The Future of Science with Neil deGrasse Tyson | StarTalk Live!

(upbeat music) – It is great to be here. It is my incredibly great
pleasure to introduce the host for this
evening, the ever loving, incredibly charming, science
communicator extraordinaire, Neil DeGrasse Tyson. (audience applauding) – Thank you. – Eugene Mirman. – Neil. (audience applauding) – So, just to be clear,
these StarTalk Lives were birthed in the Eugene
Mirman comedy festival. There’s a whole comedy
festival named after this guy, and since StarTalk has
always had a professional comedian as my co-host,
he figured that would fit nicely into that format. And so, we’re here as a
continuation of that series. – Yes. And let me bring out two comedians. The first one, a very funny man. He is the author of “How to be Black,” and he was a supervising
producer on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, ladies and gentleman, Baratunde Thurston! (audience applauding) – Ahh! Yes! You got it. – That’s gotta be the coolest
first name ever, Baratunde that’s gotta be the coolest name, like ever.
– It is a pretty cool name. I might take it. (audience laughing) – The next guest, a very funny woman. She is the host of NPR’s “Ask Me Another,” ladies and gentlemen, Ophira Eisenburg. (audience applauding) – Mwah! Eugene. – I don’t know if we
pre-advertised what the title of this evening is. The title this evening is,
“Let’s Make America Smart Again.” (audience applauding) So, we combed the land for
people who could give us insight into this, and one such person is Dr. Professor John Holdren,
the former science advisor to President Obama. John
Holdren come on out. (audience applauding) At the moment, he’s Professor
of Environmental Policy up at Harvard, and he
came down just for this. So thanks John. – Thank you. (audience applauding) – Also, from the Obama
administration, we have a biologist. Jo Handelsmen. Jo, come on out. (audience applauding) She was Associate Director for Science at the Office of Science
and Technology Policy under President Obama. And
now she’s a microbiologist at the University of
Wisconsin. Is that right? Cheeseheads, yes, yes. So this event will be in three parts. Initially, we’ll talk about
Earth, and keeping track of what’s going on and why. Talk about the science and
the policy related to that. Next, we will talk about
biology, and how that affects health, and get inside the
National Institutes of Health and what they’re all about and why. And we’ll end up with a
final segment on the future. The future of space, the
future of AI, robotics, and so we’re gonna do it all. All the science that
matters in this country, and we’re doing it now. This is a live broadcast, here,
at the Count Basie Theater Red Bank, New Jersey, StarTalk. Let’s do this! (audience applauding) Oh right. Well, Earth Day is
in April. Earth Day, April 22 and it coincides with the
Science March on Washington. (audience applauding) So John, Earth Day began in 1970. – Right. – Why? Why not 1960? Surely people cared about Earth in 1960. – No, people did. But what
had happened during the course of the ’60s is there were the whole series of environmental
disasters that got people- (Neil laughs) – So we need disaster to protect. So we don’t know how to
protect something proactively. – Disasters help. – Yep. – What were like the three best disasters? (laughing) – The Cuyahoga River
catching fire was one- – That’ll do it, yeah. – Lake Eerie becoming
totally clogged with algae, so that most of the fish were
dying was the second one. – I can see-
– This one sounds worse. – In that period. And of course, the air pollution in the Los Angeles Basin getting worse and worse, so
that on most days you couldn’t see the mountains. In fact, I was at Cal
Tech in the early 1970s- – In Pasadena? – In Pasadena, I had
been there for six months before I knew there were
mountains right behind Cal Tech. (laughing) – Okay, so Jo, you
worked with John Holdren in the Office of Science
and Technology Policy, what is OSTP? I’d say most people
have never heard of it. So why? What did you not do? (laughter) – Well, we obviously didn’t
advertise ourselves very much. Our job was to mix policy and science. And that meant two things,
some of it was policy for science, how to make
our science enterprise as strong as it could be,
using policy to shape it. But the other side was using
science to shape policy on issues that weren’t
obviously about science. – Like what? – Like forensics, forensic
science is supposedly based on science, but in fact there’s not that much science behind it. And so, we brought the
science to bear on that issue. – And so John, you were appointed
by Obama, is that correct? – Yes. – Did you have to be
approved by the Senate? – Yes, but there are two
different jobs involved. Science Advisor to the
president is not subject to Senate confirmation,
Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, is subject to-
– Didn’t you have both titles? – And I had both titles,
but I could start serving as the president’s Science
Advisor on Inauguration Day 2009, took two months to get
confirmed as Director of OSTP. And in those two months, I
couldn’t sit in the director’s office, couldn’t give any
orders to anybody in OSTP, but I could talk to the President. – Wow. – Glad this bureaucracy’s
gonna be gone now. (laughter) – So, how was Obama among the presidents with regard to science, would you say? – Well, I think President Obama
was the most science savvy president since Thomas Jefferson. (audience applauding) Thomas Jefferson, of course,
was his own Science Advisor. – Yeah, he was badass. – I hope Warren Harding
never hears you say this. (panel laughs) – But the president came
into office understanding how and why science and
technology matter for the economy, for public health, for the environment, for national security, he just got it. – So he was pre-loaded? – He was pre-loaded, he just got it. He understood it. – All right, so Earth
Day, I still, forgive me, don’t really know what you’re
supposed to do on Earth Day. Like, what’re you supposed to do? – I think you’re supposed to
draw a picture of the Earth. – Yeah. – And then get it on a tote bag. – Yeah and walk around with it. – Walk on the Earth. – Appreciate it. – Walk on the Earth. – Yeah, touch the Earth.
You know, that’d be a good thing on Earth Day.
– Eat a stick of pot butter. – Yeah, very common. – Look at a baby for as
long as it’ll let you. (audience laughing) (scattered chatter) – Now, Earth Day has a
biological motive, doesn’t it? – Absolutely. Some of us think it should
be renamed Soil Day, because it’s about the
Earth, but the most important thing on the Earth is the soil. That’s where all of our
food comes from, and– – Wait a minute, don’t you study soil? – I do, I’m a little biased. – I was like, that’s very specific. – How many wanna call it Soil Day? – Yeah. – Um, a few of us. – I feel like water is pretty important. – Yeah, that’s true, yeah. But soil– – See, I could go more
than a week without soil. (laughter) – Keep telling yourself that. – I can’t go 10 days without water. – But the Earth is dead
really fast without soil. So, you can’t use yourself
as the standard, sorry. But it’s okay. – And Neil, you can’t go
for a week without air. Air is really important. – True. – Yeah, that’s minutes without air. So when I think of Earth Day 1970, in that same year, the EPA,
Environmental Protection Agency was founded, and so was NOAA, The National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration. (audience cheering) – So these are– – NOAA fan. – That was a benchmark
year for people caring. So, I’m trying to understand. – Well, on a slightly more
serious note one of the things– – More serious than
caring about the Earth? – No, more serious than you’re going for a week without soil. – Oh right, okay. (laughter) – On a more serious note, what
it’s really about I think, is talking with folks
and reminding them about all the ways we depend on air, and soil, and water, and sunlight. And the trouble is, most
people today, too many people, think that food materializes
de novo on supermarket shelves. You know, they think that
when they plug something into the wall, the electricity
is coming from right behind the wall, (scattered chatter) and that there’s a whole
system connected to it. And they think that most pest control is done by pesticides,
they think that most availability of water is
through canals and dams, they just don’t get it. That we depend on the
Earth for our well-being. And that’s what it’s really about. – You guys worked in an office, that should be household
conversation, and it’s not. How come? – Well I think partly ‘cuz
we backed up the president. The president was the
face of OSTP in many ways, because he rolled out the
policy, he represented it– – I remember, when was
it, when C. Everett Koop told people how to use
condoms, or whatever, I forgot the details, as,
what was his title again? (laughter) No, I forgot! It’s not about sex, it’s not about sex. – I believe he told people to masturbate and then the president
had to take it back . (laughter) – I’m not totally wrong. – No, no that was the next– – That was Madeline Albright? – Joycelyn Elders. – Right, Joycelyn Elders. – I remember the
masturbation lessons, yeah. – Why do I even know his name then? – So he was around, I
think, in the AIDs era. So we all new his name. – Yeah, yeah. – And so, so why didn’t we know your name? – ‘Cuz you were out of it,
you must’ve been out of it. Everybody I know knows
John Holdren’s name. – You work with the guy. – Well, but I know a few
people who are outside the White House, and they
all think that he’s a hero. – So here’s the thing– (applause) So Earth Day, there is somehow in the air, no pun intended, a sense of
concern for Earth as a planet. That came out, I think it
was right in the middle of when we were going to the moon, right? – Mhmm. – But I think we went to explore the moon, we looked back, and discovered
Earth for the first time. And in that discovery, Earth
became a focus of our concern and we want to preserve
this spaceship floating there in the void. – We basically took a planet-sized selfie. – Yeah, basically. That’s right. From a quarter million miles away. So it looks like we exploited
that fact legislatively. – Absolutely. That blue
marble photo, that selfie, that Baratonde has just
referred to, was critical. – And so, EPA gets formed. Apparently, not under any
controversy, right? I guess. – Well, you know it was
interesting that, you know President Nixon actually thought it was important to do that. – And I think he was
Republican, last I remembered. – It’s true.
(laughter) It was one of his better moments. – Okay.
(laughter) – I think today he’d be
considered a communist. (laughter) – So the mission of the EPA,
to ensure that all Americans are protected from risks to human health and to the environment,
from where they live, where they learn, and where they work. So, this sounds like an
important organization. – A very important
organization, and one which has been built up since its
inception, and which has done on the whole, a pretty good job. – And what’s the relationship
between NOAA and the EPA? – Well NOAA is basically
an environmental monitoring and a science organization. They’re responsible for
understanding what’s happening in the oceans, what’s
happening in the atmosphere. The National Weather Service
is part of NOAA, for example. So our weather forecasts come from NOAA. And by the way, a member of
Congress once famously said, “I don’t know why we have
to fund NOAA, we have “The Weather Channel.” (laughter) – Idiot. – And that’s what’s called
unclear on the concept. (laughter) – All right. So, both
organizations exist today. And can you comment on
their support in Congress? – Well it’s mixed, obviously.
NOAA and EPA have had strong support through both
Republican and Democratic administrations over the years. – Right. – But now, they are faced
with severe budget cuts, most severe in EPA, if
President Trump’s budget is accepted by Congress, and that’s not a foregone conclusion. He’s proposed a budget
fo EPA, but Congress has to approve it. But that budget cuts EPA’s
total funding by over 30% and the research and
development organization in EPA is cut by 50% in
that proposed budget. NOAA’s budget is also being
cut, particularly in respect to ocean monitoring and
research and climate data. – Now, you don’t have
anything to do with that, ‘cuz you’re not in Washington anymore. – That’s right. – So why am I even
asking you this question? (laughter) – Well a lot of people are
asking me what is going to be the role of science and technology in the new administration– – I’m not gonna ask you
that, I wanna ask that of a politician. Is there
a politician in the house? (laughter) – He looked like one. – He does look like one. – Oh! (cheering and applause) – Hello Red Bank! – Senator Cory Booker! New Jersey. (cheering and applause) – So you can’t come up
in my house, Jersey, and not say hello, man. I got word that you were in Jersey. – You did get word. – You crossed from the
dark side of the Hudson. – I crossed the moat. – Into the light. – I crossed the moat of the Hudson River. – Welcome to New Jersey,
it’s great to have you. – Thank you, I’m delighted
to be in your home state. (applause) Senator Brooker, you’re
former mayor of Newark. – Yes. – That can’t have been easy. – It was the best
hardest years of my life. – There you go. And so, you are sitting
senator in midterm right now, correct? – Thank you New Jersey. – Yes, okay. So we have people who previously served, and you were in Congress
while they were serving. – First of all, their names
might not be publicly known, but they are heroic people that made Obama probably one of the
greatest science presidents we’ve ever had, due to
the people he had around. – The folks he put in place. – Yes. – And so, we’re now talking
about a president’s budget. ‘Cuz a lot of this I
think is just a mystery to so many people, and
certainly a mystery to me. So the president puts out a budget, and doesn’t the Congress
kinda have to go along with most of what that is?
