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Neil deGrasse Tyson Refuses to Tweet At 280 Characters Even As He Combats the ‘Scientifically Illiterate’ — Turn It On Podcast

The host of National Geographic's "Star Talk" on the pros and cons of social media, how he is gathering ideas on how to improve education, and whether "Cosmos" will return.

Neil deGrasse TysonThe New York Times presents TimesTalks with Neil deGrasse Tyson, TheTimesCenter, New York, USA - 05 May 2017

Neil deGrasse Tyson


Sorry Twitter, add famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to the list of users who doesn’t understand the move from 140 to 280 characters.

“I don’t want 280 characters,” Tyson said. “It’s an excuse to not be succinct. If you cant do it in 140 characters then write a book. Choose another medium.”

Tyson has 10.1 million followers on the social media platform, so his opinion ought to carry some weight. Tyson said he uses Twitter as a means to share what’s on his mind — sometimes humorous, sometimes ponderous but usually insightful.

But he’s not under the illusion that the rise of these platforms has helped educate the public. Rather, he notes, “the fact that I have 12 different platforms to communicate also means that so does everybody else who is either scientifically illiterate or doesn’t have your best interests in mind.”

Tyson is heartened that his latest book, “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry,” was on the bestsellers list, but he remains alarmed that science continues to be attacked in this country.

“The real problem is theres something missing in the educational trajectory of learning,” he said. “Science is a means of querying nature that then gives you access to objective truths. Nothing we’ve ever invented as humans comes close to the potency of this exercise. If you don’t realize this and become an adult, you might think scientists are just somebody who has some thoughts, and everybody else’s thoughts are just as valid as theirs. It’s all relative and it doesn’t really matter and you just pick the one that feels good.

“The fact that we have flat earthers is evidence of two things: that we live in a country with free speech and we live in a country where our educational system has failed us.”

Tyson said he’s slowly putting together his thoughts on what he thinks needs to be done with education in America, and may write a book about it. But for now, he recently stopped by IndieWire’s TURN IT ON to discuss something a bit more fun: His National Geographic series “Star Talk,” now in its fourth season. Listen below!

The astrophysicist has been on a mission to make science more accessible to the masses, with everything from his reboot of the classic Carl Sagan series “Cosmos” (which he’s aiming to return for another season) to his popular podcast “Star Talk.”

National Geographic turned that podcast into a TV talk show, and now “Star Talk” is in the midst of its fourth season. The show bills itself as the first-ever weekly late-night, science-based talk show on television, and has been nominated for three Emmys for each of the seasons that it’s been on National Geographic.

Among the guests this season are “Hidden Figures” star Janelle Monáe, basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, three-time Academy Award winner James Cameron, journalist Katie Couric, primatologist Jane Goodall, director Kevin Smith, NASA astronauts Mae Jemison and Scott Kelly, physicist Stephen Hawking, Grammy-nominated pop star Katy Perry and comedian and talk show host Stephen Colbert.

“I hate to sound crass, but if they’re famous we want them as a guest,” Tyson said. “It’s tactical — we’re going to show people science who never thought they liked science, or better yet, people who are sure they don’t like science. If they follow the cleebrity to the show, we have them stay for the science.”

“Star Talk” airs Sundays at 11/10c on National Geographic.

Michael Schneider and Neil deGrasse Tyson


IndieWire’s “TURN IT ON with Michael Schneider” is a weekly dive into what’s new and what’s now on TV — no matter what you’re watching or where you’re watching it. With an enormous amount of choices overwhelming even the most sophisticated viewer, “TURN IT ON” is a must-listen for TV fans looking to make sense of what to watch and where to watch it.

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