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Science and math are the ‘engines of tomorrow's economy,’ says astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson

February 28th, 2014
07:56 AM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Science, technology, engineering, and math will be the “engines of tomorrow's economy,” astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.

“I want to explore because I think it's fun and I like learning something different and new tomorrow that I didn't know today. But I can't require that of everybody.”

“So if you needed a pragmatic reason to explore, the best one out there is innovations in science and technology are the engines of tomorrow's economy,” Tyson, who is director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, said.

“We've known this certainly since the Industrial Revolution. But even before then, those nations that invested in exploration and discovery would lead the world in almost every metric that mattered in anything that we call civilization today.”

NASA this week announced the discovery of 715 new planets, the largest single batch ever announced, by far. By way of comparison, about 1,000 planets total had been identified in our galaxy before Wednesday.

Neil deGrasse Tyson on new planets

“It's not like they discovered them all last night and then it got reported this morning,” Tyson said. “They've been lined up for a while until the confidence in the detection was high enough to then present it all as one release.”

Four of the planets announced are in the so-called “habitable zone,” meaning they could theoretically support life.

“You could ask, are we alone? Is the solar - our solar system unusual? Is it - is it common? And that's one of the great questions we always ask about ourselves, and we've been asking it since we came out of the caves.”

American children, for one, may be scratching their heads at what it all means. U.S. students rank 27th in science and 35th in math among developed countries, according to the OECD.

“As an American, I would like to have America on the frontier. But as a scientist, science doesn't know national boundaries,” deGrasse Tyson said.

“One of my worries is that here we are, a country with this great legacy, that it'll fade and then what happens to the future of this country?”

deGrasse Tyson is trying to himself stimulate interest in science and math with a reboot of astrophysist Carl Sagan’s famous series “Cosmos,” first broadcast in 1980.

His continuation of the show is called “Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey.”

“Cosmos, we think, has the power to motivate anyone who is watching it to want to become scientifically literate, or at least embrace how and why the methods and tools of science can tell us about our past, present and future in this universe,” deGrasse Tyson said.

“People say, well, can it influence the next generation of kids? Yes. But adults outnumber kids five to one – five to one, in the industrialized world.”

“And so I say to myself, maybe the problem today are not scientifically unmotivated kids, it's scientifically unmotivated adults. Because adults are in charge. Adults wield resources. Adults create or destroy opportunities.”

Nowhere is that power more apparent than in the climate. Human-created climate change is “now more certain than ever,” a new joint paper by American and UK scientists has said.

Nonetheless, the doubters continue their crusade against empirical science.

deGrasse Tyson on climate change deniers

“There are people who have politicized science,” deGrasse Tyson said. “You know, science is apolitical.”

“The truths of nature are the truths of nature. You can stand in denial of it, I suppose, but what kind of country are you making … if that's how you're going to base your policy, because you don't want it to be true?”

“I mean, it would be like blaming gravity because you're gaining weight.”

The goal of “Cosmos,” he said, is to show how much science has shaped the world in which we live.

He wants people to walk away from the series saying, “‘this is why I understand what a truth is, and here's how I can detect when people's philosophies are interfering with the dissemination of those ideas and that knowledge.’”


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soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. ashok

    Science and math are helping Asia catch up with the West.

    February 28, 2014 at 10:24 am | Reply
  2. Babu G. Ranganathan

    SCIENCE SHOWS THAT THE UNIVERSE CANNOT BE ETERNAL because it could not have sustained itself eternally due to the law of entropy (increasing net energy decay, even in an open system). Einstein showed that space, matter, and time all are physical and all had a beginning. Space even produces particles because it’s actually something, not nothing. Even time had a beginning! Time is not eternal.

    The law of entropy doesn't allow the universe to be eternal. If the universe were eternal, everything, including time (which modern science has shown is as physical as mass and space), would have become totally entropied by now and the entire universe would have ended in a uniform heat death a long, long time ago. The fact that this hasn't happened already is powerful evidence for a beginning to the universe.

    Popular atheistic scientist Stephen Hawking admits that the universe had a beginning and came from nothing but he believes that nothing became something by a natural process yet to be discovered. That's not rational thinking at all, and it also would be making the effect greater than its cause to say that nothing created something. The beginning had to be of supernatural origin because natural laws and processes do not have the ability to bring something into existence from nothing. What about the Higgs boson (the so-called “God Particle”)? The Higgs boson does not create mass from nothing, but rather it converts energy into mass. Einstein showed that all matter is some form of energy.

    The supernatural cannot be proved by science but science points to a supernatural intelligence and power for the origin and order of the universe. Where did God come from? Obviously, unlike the universe, God’s nature doesn’t require a beginning.