– Not at all, not at all. The Article I branch of the Constitution, the first branch of government described is the Congress. They have extraordinary
powers, they set the budget. So the president suggests
or presents something to Congress, but Congress
actually makes the decisions. – That is like a
constitutional smack down. That was so politely delivered. (Cory laughs) Like Article I, son, suggests actually. – By the way, we could
do the Hamilton too. Article I, son. Almost had to like restyle it right now. – We’ll round it backstage. – So you and your fellow
99 other senators actually yield real power on that budget. – It’s extraordinary
power, extraordinary power. – I’m happy to hear that, honestly. (laughter) I’m happy, let’s hear more. We have power. – I was aghast at the president’s budget. I think it was one of
the most scary documents that basically put forth in
one document a reflection of what his values are. Which frankly, if you look at his budget, the so called Skinny
Budget, and the way he tears apart critical programs
that affect every element of American’s lives, even
the base of the people that voted for him, it
was a patent betrayal of those people who supported
him. And would, in terms of creating jobs and
economic strength is what he preached in his campaigning
days, it would have really debilitated this
nation’s ability to compete globally in a world that now
is a knowledge based economy. Which means science, and
innovation, and technology is so critical. So to take
away the government’s role in that would really be
putting both hands behind our back as we’re
competing with the Chinese and the German and the
Japanese, who are making significant investments.
In fact, beginning to outstrip America when
it comes to investing in R&D. – So I wanna compare sort of
what were some of the successes under EPA and NOAA in Obama
that might be at risk right now? – Well, I just wanna
let people know, I mean everything we touch represents
your public dollars. I mean, everything here,
from the batteries, to the touch screen,
to the GPS. The origin of all this science and
technology that the private sector is now using to create thousands of jobs is public sector investments
in science technology. Hardly anybody knows that,
wholeheartedly knows that. Dollar investment, in
fact all of us probably, are fiscal conservatives. I had to be when I was
the mayor of Newark. Every tax payer dollar was precious. The reality is, is the
best return on investment for a tax payer dollar, one
of the best ones you could get in government investments
is in things like The National Institute of Health, in such things investing in science. You get almost more than double the return in terms of long term economic
growth for our economy. And so to savage those
programs, to cut the EPA– – So they’re people who don’t recognize that the government is
actually a good place where some kinds of money gets spent. Rather than saying the
government should have no money at all. – Yeah, well let’s just
take a step back and just look at the EPA. I mean, I believe in the
principles of a free market but Newark, for example, their
environment is a testimony to the free market run amuck. In other words, the river,
Passaic River is toxic, the soil in Newark is full of lead, the oxygen, we have terrible asthma rates. And those were caused by
companies that weren’t properly regulated, pouring
toxins into the world and destroying, not just the
health of the environment, but also the fiscal
competitiveness of the city in the long term. So by the EPA being savaged like it is, it’s not just the research
and development side, but just holding people
accountable for the laws that they’re breaking out there
and hurting the environment actually costs all of us money. – So, this is a message that
needs to get out there, okay? So you’re a senator,
who’s elected to office, and you don’t have a
formal science background, so who’s gonna listen– – Whoa, whoa, whoa. I have a
degree in Political Science. (laughter) – Got me there, okay. – That was horrible. – So there are advisors, there’s the National Academy of Sciences, Office of Science Technology and Policy, so we would like to think
that when they speak, the public listens and heeds. But somehow that’s not happening, and I don’t think any
of us understand why. So what’s up with that? (laughter) – Well, I think that
it is really important, now more than ever, and I
think that a lot of folks learned this with this last election, that the only thing necessary
for evil to be triumphant is for good people to do nothing. – Or to do like some, but not enough. – Yes.
(applause) – Right, we’ve learned
that re-tweeting is just not gonna cut it. (laughter)
– Depends on the tweet though. Some of those tweets are hot fire. – Yes, and so the age old
wisdom which I just cited, the reality is, is we did not
have an activist citizenry. And a lot of folks, and
we were joking before about this concept of love,
but patriotism by definition is love of country. Love
is not a beaten word, it demands action and sacrifice. So if you love your
country, you’ve gotta stay engaged on these issues, you’ve gotta stay involved, and you’ve gotta let
your elected officials know that, hey you’re gonna
be overseeing a budget, in fact, the budget of this
country runs out on April 28. And the budget decisions
are gonna be made probably on a continuing resolution. What’re you gonna prioritize? If you’re not speaking up and
letting your voice be heard, and engaging in the process,
then you’re basically surrendering precious space like the one that we’re just talking about. – So let me just, anchor this in data. So in order to make an informed decision, make informed protest even, you need data. And NOAA is responsible for many many satellites that orbit around the Earth monitoring
climate, for example. And you would think, that
this would be sufficient so that people will then
hear about the data, learn about the data,
and act upon the data, as citizen scientists, if you will. So, where is the disconnect here? – Well first of all, the
public actually understands climate change better than many
members of the Congress do. (applause) – He’s right. – Got a lot of snaps for that one, lot of snaps for that one. – Sorry Cory. – He’s no longer working
in the government now, so he can say that. – No, but it’s true.
That’s what polls show. You know, polls show, and I said this to President Obama at one point, polls show that in the range of two-thirds of Americans believe that
climate change is real, substantially caused by
humans, already doing harm, we need to do something
about it. Two-thirds. By the way, only 50%
believe evolution is a fact. And when I told the president that, and he was saying, “You scientists have to “do a better job educating the public.” And I said, “Well we’ve done
pretty well on climate change, “and it’s more than evolution.” And he said, “That’s no consolation.” (laughter) – So, it’s not 100%. So people, they seem to be sort of in denial of data that they don’t like. – Well, it’s almost like they’re afraid of what the data is going to say. I mean, we have laws in Congress
that were shocking to me that I found out, where
we’re blocking even studying things. Like we’re blocking even the studying of gun
violence, and understanding the effects of it. And so–
(applause) – The supporters of blocking gun violence. – Yeah, yeah. And so the question is why? And I wanna be very blunt
with some of the things that we have to understand. There are large, moneyed interests, large corporate interest in this country, that are very invested into
the status quo right now. And on elections, they
spend billions and billions of dollars, supporting
people who will protect fossil fuel industries and
others, protect the status quo. So you can’t expect, with
that much money being poured into the system, that the
people that often get elected as a result of that,
won’t be protecting that despite the evidence. And try to do everything they
can to fight the evidence. Like the tobacco industry for so long. They would fund scientists
who would come up with funky science that was
wrong, and try to debunk, or at least confuse people as to what the data was showing about cigarette smoking. – So, Jo, you for a while
worked in infectious diseases. Is that right? Or you
were part of the programs that taught people about it? – Yeah, in OSTP we dealt
with several epidemics, like Ebola and Zika
virus, and we handled it. John and I were the key people in OSTP and we handled it. – So, that’s a case where,
if something goes wrong, people get sick and die. – Right. – So there’s an immediate
cause and effect. – Yep. – And climate change has a little bit more of a horizon, but if sea levels
rise and you start flooding, seems to me that’s cause and effect. – Well, when heat waves,
and droughts, and wild fires burning larger and larger areas. You know, in the Artic. – Can’t this weigh more than the billions of dollars for advertising? – I think we might be lookin’
at this the wrong way. First of all, funky
science sounds amazing, I don’t know why you’re dissing it. (laughter) I wanna go to a funky science party. Second, John you started
off, like the EPA and NOAA were born out of rivers on fire. Maybe they’re trying
to return to that level of disaster and urgency to inspire us. – No, it’s happening. – That’s good. – The reason that so many
Americans now believe that climate change is real and dangerous is they’re experiencing it in their lives, they’re seeing it on their TV sets, they’re seeing it on their iPads. And it’s stunning, if
you look at the expansion of the areas afflicted by
extreme heat every summer. If you look at the areas
burned by wild fires. For the first time, in modern
times, the Tundra is burning in the Arctic. The Tundra is burning, that never happened before. – That sounds terrible. – It never happened before in the period when we were looking. – I went to a doctor for a sinus cold, and she told me it was global warming, I swear to you. She said
it was global warming. – She sounds like a kook. – I did report her. – You’ve seen every kook. – But New Jersians are
seeing the financial impact of climate change right now. Most people don’t
understand, we have a massive fishing industry in New Jersey. What’s happening with the
acidification of our oceans, the warming of the oceans,
they’re seeing fish that they used to be able
to find off the coast of New Jersey are now being found further up in Connecticut and Maine. – That’s kind of nice for New England. – But New England is complaining because they’re seeing
lobsters and other things moving further and further to Canada. – That is a problem. – And so, but more than
that, we are a state that lives in flood areas. And now, the flood maps,
literally, now you’re seeing what used to be hundred
year floods happening with more frequency, which
is costing New Jersians a lot more money. – Okay, so I like what you were saying, who said it, that maybe
we’re returning to the pre-1970 state of circumstances where we’ve gotta drop low
before we recover as one. – They’re tryna inspire us man. – Oh, the disasters are
trying to inspire us? Oh, that’s an interesting
way to think about it, yeah. – It’s the only way to stay sane. (laughter) – So do you think maybe
it would help to just light a few local rivers on fire? (laughter) – That’s what I’m sayin’. – Like, do we need to
light rivers that Trump would come across? Like on his walks? – Like Mar-a-Lago. Light
Mar-a-Lago on fire. – Fifth river at my
golf course is on fire. (applause) – So Jo, is it too late? – No, I don’t think it’s
too late, and I think the– – Because the river on fire,
that’s all kinda local stuff. – Right. And when we talk
about climate change, we’re talking about planet wide. – Yep. – So that requires planet wide cooperation and participation. So is it too late? – Well, there was one study that showed that people believe in
climate change based more on the three previous days’
weather than anything else. – Wow. – People are idiots. – And so their belief goes up and down. – So, are we just like three
really warm Aprils away from people being like,
“Fine, let’s fix this.” (laughter) – So, I’m sorry to return to this point. The cynicism is killing
me. We are a nation that the majority of us,
the majority of Republicans believe that climate change is real. The disconnect is not
the people of this nation realizing that there’s a problem. The disconnect is, you know,
King used to always say, more eloquently than I could ever say it, “The problem today, what
we ought to repent for–” – But wait, who said this again? – Martin Luther King. – Martin Luther King. – “What to repent for is
not the vitriolic words “and the violent actions
of the bad people, “it’s the appalling silence and inaction “of the good people.” – And so, that’s the problem.
(applause) You poll Republicans, the
majority of them, as you said, believe climate change is real. Millennial Republicans are
so far more progressive on these issues.
– Right. – On everything, in everything. – All issues. – And by the way, the
only major political party on the planet Earth, every other nation, their right party and
their left party, believe in climate change. The official, elected
Republican leadership is the only one on the
planet Earth that does not officially believe in climate change. – That’s called American exceptionalism. (laughter) – So should we put that
leadership on a different planet? – Yeah. – There ya go Neil. – All right, let me give you
an example. This is simple. You know, I’m always a big
believer the power of the people is greater than the people in power. But folks don’t exercise their powers. Alice Walker said the most
common way people give up their power is not realizing they
have it in the first place. And so the cynicism
that gets thrown around is actually a toxic state of being, ‘cuz it’s surrendering
your ability to make change ‘cuz things can’t be changed. This is something very simple. If just Millennials alone,
Barack Obama said this in his speech to Howard students. Forget Republican or
Democrat, if just Millennial generation, the biggest population bubble coming up demographically right now, if they just voted at the
same levels that X-Geners did, 40, 50% in midterm elections, the entire Congress would change. – Thank God.
(applause) – Obama said, this is not complicated. He looked at the young people and said “You don’t need to occupy
anything, just vote.” And so this is not a problem
of knowing what is right to do, and I fear– – How do we get that
message onto SnapChat? – So I get this, I get
that. And remembering, that in the ’60s, huge
protests, all the time, in every major city, campus unrest. It was a time where citizenry was trying to take back the
government. And I get that. And you’re getting some of that now. But at the end of the day,
it comes down to policy. That’s what it comes down to, doesn’t it? I mean, what policies
are in place, that we can all agree to to solve these problems? – But you can win fights.
Like I came in and I actually took heat, even back here
in New Jersey, for arguing. I said okay, I need to
figure out a deal to strike with Republicans, and I worked
with a lot of my colleagues on this, and saying hey,
the problem is oil and gas industry get all kinds of
tax credits for innovations. But renewable energy,
which we are losing ground to the Chinese and the
Germans, and their innovation and technology, the jobs of
the future, we’re losing ground because the tax credits for
wind and solar are one year. They’re not predictable tax
credits that industry needs. And so we fought with an exchange. We allowed the export of
oil, something we had banned, in exchange for 7 years
of predictable tax credit. Well as soon as Congress did that, what do you think has
happened to the solar and wind industry in the United States? Boom. The investments are going up, the innovation is going up. – That’s the art of compromise. – We won that battle in Congress. It’s not something that made
the front pages of newspapers, but we’re in there every day fighting. And the thing that we
need from the public, ‘cuz I’ve watched. This
has only been 100 days of the Trump Administration,
but people don’t realize the day Congress changed,
the new Congress came in, one of the first things
the Republicans tried to do in the House was to remove the watchdogs, the ethics watchdogs. And it was the public,
that so was outraged, that they stopped them in their tracks and they reversed courts.
