NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON

Encore: July 31, 2020

The popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson veers his eyes from the sky back down to Earth to explore the unspoken alliance that has existed between science and war since the beginning of civilization.

Aired on October 1, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> IT'S A STARTLING TRUTH BUT SCIENCE AND WAR SHARE A LONG AND COMPLICIT HISTORY.

NOW FAMED ASTROPHYSICIST AND THE DIRECTOR OF THE HAYDEN PLANETARIUM AT THE NEW YORK MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY NEIL deGRASSE TYSON IS DELVING DEEP INTO 'ACCESSORY TO WAR.'

THE UNSPOKEN ALLIANCE BETWEEN ASTROPHYSICISTS AND THE MILITARY.

EXPLORING THE MILITARIZATION OF SPACE, TYSON AND COAUTHOR AVIS LANG GIVE US AN INSIDE LOOK INTO HOW WAR OR THE THREAT OF IT HAS LED TO MAJOR INNOVATION AND ADVANCEMENTS.

BUT ALSO TO DESTRUCTION AND MAJOR CONFLICT.

AND HE JOINS ME NOW.

BEFORE WE GET TO THE FUN STUFF, I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE SERIOUSNESS OF YOUR BOOK.

BECAUSE AS I WAS LOOKING OVER THE NOTES --

IT'S VERY WEIGHTY.

IT IS VERY WEIGHTY, A HEAVY BOOK.

THE GOOD ONES ARE ALWAYS HEAVY.

THE LINE THAT KEPT POPPING INTO MY HEAD FROM POP CULTURE WAS FROM 'JURASSIC PARK' WHERE ONE OF THE CHARACTERS, THE SCIENTIST, SAID SCIENCE CAN BE SO FOCUSD ON WHETHER OR NOT THEY CAN DO SOMETHING, THEY DON'T THINK ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THEY SHOULD.

I'M WONDERING IF THAT WAS THE CRUX THAT YOU WERE GETTING AT.

THAT WAS THE MATHEMATICIAN ON THE SHOW.

YOU WOULD KNOW, OF COURSE.

ALL OF US CERTAINLY WITHIN 10 OR 15 YEARS OF MY AGE, WHICH IS A BIG FRACTION, THE BABY BOOMERS, A LOT OF US, WE SHAPED OUR UNDERSTANDING OF CONFLICT AND WAR IN THE VIETNAM ERA.

THAT'S WHEN OUR AWARENESS, WE WERE IN SCHOOL, THE PROTESTS, WE WATCHED THE VIETNAM WAR CHANGE FROM BEING GENERALLY SUPPORTIVE, BECAUSE WE'RE FIGHTING EVIL COMMUNISM, TO LIKE, WHAT ARE WE DOING, AND WHY, AND HOW IS THIS THREATENING ME?

AND THE TIDES TURNED.

PUBLIC SENTIMENT TIDES TURNED ON THAT WAR ON A LEVEL WHERE WE ALL JUST EQUATED WAR WITH BAD.

SO I TOOK THE LONGER VIEW AND RECOGNIZED THAT MY PROFESSION AND BROADLY SCIENCE IN GENERAL HAS BEEN A HANDMAIDEN TO MILITARY AND THE OTHER LIMIT TO SORT OF MILITARY CONQUEST AND HEGEMONY AND EMPEER BUILDING.

AN EASY EXAMPLE WOULD BE THE MANHATTAN PROJECT, AND THEN OF COURSE WHAT CAME OUT OF THAT.

OH, YEAH.

SO IT'S NOT WIDELY REMEMBERED THAT EINSTEIN, GENERALLY A PACIFIST, TOLD PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT, HITLER'S WORKING ON A BOMB.

IF HE CAPTURES THIS ENERGY, THAT'S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT.

WE HAVE TO GET THERE BEFORE HIM.

IT WAS EINSTEIN WHOSE LETTER TO ROOSEVELT LAUNCHED THE MANHATTAN PROJECT.

IS THAT SOMETHING THAT YOU DELVE INTO, NOT NECESSARILY THAT SPECIFIC INSTANCE, BUT HOW THOSE SCIENTIFIC ADVANCES ACTUALLY MIGHT FORD A WAR AGENDA OR AT LEAST WEAPONS DEVELOPMENT?

OH MY GOSH, OH YEAH.

BEFORE THAT EXAMPLE, LET ME SAY THAT MY PROFESSION, ASTRO PHYSICAL CYSTS, WE DON'T MAKE THE BOMBS.

WE DON'T MAKE WEAPON.

BUT WE CARE ABOUT TRACKING DIM THINGS WITH MULTI SPECTRAL IMAGES.

SO IS THE MILITARY, RIGHT?

SO OUR INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL IS TAPPED BY THEM.

WE CAN'T CONTROL THAT BECAUSE WE JUST PUBLISH IT IN PEER-REVIEWED PUBLICLY ACCESSIBLE JOURNALS AND THEY TAKE WHATEVER THEY WANT.

WE LOOK OVER THEIR PICKET FENCE AND AS THINGS BECOME DECLASSIFIED, OH, YOU GUYS FIGURED THAT OUT, WITH YOUR HUGING ABOUT THE BUDGET, SOMETHING WE WOULDN'T HAVE ACCESS TO BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE THE SAME MONEY, WOW.

THAT'S A REALLY GOOD TELESCOPE YOU GUYS INVENTED TO LOOK DOWN, CAN WE HAVE ONE TO LOOK UP?

THUS WAS BORN THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE.

THAT DIDN'T COME OUT OF NOWHERE.

WHY DO YOU THINK IT HAD SOME OF THE BEST IMAGES EVER?

RIGHT?

THAT HAD STRONG BENDING ENABLED BY MILITARY INVESTMENTS PRIOR TO OUR ADOPTING THAT TECHNOLOGY.

