Blog Archives

Help us get Bill Nye vs Neil deGrasse Tyson to Imgur’s front page!

Our Bill Nye vs Neill deGrasse Tyson vid has hit Imgur thanks to our friend and Chasing supporter, Siyavash Izadi.

http://imgur.com/gallery/IGLAu/new.

In the first 5 hours of it being posted earlier today, it hit over 4000 views and about 150 likes. If it hits 300, it will go to Imgur’s front page! Help us make the front page by giving us a like!

Keep Chasing!

Matthew

 

 

 

Neil deGrasse Tyson vs Bill Nye: Celebrating Cosmos

Hey Chasers!

Tonight is the last episode of Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey.

Over the last 14 weeks, with host Neil deGrasse Tyson at the helm, we have been treated to a journey that has spanned the formation of the Universe itself, the heroes of the great scientific discoveries of our civilization, an understanding of the eons of Earth’s history spanning generations of extinction and rebirth, and wrestled with important issues facing us in the present such as climate change.

Rebooted by producer Seth MacFarlane, and Carl Sagan’s wife Ann Druyan, the series revisited themes of the original Cosmos, hosted by Sagan, for a new generation of viewers. I’ve been watching the series from week to week with the staff here at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. The show has been truly inspiring; leaping beyond the scientific fact to studying the personal motivations and passions of the scientists who literally changed our lives, the dangers we face as a society belching carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the wonders of discovery that could still await us. Tyson hosts the show from the Starship Imagination that can travel through both time and space effectively making Tyson a kindof Doctor Who but hosting a science show and without a British accent. Point is that the show is amazing and if you haven’t watched the series you should definitely pick it up on Blu-Ray! Be sure to tune in to tonight’s episode at 9pm EST/PST

As a light-hearted send off to Cosmos, we are posting this clip from our interview with Bill Nye who fondly talks about his friend Neil deGrasse Tyson and a “fight to control the universe.” This is the first footage we’ve released of our interview with Bill.

Enjoy Cosmos and Keep Chasing!

-Matthew

 

 

“We’ve Chosen to Not Afford It”

A very cool friend of mine, James Joyce (not to be mistaken for James Joyce the Irish Novelist), sent me a link a while back to an article in Discover Magazine that I just resurrected from my Facebook Inbox. James studies astronomy at the University of Toronto and gets access to much cooler equipment than I do *shakes fist. Anyhow, the post, by “Bad Astronomer” Phil Plait, features a panel discussion at The Amazing Meeting  (TAM) in Las Vegas in July of 2011 right around the time that we were filming in Florida for our first round of Chasing Atlantis Footage. The panel is made up of science celebs Bill Nye (The Science Guy), Astronomers Neil Tyson and Pamela Gay, and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss who are all speaking on the future of humanity in space. The video is older now, but I hadn’t seen it yet and it still addresses the current state of affairs of the current space program (with one update below).

Now, we touched on this topic quite substantially with Chasing. Although, probably more on a micro scale. The livelihoods of many of the individuals we spoke to in Titusville was directly connected to our future in space. When we interviewed retired Astronaut, Story Musgrave, he was certainly critical of humanity’s lack of progress into space and the fact that the Space Shuttle had not ushered in a new era of cheap space flight. But one thing was clear, the question of space travel centered around a central point…money. Can we afford to go there?

The Kennedy Space Center is a fascinating place. And I have certainly been fortunate to have had the chance to visit so many times in the past few months with Chasing. But one thing is evident, the visitor center is almost becoming more of a “Good-Ol Days” museum than anything else. The music played is from the 60’s. Videos depict Kennedy with his famous lines ushering in the space race. And we are reminiscent of days when the US was spending 7% of its GDP funding Apollo. I began to wonder, outside of geo-political catalysts such as the Cold War, will there ever be the same impetus on space travel? The answer is unclear, but Neil Tyson did make two points that really stood out in my mind.