I’ve seen that a number of times since then, that
the public and the press, exposing what’s happening,
has helped move things back. And you and I both know history. When it comes to science,
the ability for the right poets, the right inspiration
to prick the moral conscience and the urgency of people. Whether it’s Kennedy talking
about going to the moon, which has fueled science like crazy, or just simple Americans,
well-known people that have powerful platforms,
like Neil DeGrasse Tyson bringing science–
(applause) – Help us Neil DeGrasse
Tyson, you’re our only hope. – Bringing science to the mainstream. I mean, you are a guy
that is getting folk woke on science issues, and I think
that that’s really powerful. – I don’t know, if woke and folks. (laughter) Well no, what I’m trying to do is through forums such as this and everything else, is just try to not tell
people what is true about the universe, but empower people to understand why. And in that way, they can take ownership of that knowledge, without
even having to reference me. Right? If all it was is, “This is
true ‘cuz Tyson said so,” then I failed as an educator. You say, “This is true
‘cuz A goes to B, and this “caused that, and that caused that,” then you own that information. And that then gets shared, and
I’m not even in that picture. I don’t have to be at that point. And then everybody takes
command of their lives and of the country in which we live. (cheering) – What a concept. – It also helps a lot
of us not just wake up everyday screaming ‘cuz we know that there’s someone out
there that sounds sane. – Okay, so one point. Carl Sagan was once asked– (cheering) Sagan, yeah. – I think they were celebrating
that he asked a question. – Did you catch that the
senator early on said billions and billions, did you hear that? Yeah, yeah. He actually said that, I heard that. He was asked, with regard to superheros, what was his favorite superhero. And he’s not a fan of
superheros. Because superheros, as they’re portrayed, it
gives us the excuse to not do anything about problems in the world, because you’re just
waiting around for someone who has the power to
solve it, while you’re eating popcorn watching movies. And so to the Senator’s point,
quoting, was it Alice Walker? It’s the power you don’t
know you actually have that is the failure. – Yes. – I paraphrased. – Yes. That’s one of the most common ways we give up our power is
not realizing we have it, in the first place. – Not even knowing you
had already ceded it to someone else who’s using it. – Yes. – Possibly against you. – Most likely, if you
check out of the system, that system is gonna work against you. – It’s like when Time
Magazine said that we were all Person of the Year. (laughter) – It did say that, I remember that. – Remember the mirror? – And I was lame, that was like the lamest person of the year ever. – Or was it the best? – No, it’s, what’s the generation where there are no losers and
everyone is a winner? – Yes.
– Right. – I think they had the
editorial board in that moment. And yeah. – Yeah. – You think Carl Sagan secretly liked “Green Lantern” though? (laughter) – I’ll check with his people on that. – Yeah, yeah, please do. – So, coming up in the next segment. We’re gonna explore,
and in fact, celebrate the latest advances in medical research, genetics, and health.
When StarTalk returns. Live from the Count Basie
Theater, New Jersey! (applause) – [Audience Member] You’re the man, Neil! – The universe is the man. No, the universe is a gender
neutral human who we all love. (laughter) – Red Bank , New Jersey! Give it up for StarTalk! (applause) – Can I just point
something out about Eugene? – Do your thing. – Eugene is one of the
proud representatives of one of the great traditions in America, he is an immigrant from,
where are you from sir? – I forget. No, Russia. – You’re from Russia. – Yeah. Yes. – Yeah. I’m a U.S. citizen,
so you can’t get rid of me. – That’s right, so he’s a
first generation immigrant. – He’s a first generation immigrant. You were born in another
country, you came here– – I can’t be president, but that’s fine. (laughter) – On that subject, I will add. I just did this homework,
that the decade by decade average of first generation
immigrants in the United States since 1900 is about 10%.
So it’s 1 in 10 Americans were born somewhere
else, at any given time across the century. Now, let’s ask another question. What percentage of American
winners of the Nobel Prize in the sciences was a
first generation immigrant? A third of all American
Nobel Prizes in chemistry, physics, and human
physiology, were foreign born. So they’re three times as
represented in the science, this highest prize of science, than they are even in the population. – Well I’ll give you an example of this. So people who come down
and lobby in Washington, I love when people don’t hire lobbyists but they come down themselves. I see lots of New Jersians come down, and when I see college
professors from Princeton to my University of Stanford
come, and they come to me and they say, look, this is crazy. We bring these folks
in, the brightest minds to study at our universities
on student visas, we use our resources, giving
them the best education on the planet Earth, and as
soon as that student visa runs out, what is our
country now saying to them? Get out of our nation. – Right. – And that’s ridiculous,
when we have a country that attracts its
greatness, and then sends it back out into the world.
(applause) – I would like to point out,
on that particular point, that President Obama
proposed in 2011 to staple a Green card to every graduate degree in science earned by a foreign citizen. Just staple the Green card to the degree. – And have them half illegal? Let me tell you what’s worse. They have around Stanford, I
was told there was a billboard that says, “If you can’t get
your H-1B Visa” you know state, “come to Canada.” And so other countries are
seeing what we used to do, to accelerate ahead of the
rest of the planet Earth. And one of those things
that they saw was that they had policies that tried
to attract the brightest of the globe. And they’re
saying, okay, America’s not gonna do that anymore? We wanna do that, ‘cuz we wanna lead. – Just in all fairness, Newt
Gingrich said that as well, to staple the Green
card. Just so you know. I just wanna just be fair out there. – He said a lot of stuff. – One of his few sage observations. (laughter) – I am Canadian, and
all my Canadian friends now treat me like I have a illness. (laughter) – Is the illness being American? – Yeah, they’re like, “How’s it going? “Are you okay?” – So, two people on the
stage now are foreign born. – Yep. And actually I’m
only on a Green card, I’m not a citizen.
– Authorities, can you– – Yeah, hey. No I’m a new
mom, I have an anchor baby. I’m cool. Anchor baby. (laughter) So let me ask you guys something. I’ve got science advisors
here, I have a politician here, clue us in how advice is obtained, received, and enacted or not. What is that dynamic here? ‘Cuz I don’t know. – Well, first of all, I
had a great relationship with Democratic senators. – But not Republican senators? – A few Republican senators.
Many fewer. But I mean, part of the way it works is
there’s a lot of interaction between the scientists in
government and Congress. Scientists in government
testify, all the time– – In front of the subcommittees? – Or, in front of the
Senate and the House. – You’re on a committee. You’re
on the science committee. – Yes, I’m on two
committees. One is called the commerce committee,
but the full name includes commerce, technology, science,
a lot of those things. And I’m on the environment committee. Environment and public works. So I’m on two of the main
committees that deal with issues of science,
technology, and innovation. – And they hear a lot of
testimony, but they also meet individually with
scientists and technologists from, not just the White
House, but from the Department of Energy, from the
National Science Foundation, from NOAA, their staffs meet all the time. – So these are all the people who the Senate approved. – Yeah. – So they can just summon you at will. – Absolutely. – And just, bitch slap you
when they feel like it. (laughter) – Well, you know, when I used to testify– – Is that a yes or a no? (laughter) – I will comment that on
days that I was testifying, we used to call that pinata day. – Pinata day? (laughter) – They swing at you with
a big stick and they hope to break you open and
some candy will fall out. – Did they ever hope you
would just help their kids with their science homework? (laughter) – ‘Cuz I once testified in
front of this science committee in the Senate. And you
either weren’t there, or you weren’t a Senator yet. – I would be there, sir,
I was not a senator yet. – But since I’m a
citizen, asked to testify, I didn’t feel like a pinata,
I felt that they were just kind of gathering information. And I was commenting on
the value of exploration, specifically space
exploration into a universe that has unlimited resources,
especially the kinds of resources that on
Earth we fight wars over. So I just thought I would
highlight this fact. – Yeah. – And so, I was intrigued
because I didn’t feel like I was making much of a difference. And I was just kinda
going through motions, and then they were going through motions, and I didn’t feel their energy. So does this work? When you give advice, are
they actually listening? – Sometimes. Sometimes it
works, sometimes it doesn’t. – Cory, when they give
you advice, do you listen? – Sometimes. (laughter) Look, there’s a serious problem
with our politics at large, but there is a massive area
on these science committees in which I find bipartisan
space to work with. And that’s everything
from, I came to Washington and I saw that the technology for drones, that we were losing all
these companies ‘cuz America, our regulations, were
strangling that industry. I told the head of the FAA,
if you were around during Orville and Wilbur Wright,
we would’ve never gotten off the ground. And they were literally
going to other countries, like France, and were
years and years ahead of us in utilizing drones for mine
surveys, for technology, and so I found partners there. Nuclear energy, next
generation nuclear power is– – Thank you for pronouncing
nuclear correctly. Thank you very much. (laughter) – Other nations are now
far more attractive to the nuclear scientists because
of our regulatory framework, that doesn’t look to the next
generation of nuclear energy, which is far safer, eats
the spent nuclear rods from the current aversion,
and we were gonna be losing out on our edge in that technology. – Here’s something that I can’t imagine– – We need to loosen laws about nuclear… We need to make some loose nuclear energy? – No. – That’s exactly what he wants. – No, what we need to be doing as a nation is we need to begin to have a government that moves at the speed of
innovation, in other words– – That’s the whole third
sector of this show. – Right.
– We’ll get back to that. – Okay. – What I wanna know is,
is one of the bipartisan points of agreement health? The National Institutes of Health. That’s gotta be in there somewhere. – Well, look– – Wow that took too long
to say yes. That’s a no. (laughter) – Senator, that’s a quick yes, all right. – So we are screwing
up, in the larger sense, in our investment in biotech. And coming from a biotech and innovation in health space state, where– – New Jersey. – New Jersey is, we
are really screwing up, in so many ways, the system. We’re screwing up in not investing in it, other nations are beginning to pull ahead in their investments in this area. We’re screwing up in
the way the free market is contorting and making
people’s prescription drugs way too high priced. I
can go through the ways that this space frustrates
the hell out of me. But what bothered me most is just the fact that Alzeimer’s, my
father died of Parkinson’s just a few years ago, all
of this that is costing us, these illnesses that are
costing us so much money, we could be investing more in
the cures to these diseases. We could lead humanity out
of the darkness of the pain, like we look at other
diseases that we’ve conquered. But we’re just not making
commitment as a society to put our resources,
or energy, or talent, or spirits to solve the problem. – John, it sounds like you
can combine that problem with an analysis, and
throw in some economics, and then you have an
argument that has no holds. That everyone just agrees with, and you create the policy
and then you move on. Why isn’t that happening?
– Well some of it is. – Everything you say makes complete sense. – Neil, some of it is happening.
In the Obama administration we started the Brain
Initiative, which is making tremendous advances in
understanding how the brain works, which will help us ultimately
figure out how to cure or avoid Alzeimer’s. – Or how to make better
political decisions. (laughter) – Does that still exist?
– No, it still exists. or has that just been replaced with like a bucket of bubbles. – It still exists, maybe
‘cuz they haven’t found out about it yet. – Wait so Jo, can you think of biomedical advances that more people need to know about? – Well, one of the big
initiatives that I worked on, in fact, it was my first
initiative in the White House, was precision medicine. Which is the idea of using big data about big populations of
people to tailor medicine, treatment, and prevention
to the individual. So you can sort of parse
people into lots of different groups, and based on,
whether it’s their zip codes or their genome, or their
microbiome, something like that, you can then make predictions
about their health. And this is really the future of medicine. But I had kind of an
interesting experience. This was my first memo to the president. We, John and I, wrote this
memo, and then we were invited a few days later, very
quickly, to the Oval Office to meet with the president. – You got to write memos to the president? – Yeah. – Can we tell which
ones will commit crimes and arrest them beforehand? (laughter) – I saw that movie, yeah. Okay. – So we had this great
meeting, and the president clearly had gotten precision medicine, so I walked out feeling pretty good. I said, “John, he got it.
And this is pretty cool.” And the next week I was sort of perusing some old legislation, and I
came across 2006 legislation written by Senator Obama
on precision medicine. (laughter) Crushed. I was simply crushed. But that I think, is an
example of a bipartisan issue, because when we rolled
out precision medicine, we had as many Republicans as Democrats at the event. And just in
December, the 21st century Cures Bill, which supports
precision medicine and the Brain Initiative,
and several other things, passed the Senate 95 to 5. Thank you very much.
(applause) And that was certainly bipartisan. – He was in the five that didn’t– (laughter) – Yeah, let’s hear a
thank you sarcastic ‘cuz he voted against it. – Yeah, thank you very
much. So it would seem to me that health would be the most bipartisan thing going.
