Mike?

  9. says

    Well, when I did sit down and talk with him for an hour last year, there were a few questions I did not get to. One is pertinent to recent events. He is an expert on plasmas and magnetics, in space, so it would be interesting to ask him about solar flairs, what they are, their meaning, and what we don’t know about them (why it is hard to predict their effects, etc.)

  10. Trebuchet says

    I’d want to ask if he misses actually doing more science instead of mostly spreading the word about it. Both are important, of course, just wondering.

    Same question for Phil Plait, by the way.

  11. Robert B. says

    @ Robert:

    Actually, Pluto wasn’t discovered first, Ceres was. And for a while after it was discovered, Ceres was counted as a planet, so Pluto wasn’t first to be demoted, either.

    On the other hand, “Ceresoids” doesn’t sound nearly so cool.

  12. cag says

    Is there a chance that through gravitational lensing that we could one day see our galaxy as a distant object, that is, look back at ourselves.

    Also, we hear about the universe accelerating outward at an increasing rate. How do astronomers compensate for the orbital motion of the solar system when measuring this rate?

  13. eigenperson says

    I would ask him what non-scientists can do to best advance science.

    If you’re a supporter of just about anything else, there’s a group you can volunteer for.

  14. neilt says

    I’d ask him why people named Neil are just so much smarter and cooler than people named Neal (or people named anything else, for that matter).

    After he crushed my feelings of superiority and let me down easy in his relaxed and friendly manner, I’d get over my disappointment and ask him what he personally thinks about the importance of manned exploration vs. unmanned, what we learn and accomplish with one that we can’t get with the other, and how many unmanned missions to the moon, Mars, and asteroids, and what kind of knowledge we need, before attempting more manned missions out of orbit.

    It’s not a groundbreaking question and has maybe too much room for guesswork, but I think the general public needs more reason to appreciate the importance unmanned missions even though they seem less dramatic, and a little more insight into the dilemmas that NASA and other agencies and companies are facing these days.

    And then I’d pucker right up and kiss his ass by telling him know how cool it is that somebody is finally taking over where Sagan left off, just like I would do for Phil Plait and Carolyn Porco and Eugenie Scott and many others. One at a time isn’t enough anymore, we have to tag-team this stuff!

  15. gwen says

    Are there any new theories about how Venus came to be a runaway greenhouse planet? Do you think we will ever be able to have a probe which will survive the heat to lower to the surface to see what it looks like? What if there are cities and dead bodies of creatures that caused their own annihilation? :)

  16. becca says

    Would he accept a nomination for Mayor of Moon Colony? I am terribly afraid we’ll finally get to the moon and Gingrich will be the one there.

    Also, he’s got sproglets. I wanna know how he teaches them about science.

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