    EXPLAINING HOW AN AIRPLANE WORKS doesn't mean no one made the airplane. Explaining how life or the universe works doesn't mean there was no Maker behind them. Natural laws may explain how the order in the universe works and operates, but mere undirected natural laws cannot explain the origin of that order. Once you have a complete and living cell then the genetic code and biological machinery exist to direct the formation of more cells, but how could life or the cell have naturally originated when no directing code and mechanisms existed in nature? Read my Internet article: HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM

    WHAT IS SCIENCE? Science simply is knowledge based on observation. No one observed the universe coming by chance or by design, by creation or by evolution. These are positions of faith. The issue is which faith the scientific evidence best supports.

    Some things don’t need experiment or scientific proof. In law there is a dictum called prima facie evidence. It means “evidence that speaks for itself.” Of course, in the complexities of human society and relationships, prima facie may not always be what it seems.

    An example of a true prima facie would be if you discovered an elaborate sand castle on the beach. You don’t have to experiment to know that it came by design and not by the chance forces of wind and water.

    If you discovered a romantic letter or message written in the sand, you don’t have to experiment to know that it was by design and not because a stick randomly carried by wind put it there. You naturally assume that an intelligent and rational being was responsible.

    I encourage all to read my popular Internet articles: NATURAL LIMITS TO EVOLUTION and HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM

    Visit my newest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION

    Babu G. Ranganathan*
    (B.A. Bible/Biology)

    Author of popular Internet article, TRADITIONAL DOCTRINE OF HELL EVOLVED FROM GREEK ROOTS

    *I have given successful lectures (with question and answer period afterwards) defending creation before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities. I've been privileged to be recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis "Who's Who in The East" for my writings on religion and science.

    February 28, 2014 at 10:58 am | Reply
    • Greg

      Oh brother...

      March 1, 2014 at 10:15 am | Reply
    • Leonvistal

      Good job sir,

      March 1, 2014 at 10:33 am | Reply
    • Darketernal

      Entropy isn't the whole story, eternity can overcome entropy because it can infinitely withdraw energy from the system, this is as a result of the ability to repeat its pattern without incurring resistance.

      March 1, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Reply
      • Darketernal

        To explain it more easily infinity cannot be stopped. Not so easily at least.

        March 1, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
    • Girish

      "You Sir, are an ignoramus" is what Richard Dawkins would say. Mr. Babu has fallen into that all too inviting trap which assumes that the theory of evolution is all about random mutation. This by itself ill of course be incapable of explaining complex life forms, but together with NATURAL SELECTION which *by definition* is non-random can explain it all. READ THE WORKS OF DAWKINS and then speak..

      March 3, 2014 at 9:49 am | Reply
    • Leslie

      I applaud you Dr. Ranganathan for your courage and tenacity in taking to task the difficult mission of bridging the gap between science and religion. The scientific community at large, remains hostile and combative towards any one attempting to link the origin of the natural world to the divine architect.

      March 9, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Reply
  3. Charles Roesch, PH.D., M.D.

    The essay of Babu G. Ranganathan is an interesting philosophical exercise but is irrelevant in our understanding and manipulating reality. There is no evidence of ongoing supernatural intervention of natural law. Any assumption of god's existence doesn't change our need to understand natural (scientific) processes. Faith will not build a spaceship or a computer or cure cancer. Only science can do that. The possible existence of a deity is irrelevant.

    February 28, 2014 at 4:30 pm | Reply
    • Leonvistal

      Mr, PH.D., M.D., SIR!

      Your idea of believing on God is irrelevant, is the result of corrupted mind and heart of a sinner person , it is true, that your science build an aircraft or computer, but my God is the one who created heaven and the earth including you, and one day you will stand on his judgement seat, for the word of God said, only fools said, to thier heart there is no God

      March 1, 2014 at 10:24 am | Reply
      • beless

        Thanks for that statement...God bless u for saying the truth..!!

        March 1, 2014 at 5:55 pm |
      • What

        Thump thump thumpity thump.

        March 3, 2014 at 10:32 am |
  4. Greg

    When I majored in math 30 years ago there were few prospects. To my luck the world changed so much that now the math major allows me to write my own ticket. Meanwhile few other Americans are choosing that major and we're importing a ton of foreigners to fill our best jobs.

    March 1, 2014 at 10:14 am | Reply
  5. Dave

    Still it is worth remembering that scientists are also prone to jumping to accepting some new theory that they find agreeable and propagate it as fact, only to learn later that the theory was wrong. Merely claiming an alleged scientific approach alone is not a guarantee that today's scientific fact will not turn into tomorrow's scientific hoax. The Piltdown Man is a classic example.

    March 1, 2014 at 10:22 am | Reply
  6. GGJ

    This has been the case since the Industrial Revolution in the UK. Nothing new here!

    March 3, 2014 at 5:03 am | Reply
  7. ken

    I agree.

    March 3, 2014 at 5:05 am | Reply
  8. chrissy

    I like pepperoni pizza.

    March 3, 2014 at 5:06 am | Reply

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