– I agree. – But then, I’m surprised
to see a proposal to reduce the funding to the National
Institutes of Health, so I don’t understand that. – By almost 6 billion dollars. – Yeah, so Cory, what’s up with that? – It is a– (laughter) – What’s up with that? (laughter) – I’ve literally been the scrum during these large budget deals, where exacerbatingly, you’re
fighting to try to say how can we be funding x,
y, or z, like these broken programs that don’t do
anything, and we’re not funding something as obvious
as this, that frankly, I work in a body, that
we’re all getting old. It’s kinda one of the more
thoughtful senior bodies where a lot of these
diseases are gonna be visited upon us. And so, I don’t understand. Forget about if you don’t
care about this country, and you’re not as much of a
patriot as we all should be, but think about your family,
think about yourself. Why aren’t we making
more of an investment? And even worse, again, I
keep repeating this over and over again, but we’ve heard all about this president promising
that we’re gonna win bigly, but the reality is, our
competitors are making massive investments in terms
of percentage of their GDP investing in these things,
they’re overtaking us. They’re gonna catch us and overtake us. And so, I just look at
what China is doing, and what Germany is doing,
and what Russia is even doing in terms of what they’re investing in– – Even Russia?
(laughter) – But Cory, I’m tired of something. I’m angry. – Yes, okay. Bring it.
Let your inner Jersey out. (laughter) – Hold me back. So the day I realized, and this is a pretty, I’m
gonna call it upsetting, but disturbing day for me. When I look back at America’s
presence in the Space Race, okay, from 1957 onwards,
the launch of Sputnik, until we landed on the moon. Essentially every decision
we made, to go into space, and what to do there, was
reactive to what Russia and the Soviet Union had already done or was already planning.
Every single move. They put in a first satellite,
we had a first satellite. They put up a dog, we put up a chimp. They put up a human,
then we put up a human. And we are reacting, at
every time, at every turn. And I wonder, can a
democracy be proactive? Or do we have to wait around
until we feel threatened, and only then do the pistons align for us to act the way we should. (applause) – We’re live at the Count Basie Theater! (applause) We’re talking about the
marriage of science and policy. And I’ve got a great panel up here, what we’re tryna do is
make America smart again. Trying to find out how policy
and science come together to affect change, for the
greater good of us all. And Eugene, we’re here for you. – Yes, thank you. – It’s still part of the
Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival. Can we set the stage here? – Yes, let’s do it. With Baratunde, everybody. (applause) And Ophira Eisenburg. (applause) – And I’ve got John
Haldren and Jo Hendelsman, both who worked at Obama’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. And very special guest, who
wandered off the streets onto stage, we have New
Jersey senator Cory Booker. (applause) – Hey Neil, I hate to say
anything defending the U.S Space Program, but the Russians never put up the Hubble, we put
up the Hubble without any– – Oh, snap! – Son, what? – Precedence from the Russians. – 20 years later. – No, but you’re talking
about our reactive stance through the ’60s. We’ve
done a lot of things ahead of the Russians– – Right, Hubble was peanuts compared with putting people in
space, that’s all I’m saying. – But scientifically not peanuts, at all. – Of course, I got that.
But most of the budget NASA was always not science, so. – Yeah, we tried to fix that. (laughter) – Now, let me get back to
biomedical advances here. – Do you think though,
that if ISIS tried to cure Parkinson’s, we would then– – Get on it. (laughter) – Like if they kind of shifted,
maybe their priorities, we could get in a real race. – So Jo, what more advances
are coming down the pipe? What can we look for? – Well, I think one of the
big areas that I’m excited about is microbiology,
because we’re starting to understand that not
only the human body, but all ecosystems on
Earth are driven in part by their microbiomes, which
means their collection of microorganisms. – The microorganisms that
live on you and in you. – Yeah. Exactly. – Like mostly, probably,
in your intestines. – Right, that’s where a lot of them are. But also, the skin, the ears,
every orifice of the body. – And it turns out– – This is nasty. – No, no. – I’m thinking, you know
you told anyone under 30 that everyone over 50,
at one time, would walk into something called a phone booth, and take the receiver and
put this side to their ear, and this side to their
mouth, where 100 other people have done it that day. So now you have shared
earwax and mouth spill. – But that illustrates– – There’s no but to that! That’s just nasty. (laughter) – All right, they’re still alive though. – Maybe that’s why the
old generation doesn’t have all these allergies and disease. We’re like steeped in germs. – Well, and that’s right. And it points to exactly the
issue, that most microbes are not germs, they’re not harmful to us. There are only about 80 species of germs, and there are thousands, if not millions, of other species of microbes. And so, we don’t think
of them as the good guys. But in fact, they’re keeping us healthy, controlling our behavior,
controlling our vulnerability to disease all the time. – But even, I’ve read a lot
of the research on this, I mean, even things like
depression, and a lot of things that we’ve been thinking
have other actives actually our gut microbiome
is affecting so much of our wellbeing, how we’re dealing– – That’s a whole frontier now.
– It is an amazing frontier. – Wait, that it has to do with depression? – Yes, talk, talk. – Tell me. I am very curious. – You tell me the microbes in my body are affecting the– (Neil laughs) I gotta say this ‘cuz it was so cool. She was saying that there’s
some, correct me if I’m wrong, I know I’ll get some of this wrong. She was saying that
there are microbes in you that actually like
chocolate, and communicate this fact to your eating desires. And you say, “Gee, I want some chocolate.” When in fact, it’s your
microbiome that’s asking for it. – That’s right. – That’s true! – We’re driven by our
bacteria, absolutely. – But I hate to tell you
this, at least everything that I’m reading is,
there’s good gut bacteria, bad gut bacteria, and the bad
gut bacteria really breeds off of empty carbohydrates
and things like that. But if you really wanna
breed better gut bacteria, you need to eat more
fiber, more vegetables, more plant-based diet. (applause) – Five people are
pro-fiber in this audience. – Clapping for carrots. – So tell me about this
gene editing tool, CRISPR, that I’ve heard. That’s an acronym right? – Yep. – ‘Cuz this sounds like it’s
the future of all biology. – Well, I think it’s very
important, because it lets us make very, very precise changes
in genes or around genes. – This is a tool in the laboratory? – That’s right. – That could never go wrong. (laughter) It’s like a photoshop for genetics. What could you do wrong with that? – What could go wrong? – Can they grow hair? – So, is a biologist concerned
about the ethics of that? Making new life, or altering
life to your own whims? – Yeah, well I think that was a big issue when John and I were in the White House, was trying to figure
out, what are the limits to what we’re comfortable with? And one that was clear,
and the president said this in his policy, was that we’re
not gonna edit the germline, which means the embryos that are forming. So we’re not gonna
create heritable changes in people in the test tube. – Heritable would mean
the ability to transfer that from one generation to the next. – That’s right. – Right. – And so we’re thinking
more in terms of what used to be called gene therapy,
where regular tissue, not your sexual tissue, but
your skin, or your heart, or your lungs, would be modified. So it would only have an
effect in your lifetime. But that hasn’t stopped
the Chinese from doing exactly the experiments
we decided not to do, and affecting embryos,
and having gene changes that will be passed on. – Do we have super soldiers? – I saw that movie. – Yeah, it sounds like it might be real. (laughter) – Or at least people that
live off of chocolate only. That’d be cool. – I mean, it seems to me if
you can modify the individual, you can, you know we joke about this, and I’m not even a fan of
it, but people are imagining if you’re gonna live on
Mars, just genetically modify you so that
everything that’s different about Mars is okay for your
genetically modified body. And that way you don’t have
to live in a hab module. That’s an extreme case,
but clearly you could use this to cure us of our
traditional diseases. – Right. And so the human body has evolved over many millennia to
be what it is today, with a few mistakes, certainly. But we haven’t evolved to be on Mars. So I don’t think we’re just
gonna make a few tweaks– – I just put that out there, ‘cuz people occasionally talk about it. – Yeah. – But is this real, and is
NIH funding this research? And does Congress know about this? And are they behind it? – Are you learning about it now, here? – Yeah, yeah he’s taking notes. – And have you watched WestWorld? (laughter) – And can we delete the Republican gene? (laughter and applause) – Edit, Ophira, edit. – Sorry, sorry. I know that’s
mind control but I’m for it. – So, is there an awareness of the value of that power? The good value of that power. – Incredibly so. It’s not to
where I would want it to be, I would like us to get
back to being a science, technology, innovation
leading nation, and that’s my frustration. Is the
excitement that I get when I hear a scientist
like this talk about what is possible, I wish
we could somehow, sort of, expand the moral
imagination of this country about what we are capable
about in terms of leading the human race into a
safer, into a stronger, into a more prosperous
world for all of us. And that’s the challenge
we have right now. I get back to this idea
of what I think you play a good role in, and we all
have to accept responsibility in doing, is we can’t
expect the world to change, unless we’re willing to change. And be a part of that
change, and lead that change. And so, we all should be
excited about science, excited about innovation, the
more we get excited about it, the more that will ripple
out. The more we demand our elected leaders are,
the more likely they are to respond to our demands. – And so, what do you see are the barriers between that goal and sort
of, making America smart? In a way that we become wise, wise shepherds of our future. – Well, look, I wanna be very blunt. We are gonna have some
very tough, fighting years ahead of us. We’ve got three plus
years now, of a president, who has made it clear
on many of these issues, that he is contrary. You
know, that the Chinese made up global warming.
You saw what the values with his budget he put forward. And so much of what I’m doing
in Washington right now, still looking for
partnerships across the aisle to get things done, but
I’m preparing to fight a president that I think wants
to take our country backwards in terms of science, innovation– – Yeah, but I don’t beat
politicians over the head. You know why? Because they’re elected
by an electorate, right? – Right. – So, you can beat ’em on the head, and even get rid of them,
but then there’s the matter of the electorate that voted
for them in the first place. – Right. – So your gripe is not
actually with the president, your gripe is with the 60
million people who voted for him. – No no, in fact,
(applause) hold on. I don’t think we get anywhere as a country when we are in the course
of demonizing each other, I think what we need to do– – I see this as a matter of education. – Well, yes. – If you’re actually saying,
this policy will harm these people and they don’t know it, then somebody’s gotta educate them. – Right. And I’ll give
you two quick examples. One is, this is why the
Science March is so important. Because when you saw– – 8 people are goin’ to the Science March. (laughter) – I was down in Washington
for the Women’s March, and people didn’t march around saying, it wasn’t people with signs
like beat Republicans. In fact, I bumped into
women that were Republicans there that were against
a lot of policy issues. But a lot of this is just– – Right, I saw no
anti-republican signs, at all. – No, not one. – And there were a lot
of innovative signs. – The March on Washington,
you had people like Strom Thurmand, literally
the longest fillibuster in the Senate, is a racist
rant by a man trying to block the Civil Rights legislation. But the March on Washington,
listen to the speakers. John Lewis, Martin Luther
King, they weren’t speaking against those folks, they were calling to the moral imagination of this country. And what my frustration is,
is often we are not engaged. We luxuriate in this incredible nation, we have the four most
powerful words you can say as a human being. In fact,
only 4 and a half percent of humanity can say, “I am an American.” And that comes because of
the labors and sacrifices and struggles of generations before. And this generation, we see
what happens when we disconnect. We see what’s happening
in Washington as a result of people not voting. I
saw this one pie graph, you know, 50, 60 million people
voting for Hillary Clinton. 57 for Donald Trump,
million for Donald Trump. And 74 million other
people like, “Oh my god, “look what just happened.” You know? (laughter) And so, I’ll give a very
real example of the EPA and what’s happening right now. This isn’t because of Donald
Trump. This was happening under a great president that
wished he could change it. We, in our nation right
now, where Ronald Regan reauthorized and Mitch
McConnell voted for, a simple solution to
clean up Superfund sites. These are corporations that
create the most toxic spots in all of America. There’s
a Superfund in every state, unfortunately, New Jersey
has the most of them. Now, that has– – Lucky you! (laughter) – That has lapsed, that
funding has lapsed. Because this Congress now,
suddenly, not like Regan, not like the old Mitch
McConnell, decides not to reauthorize the cleanup for that. So there’s all of these
so called orphan sites, there’s no corporation anymore
to go after to clean them up. But now, we have something called data. When I was mayor, I
learned this real quick. A lot of people coming
to me, a lot of emotion, and I said, “Look, in God
we trust, but everybody else “bring me data.” You’re not a deity. Show me the numbers. Well,
now we have longitudinal data, from Princeton University, about what are the long
term effects of living around a Superfund site?
And we now know that if you have a child around a
Superfund site, there’s about a 20% more likely
of increase in autism, 20% more likely of
increase in birth defects. So talk about a threat to our children. This isn’t the Russians or ISIS coming, this is problems we have
right here, in our country, that the only things allowing
these to proliferate, I have two Superfund sites in Newark that are close to where I live. But the only thing stopping
us from doing something is decisions being made in Congress. But most of us don’t even know that fact. – But we also, we have the gene editing. So we can just get that
deployed there first. – I guess what I’m saying is that this is the greatest
country on the planet Earth, I don’t care what Donald
Trump says, that we need to make it great again,
we are an amazing country, with reservoirs of love,
and goodness, and kindness. But something is missing.