SO A QUICK EXAMPLE, BACK IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR, DID YOU KNOW THE FAMOUS PAINTING OF GEORGE WASHINGTON CROSSING THE DELAWARE?

YES.

OKAY.

ZOOM IN ON THAT NEXT TIME.

WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR?

ZOOM IN.

IN HIS RIGHT HAND, HE'S CROSSING THE DELAWARE.

IN HIS RIGHT HAND IS A TELESCOPE.

AH, YES, OF COURSE, TO POTENTIALLY SEE THE HUNS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RIVER.

YOU SEE YOU'RE LOOKING FOR YOUR ENEMY WITH AN ASYMMETRIC ADVANTAGE.

YOU CAN KNOW WHAT IS THEIR TROOP STRENGTH, WHAT IS THEIR SUPPLY LINE, WHAT IS THEIR WEAPONRY THAT THEY'RE BRINGING TO BEAR.

IT'S ONE OF THE FIRST INTELLIGENCE-GATHERING DEVICES EVER.

IT WAS NOT INVENTED BY THE MILITARY.

THAT TOOK THE INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL OF AN OPTICIAN IN THE NETHERLANDS AND GALILEO TO PERFECT IT.

BY THE WAY, WHEN GALILEO PERFECTED THE TELESCOPE, DID WE ASSOCIATE HIM WITH WAR?

NO.

YOU KNOW THE FIRST THING HE DID?

HE INVITED THE DOGE OF VENICE TO THE CLOCK TOWER, THE HIGHEST POINT IN THAT CITY, A CITY-STATE BACK WHEN WE HAD THOSE THINGS, AND HE INVITED HIM TO LOOK OUT INTO THE LAGOON AND SAY, SEE THAT?

SEE THAT SHIP?

YOU CAN KNOW TEN TIMES FARTHER AWAY WHETHER IT IS A FLAG THAT IS FRIEND OR FOE.

ARE THEY ASSEMBLING THEIR GARRISONS?

YOU CAN PREPARE YOUR DEFENSES IN ADVANCE WITHOUT THEM KNOWING THAT YOU DID SO AND BE READY FOR ANY ATTACK.

AT THE SAME TIME, DO YOU FEEL AT ALL THAT PERHAPS WITHIN THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY THAT THERE'S NOT AS MUCH EMPATHY TOWARDS WHAT SOME OF THE WORK THAT THEY'RE DOING, ESPECIALLY IF IT'S FOR THE MILITARY, CAN RESULT IN?

I ASK THAT QUESTION BECAUSE IN THE BOOK YOU GIVE AN EXAMPLE OF BEING AT A CONFERENCE DURING I BELIEVE THE FIRST GULF WAR, AND AS LIVE TV CUT TO THE COVERAGE --

SECOND GULF WAR, YES.

I'M SORRY, YES.

THAT PEOPLE WHO WERE GO FROM LOOK HE'D MARTIN WOULD APPLAUD WHEN THEY HEARD ONE OF THEIR MISSILES WERE BEING USED.

YEAH, IT WAS A SPACE CONFERENCE.

AND ALL SECTORS OF THE SPACE UNIVERSE ARE REPRESENTED THERE.

SO YOU HAVE GOVERNMENT SPACE, SCIENTIFIC SPACE, MILITARY SPACE, COMMERCIAL SPACE.

AND THE GULF WAR SORT OF INTERRUPTED.

AND MANY SESSIONS WERE SHORTENED, OTHERS WERE DELAYED, TO SEE LIKE THE CNN COVERAGE AS WE ALL REMEMBER SO VIVIDLY.

AND IF THERE'S A MISSILE THAT HIT A TARGET, HIT ITS TARGET, OH, THAT WAS A GENERAL DYNAMICS GUIDANCE LOOK HEED MARTIN MISSILE, AND THAT CONTINGENT WOULD APPLAUD, BECAUSE THEY WERE REPRESENTED BY THEIR ENGINEERS AND THEIR DIRECTORS.

SO I SAW THAT AND I WAS LIKE, OH.

YOU KNOW, PEOPLE ARE DYING.

WHY THE CHEERING?

THEN I REALIZE, OKAY -- YOU KNOW, I ALMOST LEFT THE CONFERENCE.

I WAS WELLING UP IN TEARS.

AND THEN I REALIZED THAT, OKAY, THIS IS A WAR THAT THEY DIDN'T START, OKAY, WE STARTED IT, OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS STARTED IT, AND WE ELECT OUR OFFICIALS.

SO WHY AM I ANGRY?

IF I'M ANGRY, IT SHOULD BE WITH MY FELLOW ELECTORATE.

IF I'M GOING TO BE ANGRY ABOUT THIS.

BUT THEN I REALIZED THAT THIS HAS BEEN GOING ON FOREVER.

IF THIS HAS BEEN GOING ON FOREVER, LET ME EXPLORE MORE DEEPLY WHAT ROLE MY SPACE AFFILIATIONS HAVE HAD IN PRIOR CONFLICTS.

AND THAT WAS THE GENESIS OF THE IDEA FOR THE BOOK.

UP WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO LEAVE IT THERE.

I COULD KEEP TALKING TO YOU ABOUT THIS FOREVER.

BUT LISTEN, NEIL deGRASSE TYSON, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING OUTSIDE 'METROFOCUS.'

DEFINITELY THIS BOOK FOR GIVING US SOME MUCH-NEEDED FOOD FOR THOUGHT, FOR PERSPECTIVE ON WHAT WE'RE DOING SOMETIMES AND WHY WE DO IT.

AT SOME LEVELS IT'S A SMORGASBORD FOR THOUGHT.

IT IS.

AGAIN, 600 PAGES IS NOTHING TO SNEEZE AT.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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