1) Governments push frontiers before capitalists do. Why? Because governments can soak the risk. Tyson cites Louis and Clarke, Columbus, Magellan all who traveled on Government funding to explore. Once the frontier was pushed back, companies took advantage of the new opportunities. Private industry is now taking a more direct involvement into space; albeit space tourism for the moment. Perhaps our push to the planets will still require a government directed project. However, Tyson does argue that the patents created by government through NASA are now also being used by private industry to help offset the initial costs. Perhaps this will lead to breakthroughs in future human flights to the planets.

2) Pamela Gay states at one point in the panel discussion that we cannot afford to go back to space. Tyson’s response? “We have chosen not to afford…The bank bailout of 2009 exceeded the 50 year total budget of NASA.” He went onto say that if we “double NASA’s budget” and we could do all the amazing space related endeavours we currently dream to do such as going to Mars, returning to the moon, landing a probe on Europa. (My personal fav would be Europa or Mars. But there is something to be said about putting actual humans into space)

There is an update to this meeting from TAM. There was dismay expressed by the panel of the dismantling of the James Webb Space Telescope. Since this was posted, that program has actually been saved. I am personally very excited about James Webb. The scope will have 17 times the light gathering power of Hubble which already has exceeded our expectations in terms of the window it opened into the Universe. James Webb will be able to resolve distant stars, perhaps help us understand more about dark energy/matter and increase our ability to find other planets. AND, I just discovered that there is a 24 hour live webcam where you can watch the thing being built. Crazyness. (Link below)

We spend far more on the war machine than we do on exploration. And much of our exploration has been, unfortunately, inspired by war and conflict or the desire to conquer. Perhaps the exploration of space is an opportunity to explore for the sake of exploration itself, something that, as Bill Nye says, brings discovery and adventure; something we inherently need as humans.

I’d urge you to check out the original article here:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/10/20/our-future-in-space-panel-at-tam-9/

The video link for the 55 minute panel discussion is here:

http://vimeo.com/30742999

The link to the James Webb Space Telescope Page is here:

http://www.jwst.nasa.gov

-Matthew

Lost in Space

On February 19th, I made a post regarding cuts to NASA’s budget that puts future human space flight missions in jeopardy

I had a few direct responses to the post, some for and some against, but I also came across this critique to the general sentiment of my post that made me second guess my original argument.

“NASA, we have a problem, why America is Lost in Space”  by Brett Biddington, Adjunct Professor, School of Computer and Security Science at Edith Cowan University states in his article:

“Some commentators have already been fast to criticize the cuts, suggesting they are minimal relative to the buckets of money lavished on the US defence establishment (which include classified and unclassified space programs).”

He continues by arguing that NASA has lost focus on space exploration, lost touch with the public, and is in danger of becoming a cold war relic. This final point struck me. It rang true with many of the interviews we conducted with both active and retired personnel at NASA during the shooting of Chasing Atlantis. Many who started early into the program were ashamed that NASA astronauts were not being lifted from the globe by Chinese technology insinuating that America had lost some of its pride. From a country that has a space program which has always hitchhiked its astronauts into space, I cannot fully relate. Canada has always been proud to have any of our citizens or technology (Canadarm/Canadarm II) in orbit at all. I also just finished watching Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In his latest book, Space Chronicles, Tyson says that when the moon landing happened in 69, predictions were made suggesting that we would be on Mars by 1980. We’re still not there, and it doesn’t look like we are going any time soon. Why? Tyson says that with the pressure of the cold war over, the impetus on extra terrestrial travel was lost.

It would seem both authors are correct then. In the absence of a war, we have made no further progress to put humans elsewhere in our solar system and NASA, according to Biddington continues to exude habits formed during the cold war in terms of its reluctance to participate in international programs.

So what is the solution? More funding? Smarter allocation? Public engagement to create a new-found sense of relevancy? I am uncertain. However, I do echo Tyson’s concerns he shared on the Daily show, currently our civilization seems to be regressing. Reduced funding for education, technology development, a labored economic system. Perhaps a new frontier is exactly what we need right now.

Blessings,

Matthew