And it was missing in the 1960’s too. It took geniuses. I remember Martin Luther
King, if you know the history of Taylor Branch. He comes
out of Birmingham Jail after writing one of the greatest pieces of American literature, “Letters
from a Birmingham Jail,” but he was failing. Two young
people, with an imagination, Dorothy Cotton and James
Bevel, came up to him and said, “Hey you’re failing here. Let
us try something different.” And the thing they did different was to organize other young
people, ages 8 to 18, to march against Bull Connor.
To create the spectacle of 10, 12, 14, 16 year olds marching. And what Bull Connor did, he
sprayed them with water hoses. The next time he released dogs on them. But suddenly, people sitting home in Iowa, in New Jersey, saw this
spectacle going on. Literally, the Soviet Union was making fun of our democracy on the front
pages of their newspapers. And it so awoke that reservoir
of love in this country, within days, segregation
fell in Birmingham. Because this country, when
they decide to do something, nothing can stand in our way. And so the challenge is, now–
(applause) – It just sounds like you
gotta sink really low, before you do something. – I think what we need to
do is find creative ways, I mean, you jokingly
said, SnapChat about it, but I’m sorry, I’ve done the political– – You should do it. – Yes. I’ve done the
political science research about what influences people to act. And did you know the most persuasive thing to get your friends to vote is knowing if they’re voting or
not. Is literally talking to your circle of friends. More than one of my campaign
commercials in New Jersey, if somebody says, “Hey,
everybody, I met Cory Booker, “he’s a great guy, vote for him.” That’s far more persuasive
than anything I could put on TV or anything I can
do. We have so much power. And so this is my thing.
I don’t think we need to light rivers on fire– – That was his idea. – I’m not crazy. – Whose idea was that? – It was the Russian that said that. – I don’t think we need to do
it, I think it’s effective. (laughter) – What we need to do is
ignite our own spirits. And I promise you, that light
will cast away some darkness. I just think we all need to
say, “What can I do different “this year, around issues
that I care about?” Whether it’s science, or
Superfunds, or space exploration, pick something, and be a patriot with love in pursuit of that end.
And you will make more of a change than you could ever imagine. (applause) – Count Basie Theater, give it to me! (applause) We are live, at Count Basie
Theater, Red Bank, New Jersey! (applause) StarTalk! Let’s make America smart again! All right. So, what I wanna know now is beyond. Do we have the policy in
place to invent the future. Or again, are we only
reacting to bad things that have happened in the past. So John, let me begin
with you. How much duties of your office was to have
people think about tomorrow? – Well, a lot. And in fact, you have on your list space exploration. When we entered office,
we knew we had a challenge in space exploration
because a lot of the science had gone out of NASA, a lot
of the advanced technology had gone out of NASA, we
had to rebalance NASA. We said we were putting the science back in rocket science, in fact. – Did it work? – And we had a bit of a struggle? – That’s a no. (laughter) – It worked, I’m sorry, it worked. – Okay, thank you. – We did rebalance NASA,
and a lot of the stuff got– – Just to be clear, you were
in Washington for 8 years. – 8 years. – That’s like longer than
any science advisor ever, in the history of the universe. – Well, of course the history
of the science advisors doesn’t go back quite as far
as the history of the universe. It goes back to the last
term of, or the second to last term of Franklin D. Roosevelt. But I was the longest
serving science advisor in that period.
(applause) – Okay. So you had perspective? – Well, sure. And of
course, like everybody else, and like you, I had been watching. I was a space geek when
I was a little kid. I was making solid fuel
rockets out of my mother’s used lipstick tubes when I was 9. (laughter) They went about 100 feet
in the air, but yeah. I’ve been watching it for a long time. And it was a pleasure
to have the opportunity, working with President Obama and working with Charlie Bolton,
the NASA administrator, to get things done. – You made rockets out of lipstick tubes. – When I was nine I did that.
– Did that hurt your background check, when
they did a background check and they found out that you
blew things up as a kid. – Well, yeah. That was a bit of a problem. But they decided to let me through. – Got one of those waivers. – You made rockets out of lipstick tubes. – Little solid fuel rockets.
Yeah, I had chemistry set ingredients that made the solid fuel. I made time fuse, burned an inch a minute, so I could get away before it went off. – Next time I see six
year old boys in Sephora, I’ll know what they’re up to. (laughter) – 101 things to do with lipstick tubes. – That’s amazing. – Okay, I’m sorry. I was very
distracted by that little bit. – No, I apologize, it was my fault. – Yeah, okay I think I’m
back on track. Okay go on. – We did get a lot done in
reshaping the priorities in NASA. More investments in the
technology that would be needed to go to Mars. You know, a lot of people
are saying why don’t we go to Mars tomorrow? Let’s put the money in, and you know Neil, as well
as I do, that we don’t yet have the technologies to
send people to the surface of Mars and bring them back. Of course, there are some who are willing to take a one-way trip. And some others who would be my candidates for a one-way trip. – We have a one-way trip right here. (laughter and applause) – So, your citing NASA,
in response to my question about the future, is NASA the repository of our future hopes among
agencies in the government? – No, it’s only one. It just happens to be a particularly evocative
one, and one that still by the way, inspires
young people in the way that nothing else in science does. At the big science fairs
that we’ve had in Washington, the two exhibits that always
attract the most attention are NASA and robots. Those
are the two that really do it, that get kids going about
science and technology. – So, how do you draw the
line between the research you do that helps invent the future, and the research that
Congress will tell you you shouldn’t be doing,
because corporations should be doing that as part of their R&D. Where’s that line? It’s gotta be somewhere in there. – Well, there is the fairly obvious line. In fact, the corporate sector funds more than two-thirds of all
the R&D in this country, but they fund less than
half of the basic research. The fundamental research
that’s a seed corn from which all the future applied– – The long horizon research. – And the reason the private
sector doesn’t do that is perfectly understandable. Time horizon is too long,
the risk is too high, the return is too uncertain,
and they’re not sure that if there’s a breakthrough
from this basic research, that they, the corporation
that paid for it, will get the benefits. – But I always hear in Congress– – The government needs
to do it. The government needs to do that sort of basic research, needs to fund it, or it won’t get done. – Yeah, when that happens,
Congress stands up and says, “Why is tax
payer money being wasted “on this research that has no application “to any known thing on Earth?” – What are examples of some
of this terrible research? – Yeah, I’ll give you some. The nature of basic
research is you can’t tell where it’s gonna go. Great example, Charles Townes
, who got the Nobel Prize for thinking up the
science behind the maser and then the laser, had no
idea when he did that work, that 50 years later,
lasers would be the way we do eye surgery, cut metal,
copy documents, play movies, major distances, none of that was obvious at the time the work was done. – We even measured distance
to the moon with lasers. – I think lasers are
worth it, just my opinion. – There’s another great example. There was a science project funded by the National Science
Foundation many years ago, was called The Sex Life of the Screw Worm. – Yeah. – Sex Life of the Screw Worm. – That’s a real worm? – Real worm. – Guess what it does. (laughter) – And a lot of fun was made
of this in the Congress, I think it got Senator’s
Proxmire’s Golden Fleece Award, in fact– – The award given to the greatest
waste of taxpayer’s money? – And the fact is, the screw
worm was a livestock pass that did some hundred million
dollars worth of damage every year to the livestock
industry in the United States. And this basic research, on
the sex life of the screw worm, led to a means of biological
control of the screw worm, which basically eradicated
it as a livestock pass. With immense savings to the US economy. – Was that just a
marketing failure though? Like shouldn’t it have been called like Save Our Agriculture Business research? You can’t vote against that. – The people doing the
research didn’t know that that would be the
outcome, that’s the nature of basic research. – And then they put condoms
on the screw worms– – Safe sex for screw worms,
better agriculture for America. (laughter) – The solution was actually
somewhat similar to that. – Really? – The solution was
releasing sterile males, ‘cuz it turns out that the
screw worm only mated once, the female only mated once. And if the female mated
with a sterile male– – She was done. – Then, no offspring. And so the idea– – And she still had a good tush. – If you just release a ton– (laughter) you just release a ton of sterile males, and the screw worm goes out of business. – That’s brilliant. – I can’t believe we
just spent ten minutes talking about the screw worm. – They do the same thing
at Skidmore actually. (laughter) – I apologize. – No, that’s fine. – You asked for an example. – But we know Cory, that
there are people, in Congress, both sides of the branches,
that don’t appreciate this. – Absolutely. There’s people that don’t. – How do we get them to appreciate it? – Again, that’s the political process. That’s the sort of sausage making, or screw worm funding process. – It’s not just education, it’s
not just examples like this. – No it’s not. – Why can’t he stand up,
and give that example, I give three others, and
these are tangible examples. Why doesn’t that convince people? Is there missing part of
the K through 12 education where the receptors
aren’t there for examples that might change their mind? – Again, this is a process
in which there’s tons of competing demands, and there are people that are dead set against
this kind of science research. And don’t get the larger picture. – Is it ‘cuz they dug in
their heels, and that’s it? – With respect Neil– – No, I don’t ever want you to respect me, just bring it out. I’ll
take care of you later. – Then with extreme disrespect, you’re coming at this as a scientist, and you’re leaning on
these facts as if facts have ever always been enough. Any parent knows that you
tell the kid a fact once, why do they keep misbehaving? I told them, if this happens, this’ll be
the consequence. But we do it. ‘Cuz we have emotions,
and we have tribalism, and we wanna feel a sense of belonging. So I think some of these
reasons that people are being obstinate, information
alone is never enough to close a case. And so it’s an important first step, but you gotta build some
layers on top of that. – Okay, in the day, it was
called an ass whoopin’. (laughter) That’s how you convince someone, if the data didn’t otherwise work. I’m just curious about that.
There are other branches of the government other than NASA. I don’t know if they
were in your portfolio, but DARPA is something
we’ve always heard about. Defense Advance Research
Projects Administration. – Agency. – And there’s DARPA-E. – Huh? – There’s DARPA-E. Which is? which I’m very interested in. It’s investments in alternative energy. – So E for energy. – Yes. – So these are funded by
the Department of Defense? – Yes. – Okay. – DARPA-E is funded by
the Department of Energy. – Okay, but neither of them
are in OSTP’s portfolio. – Oh they are.
– Oh they are. – OSTP has oversight of all
the science and technology– – No matter who’s doin’ it. – No matter who’s doin’ it. – Oh, okay. – And we work together with
the departments and agencies in developing the president’s budget for science and technology.
– So tell me about robots. You said robots get everybody’s attention at the science fairs. – Oh absolutely. – And I know DARPA’s
been making some robots. – Absolutely. – What? – Yeah. (laughter) You made it sound naughty, but anyway. Would it help to just
reframe all our science as a weapon? – Yes. But look, I mean one of the reasons why we can get a lot of
very good research done through the Department of
Defense, because it’s often easier to get people to fund
the Department of Defense than it is to get them to fund
some of these other agencies. – Because they’re evoking
the I don’t wanna die urge. – If the screw worm was a
weapon, there’d be no problem. – Right. There is a
battle going on right now about defense spending
versus domestic spending. And this idea of should there
be parity in the increases and the like? But I just have a question,
because I got two scientists here and it’s something
I’ve read a lot about, when you talk about
larger planetary threats. Isn’t there a real threat
of an e-impulse for example, a naturally occurring one that could really knock out
America’s infrastructure. – Yes, is the short answer. – You happy now? – I’m not happy, I’m one of these people that wants to see more infrastructure– – Tell everyone about the e-impulse. – Wait, is “The Matrix” real? (laughter) – Right, matrix had an
e-impulse to get rid of the– – Robot squids that eat people. – The squidy things, is
that what they’re called? – The Sentinels, you guys
didn’t see “The Matrix?” The Sentinels. – So there are two kinds
of electromagnetic pulse. One is if you explode a
nuclear bomb in the atmosphere, among many other things
it generates a pulse of electromagnetic energy that can fry the electronics in your
cellphone, in your car’s ignition, in the controllers of the
electricity grid, and so on. So that’s one of the many good reasons not to explode nuclear
weapons in the atmosphere. – Is that it will ruin your phone. – It will ruin your phone. (laughter) – And it would be ruined, like
you would need a new phone. – Didn’t the Nokia 7 have
one of these problems? – Yeah. – No, Samsung 7. – Samsung 7. – But the natural version
of an electromagnetic pulse is when a solar storm– – A solar flare. – A solar flare, throws charge particles in the direction of the
Earth, and they interact with the Earth’s magnetic
field, in a way that generates a pulse of electromagnetic
energy at the surface. And that too, can fry your
phone, your electricity grid, and everything else. – This has happened? – It has happened. – On a massive scale. – It happened in Canada. – Thank goodness. – It’s happening in modern times, it happened in a part of Canada. But it also happened,
there was an event in the late 19th century–
– 1860 right? – Yeah. That was so severe,
it knocked out telegraph over a very large area. But there wasn’t much electrical equipment in those days. – Right. – And so it didn’t do that much damage. – But we know that if an
event of that magnitude occurred today, it would be devastating. – It could cripple our country. – So we’re at war with the sun. – As a result of that possibility, we have invested now substantial effort in trying to build a multi-prong strategy to protect us from those kinds of events. That strategy includes sensors
on the Discover satellite, to give us early warning.
The strategy includes the ability to disconnect
parts of the electricity grid on warning very quickly.
But there are other things that we should be doing, and
that the study recommended that we do, that we’re not yet doing. – Right. – And that’s something that I’m very glad you’re interested in. – No, this is my point,
is the things that I read, there’s too much that
I read that worry me– – Okay, that’s not all you
should be worrying about. (laughter) – Well, we should be worrying
about that as a globe. – Yeah, when’s this happening? (laughter) – We don’t know. – Does it detect Mardi Gras? – Not predictable. – So there’s not only
that, there’s all this talk about AI running amuck. And does the United States
have a major investment in this, the future of this technology? – So we’ve basically gone from “The Matrix” to
“Terminator” now, but keep going. – Yeah. (laughter) – Both happy movies. – In my regular life, about
how scared should I really be? Like a one out of ten? Like a six? – So AI, let me ask you this, all right. We had Ray Kurzweil as
a guest on StarTalk. And I was delighted by that conversation, because I had only known of him from what other people wrote. You know, I finally got the horse’s mouth, and I love the guy to no end. Just, he’s a deep thinker, he’s brilliant, and so what I ask, there’s a lot of talk about connecting human
biology to the Internet in some way, so that your
brain is now actively processing the world. And,
do you see this biologically as a real thing coming down the line? – I think so, I don’t think it’s– – Yes? – Yes, I don’t think it’s imminent. I think that’s a way, ways off. – But we’re steps there
already. There’s biologics that you can put inside
yourself that you can feel a monitor, distribute
medicine, your doctor could literally sit at a
computer, we’re getting close to that, and be able to
deliver you doses of medicine based upon the information they’re getting over distances about what’s
happening inside your body. – That’s precision medicine, we were talking about it before. – But AI, now is making decisions
that I didn’t authorize. Right? So the big fear is that
AI, and I tweeted this once, I said, “We better behave.
Because when AI achieves “consciousness, we wanna
give it as fewer reasons “as possible to exterminate us.” Okay? – People are clapping
for termination by AI. – No, I think they agree. Right? – Like don’t worry, autos will save us. (laughter) – So, is there an agency
that’s thinking about AI. – That’s John’s area. – Yeah, I mean we had many,
many meetings in the White House about AI, many of them
including President Obama, who’s very interested in
it and concerned about it. – Did he write a paper on it? – It has an upside, in terms of increasing the capacity to get a lot
of important things done. And has a downside, like many technologies if it’s misused, if it
evolves in a bad direction, it could be problematic.
And so the question is, how do you manage the
evolution of this technology in a way that gets the benefits while minimizing the dangers. But, my own view, is that the dangers, as we currently understand
them, are being overstated. The proposition that
computers are going to become in some general sense,
smarter than humans, sometime soon, is not believed
by many of the experts in the field. There’s some
who think it will happen. There are many that think it won’t happen. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be vigilant in trying to figure out
how to make sure that AI doesn’t evolve in a way
that takes over our lives. – But can I tell you where
AI scares me right now and is real? Is that our enemies, sorry Eugene, like Russia– – I’m from America. Just to be clear. (laughter) – Sorry to put you– – I mean I’ll blend in if they win, but… (laughter) – So we have a real problem in this country with cyber attacks. And one of the areas
in which AI technology is now being used, look
Russia, China, will never beat us tank for tank,
war ship for war ship, we spend more money on
military, on bigger military, than the next 6, 7 countries combined. But where they can now offer
a threat, we just saw this with a massive cyber attack,
is with the advancements that are being made in hacking
and that kind of technology. And AI is being used,
invested in, and explored by the Chinese and the Russians, as a way of having a far more intelligent way, where the computer can
itself be the learner about what the defenses are of a system, and better break into them. And so, what you see are, our competitors, and remember it’s not
just Russia, it’s China, who’s doing extraordinary jobs stealing business
technologies and the like, using these very
sophisticated AI, block chain all these new, next generation sort of technologies and innovations, against us, and beating us to the punch. It’s a massive
vulnerability for our nation that we should be very
aware and talk about. – So that would come under
the Department of Defense. But the Department of
Defense, other than the DARPA and the DARPA-E, is
not really as equipped, it seems to me, to attract
the best and the brightest to solve that problem. – Well, I don’t think that’s quite right. The Department of Defense includes The National Security Agency,
National Security Agency employs more PhD mathematicians than any other organization in the world. – They got it. – They are thinking about AI extensively. As is DARPA, which has a
lot of smart folks as well. I’m not saying there’s no problem, I agree with the Senator,
this is a big risk. It’s a big area of competition. Our adversaries are very busy, we’re very busy too, by the way. And AI can be used to
defend our cyber systems, just as it can be used by our
adversaries to attack them, so this is an ongoing– – So we could put our AI against their AI, and then just let them
fight and we go to the park, or something.
(laughter) – That would be good, yeah. – All right, let me just get
into your lives for a moment. Each of you left academic posts to serve in the White House. And you became sort of a
citizen scientists servant of needs. Each of you,
what drove you to do that? – Well for me, there were two factors. One was John Holdren, the
other was Barack Obama. – Okay, well–
(applause) – They were totally impressive intellects committed to science and
I think John convinced me when we first talked about the position, that working for this
president would be a privilege beyond all else for a
scientist. And he was right. It was an honor to work
for a president who cared so much about science. (applause) – So 9 years ago, what were you thinking? – Well, first of all, I
had had the good fortune to meet President Eisenhower’s second term science advisor George Kistiakowsky
when I was 29 years old. And he became one of my
mentors, and I learned a lot from him about his
service for Eisenhower. Then I met Jerry Wiesner, who
was JFK’s science advisor, and he became a mentor.
And I ended up knowing every science advisor
to every US president from Eisenhower on– – So if you didn’t get that job– – So I had a secret ambition as a result of all those interactions that I might someday be a president’s science advisor, and I just happened to
luck out and get the best president in modern times,
to be the science advisor to. (applause) – If there were a president
who you didn’t like, but asked you to be his
or her science advisor, what would you say? – Well, it would depend on the president. – Why? If you’re asked to advise them, why should it depend on the president. It depends on you. – No, you have to believe that
the president will listen. You have to believe– – Wait, wait, a minute, if
you’re not an advisor at all, if you’re not even in the room, they’re clearly not listening to you because you’re not in the room. – No, that’s true. – So then, there’s a chance
they’ll listen to you if you’re in the room. – You have to figure out whether you’re gonna be more effective advising
this particular president, or more effective pursuing
the same issues from outside. – From outside. – You have to make that decision. – It can’t always work to
yell science into a wig. (laughter) – Can I just say something
about these two doctors that’s extraordinary and
people should recognize this. The whole idea of our country in The Declaration of Independence, which, this genius document
that frankly had flaws, it referred to Native Americans as savages and all the flaws of the genius
of the writers at the time that they had flaws. But they
kind of came to a conclusion at the end, where they
basically said for this country, the idea of this nation,
which was not founded like other countries ‘cuz we
all look alike or pray alike or are descended in the same way. The idea of this country
was the first nation of ideas and principles.
And especially then, it was a tenuous way of forming a nation. And so what these two
doctors really respresent to me, is what our founders
said is gonna have to happen. If this country’s gonna make
it, they basically said, we have to have an unusual
commitment to each other, that goes beyond just
tolerating each other, or kind of admiring each
other, they basically said we have to commit to each other. And this is the final words of The Declaration of Independence, “We must mutually pledge
to each other our lives, “our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” And it’s something we
all should think about. Are we living our lives this way? These folks, and they were
very humble, but trust me, they could’ve probably
made a lot more money, a lot more resources– – You don’t get rich
working in government. – You do not get rich. But
these are folks that said, you know what, my love of
this country, my sacred honor, my commitment of my fortune, will be to this nation’s goodness. And it’s been those folks, who
are those irrational people throughout history, who
may not even make it into the history books,
but have had consistently had this commitment.
Those people that built the greatest infrastructure
this nation has ever known, most of whose names aren’t
known, The Underground Railroad. Those people who, I can’t name the people, who whether they stormed
beaches in Normandy or sat in laboratories
designing technologies, innovations that I use every
day, but I take for granted. And so I just wanna thank them publicly, because they don’t often
get a moment like this, before a huge audience. – Hardly ever. – Hardly ever, to get
the kind of gratitude and celebration they deserve. Thank you very much.
(applause) – Let’s bring up the house
lights, and we’ll take some Q&A, we’ll do this for like 20 minutes. We got a few minutes. I don’t know, do we have microphones? There’s a microphone on the aisle there. And we have another
microphone on the aisle there. Okay, so who’s the first person up? Right there, okay. Go ahead. Wait, wait, you turn that on. Hang on. (indistinct chatter) Yeah, we got it now. Go ahead. – [Audience Member] We
know, how black holes– – Just wait wait, how old are you? – [Audience Member] Uh, 6. – Wait, how old are you? – [Audience Member] 6. – You’re 6? – [Audience Member] Yes.
(applause) – Well, welcome to StarTalk.
I hope we didn’t use too much grown up language here. Yeah, sometimes we do. I apologize. But I bet we didn’t use any language that you’d never heard
your parents use, you see? So I bet. So what is your question? Hold the microphone right
in front of your mouth. – [Audience Member] We
know how black holes form to supernovas, how do super
massive black holes form? – Oh, yeah. (applause and laughter) – It’s a little off topic, kid. (laughter) – Senator, can you answer that for me? (laughter) So, high mass stars, when they die, they leave behind a
black hole as a remnant. You wanna avoid that. But there’ll be many of
those across the galaxy, but there are black holes
that are much more massive than that, one per galaxy
in each galaxy center. And those we call super
massive black holes. And we don’t really have a
good idea of how they form. (laughter) – So, I can’t help you. But, if you are asking that question now, here’s the challenge. When we are born, the parents
spend the first few years teaching us to walk and talk, and then they spend the rest of our lives telling us to shut up and sit down. Clearly, in your case, your curiosity is burning within you. If you carry that
curiosity into adulthood, you may be the first person to discover how super massive black holes occur. (applause) – Right over here, yes. – [Audience Member] Hello
Dr. Tyson, Senator Booker, everyone there on the panel.
Thank you very much for coming. Well firstly let me say,
Dr. Tyson, you said that you don’t believe in hope,
and I wanna say something that we’ve probably all heard since before Christmas,
is that revolutions are built on hope. So also, I
wanted to ask Senator Booker, you had mentioned about
the Superfund sites that we have throughout New Jersey, and I wanted to also discuss with you, since this is the Garden State and we like to do a lot more of our own gardening and you had mentioned
trying to return more to a plant-based diet. Many of the things that we use in our own yards are not good for the environment, they’re
not good for the food that we’re eating, and they’re
not good for the things that we use in our own gardens. And what are you doing, as a senator, to help us bring more ecologically sound and more environmentally sound things to our own gardens, that
are not being, you know, pushed as they should be. – That’s a great question.
We can broaden that to say what kind of things can we
and should we do locally that will matter globally? Is that a fair extension of that question? – Sure. So I just want everybody to know that there’s a Farm Bill
reauthorization coming up. – Yeah! – It was days when I came into the Senate that I voted against it,
because of a lot of reasons. One, it made a massive cut to food stamps, but also because they
gave massive subsidization to these massive corporations who engage in farming practices that
are polluting the soil, polluting our rivers,
and subsidizing them with our tax dollars,
subsidizing things that we tell Americans not to eat.
Our government on one hand tells you not to eat this stuff, and then we’re subsidizing
on the other hand, so that when kids in,
now I’m going back home to Newark tonight, when kids
in Newark walk into a bodega, and see a Twinkie product
cheaper than an apple, it’s because we’re subsidizing that stuff. And the reality is, then
those kids are getting Type II Diabetes as children, and we have to subsidize that health care. So what I’m saying is,
this food system we have needs a lot of repair. So what I believe and exciting me that you’re asking this question, I started when I was
mayor is, I love this idea of locally grown, locally sourced things. And we should be encouraging
that kind of agriculture in our communities. The
Farm Bill actually got some stuff in there I think that was good about locally grown, organic stuff, but I think more of it should be. So the end of the answer, I would say is find out what’s happening
with this coming big Farm reauthorization
bill. Let’s work together. You’re one of my constituents,
reach out to my office. I have a group of people
that are very passionate on my staff about this Farm
Bill and what we can be doing to support the kind of local
farming you’re talking about. – And New Jersey is one of
the leaders in local farming and urban farming.
– I love that you know that. Yeah, in local farming,
we’re a farm state. And urban farming, in fact
when I was mayor of Newark, we created Newark as the largest– – Wait that’s a thing, urban farming? – Oh, absolutely.
– That’s a thing? – Acres and acres, it’s a good
way to banish food deserts and exciting stuff is
happening in urban farming. Roof gardens, there’s a
company in New Jersey called AeroFarms, which uses very
little, vertical farming. All these innovations, less water, it’s really exciting stuff. – Let’s see if we can answer
our questions a little quickly, because we have a thousand
trillion people online. Yes, right here. – [Audience Member] This
time it’s for everyone but especially Jo, as a female scientist. I have three daughters
ages 12, 10, and almost 4. And they start off really
inquisitive and the 6 year old, and they wanna know about black holes and my daughter, my oldest,
is in middle school now. And she has won in her elementary
school her science fair. And she thought it was the coolest thing, and was still into science,
and now in middle school, you can see that tapering off. And the disinterest,
for females especially, but for her in science.
And how do you propose that we keep that
curiosity, as you have said, and especially for women? Because I work in a job
who doesn’t have a lot of women either, but that’s construction. How do we keep the women
wanting to do science when they’re not encouraged to do so? – Well, I think that’s a great question. And we can all play a role
in that by encouraging girls to do it, and
showing them role models. One of the reasons that girls turn away from science in middle
school is they’re starting to come to grips with being women, and they think well I have
to be a woman or a scientist, because they often don’t see examples of normal, healthy, exciting
women that run marathons or have kids or do whatever
it is that women do. And so, one of the things we
worked on in the White House and that I continue
currently is how do we change the image of science and
technology in Hollywood? And I think they can play an enormous role in inspiring our girls and
minorities to be scientists, just by showing the whole
breadth of scientists and the jobs that they do.
So it’s a great question. On a small scale, we
could just encourage them and show them examples. (applause) – Yes, over here. – [Audience Member]
Hello, my name is Emily. I’ve spoken to you once before, you probably don’t remember me. (laughter) But I know this is slightly off topic, I was wondering if I
could have your autograph? (laughter)
– Is she talking to you? – No, she’s talking to you. – Oh, my autograph. Oh. (cheering) If you leave something with an usher, I’d be happy to do it after the show. – All right. – I’d be happy to do it. And
you’re wearing a NASA shirt? Or does that say something else on it? – It’s a rogue NASA shirt,
it says rogue on it. – Cool. Yeah it’s in the spirit
of what we’re doing. So give something for
me to sign to an usher and I’d be happy to do so. – All right. – Okay. – Am I allowed to ask a question? – Did you also have a question? – Um yes, really quick if I could ask. – Try to keep the questions quick so we can get through the line, go. – If I could ask Senator Booker– – Yes. – I was just thinking,
I’ve talked with my parents about this before. For like
the younger generation, what could we possibly do
besides just protesting. Like I’ve been to a
Women’s March, but like is there anything else
that the younger generation can do since we’re
basically what’s going to be the future of politics and science. – Can I? – Go ahead. – No, can I add to that? Why is it that the most effective protests are only the ones that turn violent, ‘cuz then they make more
headlines across the country? – I disagree completely
with that statement. – I do too. – The most effective protests are the ones that forge connections
between those who show up and ones that change the narrative of how the media covers an issue.
They’re the ones that encourage people to follow
up with that protest by voting, by running
for office themselves, by joining a local group that is embedded in their community. So the
violence is a spectacle, it’s often a distraction forged by people who don’t wanna see change happen. That is not an effective
protest, that’s a failure, and it’s disruption by
those who oppose it. For young people who wanna
do stuff besides protest, yo just be curious like Neil said. Run for something. Represent
your people somewhere. Whether it’s, like, your school board within your school itself,
if you have the opportunity to represent others, that’s
giving to other people. And you’re living what
you’re asking others to do. And that’s the best way to kinda change the world around you. Stop
asking others to do it, and do what the Senator
said, do it yourself at the level that you can
achieve. That’s the beginning. (applause) – I got you man, I got you. (laughter) – The protege. Okay quick,
quick questions please. – [Audience Member] So I’ve
been teaching public school for 8 years. – Whoa, public school teacher, give it up. (applause) – [Audience Member] Are
my students’ brains, this is kind of abstract, but are they evolving
using these cellphones quicker than our brains
used to without them? And how can I catch up with my lessons to get them engaged with this? You know, once they take
it out, they’re gone. So can you help me out
with that, a little bit? Anybody? – This is a biological thing here. (laughter) Jo, you got a biological reply to that? – Well, you have the wisdom
of age. I would go with that. – [Audience Member] Thank you. – There’s no hope. – You were right. (laughter) – All right, quicker. – [Audience Member] Here! – Oh, we got some people
up top that wanna– – Wow. – Oh, we have a microphone up there, I didn’t see that I’m sorry. Okay, let’s do it right there, let’s go. – [Audience Member] Hi, ooh. (laughter) – I hear you. – [Audience Member] I’m glad you do. I work at the Motion Center
for Independent Living and I’m wondering what policy and science can do for the welfare of
people living with disabilities. – Wow. – Ooh. (applause) – This is a broader health issue. Correct? – Yeah there’s exciting things for– – I think there are really exciting things coming forward using
technology to compensate for what people can’t do, either because of age or disability. And I think that technology
is really going to be developing fast in the next few years, because the demand for
it will be increasing as our citizenry ages. So I
think it’s a really great time for those kinds of questions.
But I think we need to look at how people actually
live. And there are some studies that use virtual reality to study how people actually live in their homes, or wherever they live, and
then develop technology around that. And I think
that’s much more accurate than trying to imagine how people live. Which is unfortunately,
how a lot of that research has been done in the past.
A lot of assumptions made. – Plus, there’ll be a difference between supporting someone
who has a disability, and then repairing the
disability outright. – Right. – Which in principle,
could happen one day. – Yes.
– And then we all live a life we live active lives, until we die. Rather than active lives until we get infirmed, and then stay
infirmed until we die. – Right. – I might add that it
won’t be too long before we’re 3D printing new organs,
so that the organ wait list that now exists for transplanted organs will become a thing of the past, because we can 3D print new organs. The second thing of note, for nerds– – What? (laughter) – Yep. – Okay, that’s cool. – That’s what’s happening. – Your printer at home, is
a different kinda printer. – Oh, it’s different? – But it’s happening. – I was gonna say, mine
doesn’t take blood. – It takes more toner than usual. (laughter) – And for the nerds out
there who are interested in this particular question,
the president’s council of advisors on science and
technology did a report in the past year on technology
to assist with aging. Which doesn’t address all of the question the questioner had in mind,
but it addresses some of them. And that report is online
in the Obama archive. – Okay, cool. (applause) Let’s take another one from up top, yes. – [Audience Member] So
as a college student, I actually go to an
engineering university, and I was just wondering,
Mr. Tyson and Senator Booker, what do you think your opinion
is on how college students out of college after graduation
can get that experience to make those changes in the
science and technology field? (laughter) – Do you wanna enter? Do you wanna become a
scientist or become a– – I’m actually an
aerospace engineering major at Stevenson.
(applause) – That’s good, so you’re there. – I also have a tattoo of
Pluto that if you wanna roast me for, that’s okay too. (laughter) – Pluto had it comin’, so
just don’t get me started. (laughter) So, are you asking, what
pathway might you take? To be in service as my two esteemed colleagues here have been? – Yeah because, you know, you’re applying for endless internships, there’s
giant pools of applicants, just what do you guys think that– – How do you get in? How do you get in? – Well, it’s interesting. First of all, depending on
your level, you can apply for some of the very
interesting fellowships in science and public policy
The Triple A has fellowships, the American Chemical Society fellowships, but the other thing you
can do is you can just present yourself at an office. We hired some folks at OSTP
who just walked in the door and said we’d like to help.
Some of them walked in the door and said we’re so interested in helping, we’ll help for nothing. We
took those first, of course. (laughter) And some of them did such wonderful work we decided to pay them. So you basically need to step up. And have confidence that
if you present yourself and talk about what you wanna
do and what you could do, you may well get a post,
you may well get a position. – One policy request that
you could really help me with ‘cuz it’s something I’m
fighting for, but if you’re a STEM subject person, frankly college folks in New Jersey really face
this threat, and you wanna go into public service
and do things like this, you should not have college debt. And it’s something we
need to do as a country stepping up
(applause) and removing these barriers. Because again, our competitors, Germany, and I could go through the
nations who are dramatically lowering the cost of
colleges and universities. So thank you for your desire to serve, and this nation should be liberating you from the tens of thousands
of dollars of debt that our average college graduates carry. – And I wanna pick up
on a point John made. There aren’t for so many jobs that you see that have high luminosity,
there is no actual path that guarantees you will
land in those spots. Often, it is the tenacity of the person who ultimately occupies that
spot that got them there. So, you can’t be an actor
and say, “I wanna be “a famous actor just like this person, “what do I need to do? I’ll
do exactly what they did.” ‘Cuz what they did might
have been a unique path to that point. You
gotta find what might be the unique path for you. And, is it interning
at an aerospace company that actually has people in Washington who are talking to members of Congress? So it’s not a pre-scripted, it’s not a pre-scripted route. And it takes the tenacity at each point, at each pivot point of your career, to ask yourself, what do I need to do? Whether or not someone
has done that before you. – Well, a great example
is John, who stalked everybody who had his job before him. (laughter) So stalking, like
systematically, your predesecors. – You get the list of people to stalk. (indistinct chatter) – Neil, I have one more question. – Hmm? – Can I possibly get a picture with you in that awesome vest? – Oh. (laughter) – Here it is. (laughter) – Selfie from a distance. – Afterwards? I’m wearing a
shirt with your face on it. – Almost every shirt that exists out there with my face on it, is
like bootlegged, so. Reign that in. So if you come down, I’ll be here and you can take a picture, okay? All right, we only have
time for like a couple more questions before we call it quits. Let’s go, right here, yeah. – Speed round. – [Audience Member]
You know, we’re talking about making America smart again, but every time I go online,
I see a lot of stupidity that’s rampant, and a
lot of it’s irrational. You know, conspiracy
theories, Earth is flat, we didn’t go to the moon,
9/11 truthers, GMO stuff. How can we as a society combat that really irrational stupidity? (applause) – Let me offer a reflection,
but then I’ll defer to my panelists here. So, the Internet, is the
greatest access to knowledge there ever was. But you
also have this delusion that no matter your thought,
if you type in a search for it, you will find everyone else in the world who has as crazy a thought
as you just typed in, validating what you think is real. Because of how many other
people share the view. And so, the search engines,
maybe they should say, do you realize? (laughter) Do you really wanna search this? (laughter) Will you take this breathalyzer
before we send you? I mean, you know what’s missing? Internet savvy 101 in school. All right, somewhere in
school, you gotta be taught that some information is more likely to be true than others,
depending on its source, okay? At some point we need to learn that. And it’s not in the K
through 12 curriculum, last I checked. So that’s a problem.
And the flat Earthers, this is a free country.
You can say what you want, fake what you want. You wanna
think the Earth is flat, go right ahead. But try
not to become head of NASA if you think that way, okay? Plenty of jobs for you if you wanna think the Earth is flat. Plenty
of jobs you can have. So, yeah. If this keeps
up, Cory I don’t know what the future of the country is if this kinds of anti-scientific
thinking spreads, becomes sort of infectious, that we just go over the waterfall. – We gotta be the antibiotics then. Match the lies with truth.
Fight it just as hard. It’s just like technologies
of old. Television, radio, it’s a neutral platform
where a lot of people are getting on, it’s a contest of ideas, and we’ve gotta match
those lies with truth. And be purveyors of it. (applause) – Next up, yes. – [Audience Member]
Hi. So I wanted to know what your thoughts were on
the Event Horizon Telescope and the possible recent
photography of a black hole for the first time.
And the hole, you know, will it look the way we think it looks? Do you think they’ll be
anything unknown there, maybe? – So Cory, can you take this? – Sure.
(laughter) – No, I actually know very
little about that telescope. About photographing black
holes, black holes alone are not very photogenic. Because they’re black.
(laughter) – That’s racist. – Oh that’s racist? – I don’t like this one
bit, that is not cool. (laughter) – But black holes can render
their existence visible by indirect means. For example, in the flaying
of star, whose outer layers are spiraling down within
and then that toilet bowl style sucking action radiates copiously in ultraviolet and x-rays.
And use an ultraviolet telescope and an x-ray
telescope, and they pick ’em out all across the galaxy. So, it’s just a testament
to the methods and tools of science that demonstrate
that the five senses that we are biologically endowed with are wholly inadequate to decode the actual operations of nature. And so, that’s what telescopes do for us. But otherwise, I’m not up on
the Event Horizon Telescope. I’m embarrassed, I should know. But I like to be candid in my ignorance. So, there it is. – Thanks for not trying to pass laws based on that ignorance, I appreciate that. – Oh, yeah. If you’re ignorant, yeah, you should just be self aware of that. And not try to create
legislation based on it. (laughter) Let’s go up top, one more time. – [Audience Member] Hi. Oh wow. I’m a high school senior and next year I’m going to school to study physics, in a large part due to you and the things that you put out there, so thank you.
– Oh, well thank you. – My question’s for
you and Senator Booker. Someone once told me,
you can’t reason someone out of something they didn’t
reason themselves into. How do you fight that, whether it’s evolution or
public policy or whatever. – Yeah, I think that
statement is like 85% true. And so, I think it implies that winning an argument involves reason. But winning an argument
can involve demonstration. Right? If someone doesn’t
think there’s global warming, you just invite them to buy
property on the ocean’s edge. And then you step back. (laughter) They convert very quickly,
and you didn’t have to lay down a single argument. So I think there are
ways of convincing people that don’t involve logical arguments. And we need to be more
savvy about what method might be best invoked given the
person, given the situation. And I, as an educator,
invest a stupid amount of energy, mental energy, thinking about what are the thought pathways that occupy the person who
I’m communicating with? And I then align what I’m trying to say with those thought pathways,
so that I can maximally send information into you on a level where you can take ownership of it. And you can say, “Wow, I
never knew it that way. “Oh my gosh, I figured it
out. I understand it now.” That takes a key, and
sometimes there’s a different key for every single person. And that’s hard. That’s a
higher level of expectation from an educator than
just lecturing against a chalkboard hoping
that you walk up behind and pick it up and
understand what’s going on. – A piece of advice, real quick from me, and I learned this the
hard way when I was young. I finally had this aha moment. So this is simply the piece of advice. You do not have to attend every argument that you are invited to. (laughter and applause) – We’ve got another, a person here. By the way, you have one of the very few official shirts
issued by StarTalk. Yes, go on, a question.
Get close to the mic. – [Audience Member] I, as
a middle school student, and many other middle
school students out there are being told to sit down
and shut up more than ever. Why is that? And what could we do about it? – Stand up and shout. (laughter) – Yeah, so you’re in middle school now? – Yes, I am. In eighth
grade. So I’m gonna be going into high school soon. – Yeah, yeah. So your teachers are saying, the good students are the
ones that are quiet and obey. – [Audience Member] Yeah, to a point. Some allow questions,
some don’t, to an extent. – Yeah. So one of the challenges to the middle school
teacher is that you all are hormonially crazy at this point. (laughter) (Neil stutters) Hormonally out of control.
– You’re like a screw worm. (laughter) – True that. – You know, I can’t go in there
and like slap the teachers. But if you know that your
curiosity and your energy for life and exploration is a good thing, then sure, behave in class. But when you get out of class, misbehave. You have my permission to do that. Do you realize in a few years
I’m gonna publish a book? Don’t ask me about it until it comes out. I’m gonna publish a book, that will contain my
academic record in it. And it will contain
comments from my elementary school teachers, who complained constantly that my energy was disrupting the class. I was a bad student, for that reason. And I was not the teacher’s pet. The teacher’s pet was
the person who was quiet, got high grades, and
exactly obeyed everything the teacher said. And I had this energy, and I would crack jokes, and
I would show people stuff, and I would bring the urban
equivalent of a frog to class. (laughter) – Basically a rat? – So none of those teachers
would have said he’ll go far. None of them. – Did you bring street rats to class? (laughter) Were you trying not to say that? – I was trying to figure out that too. – That’s not cool. – So, like I said, you
will spend many more hours outside of school than in of school. So use the time outside
of school to misbehave all you want. And there’s
the secret to becoming something greater than
the student who obeys every single command that
a teacher hands them. (applause) – Forgive me, but we have time only for one more question, I’m
gonna take right here, go. – I just wanna say to that young lady, can I just say real quick,
I’m sorry to interrupt. You don’t have to go
back to the microphone. But look, there are a lot of times, even as a United States
senator where I have to shut up and be silent. And there are times when I don’t want to be,
but my simple point to you, and you said it in the larger context. But allow someone authority, you have to to go through life, they
can silence your voice but never let them silence your spirit, that has got to continue,
to shout out loud. (applause) – Ladies and gentlemen, the
last question of the evening. I’m sorry for everyone else online. Yes, go. – [Audience Member] Hello. – Hello. – I wanted to ask, like, a
question about microbiology. Like something that you– – Yes. – There we go. – So I’m in an honors lab
bio class for freshman year, so we have a current
event that we have to do every 15th of the month, so I found one that had to do with bacteria in your mouth could have something
for your risk of cancer. And it mentioned microbiology in there and I wanted to know how could it affect cellular division and something like that. – Well, I don’t think we
know the answer to that in that specific case, but there are a lot of proposals for how
bacteria would be influencing things like cell division
or cancer, or other events. And partly it’s the things they produce. They produce chemicals,
and those chemicals can then induce cells
to do different things. And in other cases,
it’s because they allow some other organism into the human system that then induces something else. So there are a lot of different
mechanisms, some of them not so direct. But we, I think,
are beginning to understand a little bit more about those. One that came out really
recently was really interesting that bacteria, they get out of the gut, sometimes because of
permeability in the wall, sometimes will incite an immune response that ends up killing a tumor.
So that’s the kind of thing that nobody ever anticipated
as being a mechanism for suppressing cancer. – Also, recently, didn’t you successfully, not you necessarily, successfully
create a poop transplant, fecal transplant?
– Yes. – Yes, I was hoping you’d talk
about the fecal transplant. Yo, hit ’em with it. (laughter) – You take poop out of
one person and you put it in another person and
it makes them better? – Yep. – That is nasty. – I’ve done it. (laughter) Not literally. – So these microbiomes are doing way more than we ever imagined. – Absolutely. And keeping us healthy is the biggest thing
they do. So remember that next time someone calls them germs. – We’ll call them microbes. – Microbes. Good microbes. – Wasn’t there a book
called “Microbes and Men?” – Yes. (laughter) But I think it was retitled
“Microbes and Women.” (laughter) – “Microbes and Human Beings.” – There you go. (applause) – So let me just go down the line here, before we close this out. And just, one by one if you could, what would be your recipe for
making America smart again? Just… Eugene. (laughter) (audience member yells) – I don’t know what he said. (laughter) Yeah, I guess voting. – Voting. – Voting for science.
And also I think things like the Science March. (cheering) – The people that are
up there, they’re going to the Science March. – I’m optimistic. In the end, I think that you can forward good things. And over time, it will work. So I think Science March is– – These immigrants are so hopeful. – I am very hopeful. I’m also sitting on a stage with you guys joking around. – Immigrants, they get the job done. – I believe in the
American dream. I adore it. – Ophira. – You know, I think we talk a lot about like right now, everyone’s stressed out by what’s going on, they’re
like, “How am I gonna “deal with the climate? Self care. I’ll go “to do some meditation and yoga.” I think we have to stop
focusing on ourselves. I think we have to focus on other people and our community and think outside of ourselves more often, and think about how we are together,
rather than just laying down and going, “Ten minutes of head space “is gonna make it all better.” – Okay. (applause) – John. – I’m gonna build on what Ophira has said, and suggest, as I’ve done elsewhere, that everybody who is in
science, in technology, or who cares about science and technology should tithe 10% of their time,
whatever else that they do. Tithe 10% of their time to
talking with other people, to engaging on how and why
science and technology matter to our society, to our
wellbeing, to the world. What science is, how it
works, what the sources of credibility in science
are, and why we need to preserve and protect science. We need all of us to
be better story tellers about this, to be activists, to be engaged in the policy process. (applause) – Baratunde. – Thank you for having me here. No I’m serious, it’s
been an incredible honor to be on stage with these civil servants. Whether it’s the comedic
arts, the arts and sciences, and I’m humbled to be a part of this. I wanna echo what Eugene
said. I happened to be at a meeting of the organizers
of the Science March. And one of them cited a Neils Bohr quote, quantum physics pioneer,
and I’m gonna paraphrase it, but he essentially described science as the steady reduction of prejudice. And if you think about
what science actually is, you constantly challenge
what you think to be true, and replace it to what
you know to be true. – Wow. – And if you’re not
constantly challenging, that’s not science. So we’ve been challenged up here, I encourage folks out there to do it. And I think what’s coming
up with the Science March, whether it’s you know,
before, during or after, is a testament to something much larger than the politics of the moment. It’s about the larger pursuit of science, which is the reduction
of all of our prejudices. (applause) – Cory. – I guess I just would encourage people to, as Eugene said, to be people of hope. What I mean by that, is I
think this last 100 days has been some of the most
hopeful period in my time as a senator. And it’s
not because the situation looks great, but I spent 8 years living in these high rise projects in Newark, and the tenant present
there who had her son murdered in the lobby of the
building which I lived in, she was one of the most
hopeful people that I met. And basically what she taught me was, that hope doesn’t exist in the abstract. It’s always a response to despair. It’s saying that despair
will not have the last word. And that hope also is not a being word. You don’t just sit in a
state of being that’s hope. Hope is an active, it’s a
fighter, it is constantly working to create that belief
that you haven’t surrendered. And so my hope is that
I’ve seen the greatness of my country, whether
it was the Women’s March or how the healthcare
bill, which was so awful, was beat back. Not by
politicians, but by a public, Republican and Democrat, who just said there is no way that
we’re gonna tolerate that. And so right now, my prayer
is that everybody remembers those ten two letter words. That this country will succeed or fail based on those ten two letter words, and those ten two letter words are if it is to be it is
up to me. I have gotta be an agent of hope. And
that’s for my part anyway. (applause) – Jo. – One of the things I
found really striking today was when we talked about
things that excite the public about science. It was
either because of fear or inspiration. And I
think we need to find a way to explain science and teach
science in logical ways, not fear mongering, but
that either insight fear or people’s imaginations and inspiration. And it can’t be just
discovering new planets, and discovering new cures.
It has to go way beyond that to all of science. And
I don’t know how to do that. But I would challenge all
of us to think about that. How do we inspire people
about the fundamental quest for knowledge, which is
the basis for science. (applause) – All right if I could offer
some final reflections here. I mean, you guys said almost
anything I would have said. So, you really left me with nothing. I got nothing now. But let me share with you. Personally, I try not to have hope. Because hope is the confession that you have no control of the outcome. And I don’t ever wanna
cede that to a word. I wanna say to myself,
“There’s an outcome that I have “some access to, some control over.” And lemme reiterate again, I don’t beat back politicians. There’s something else deeper than that. In our K through 12 system, what do we do? I think we view students as these vessels. Where you unzip their brain, their head, and pour information in for 12 years. And then you zip it back
up, hand them the diploma, and send them off. And so we think that being
educated is knowing stuff. When somewhere in there,
one ought to be taught how to question knowledge,
how to evaluate information and evidence. These are
the foundations of science. We don’t even have to call it science. Let’s just call it curiosity,
because what is a scientist but a kid who had never really grew up. All right. It’s a kid, who in adulthood, retained child-like curiosity. And when you retain child-like curiosity, anything that happens before
you is up for questioning. And you say, well why are
you doing it that way? Can’t it happen this way? Well let me research that. And if you, in addition to being trained how to think about information, if somehow we can retain your curiosity, from childhood through adulthood, retain that curiosity, then
you become lifelong learners. Lifelong inquisitors.
Because we will spend many more years outside
of school than in school. How many people do we know,
if not among ourselves, the last day of school you take your books and throw them into the air
and say, “School’s done.” As though that’s the
state you want to be in, where you no longer have to learn. That’s a failure of
the educational system. You should come outta school
saying, “Gee, I’m still “curious, can I go back
in? Or are there some ways “I can keep learning?” And I think that if we
breed an entire generation of people that are curious into adulthood, then you will never elect someone who just states things that are not true. That would never happen. (applause) You would build into the system curiosity. And where does the politic turn? The politics layers on top of that. So you don’t say, “There
is no global warming.” We know there is. So now that we know there is, let’s have the political conversation. Are there carbon credits? Do you subsidize? Or do you put up tariffs? That’s where the politics needs to happen. Not at any level below that. So my sense of this is, you wanna make America great, you
first have to make it smart, and to make it smart, we have to retain the curiosity that we all had as children. And that way, we can
turn a sleepy country, into an innovation nation. – Amen. (applause) – Red Bank, New Jersey,
this has been StarTalk! And I’ve been your host,
Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and my guests. Baratunde, the senator, Jo, John, Ophira, Eugene. Thank you all New Jersey! (applause) As always, keep looking up. (upbeat music)

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