Saturday, March 31, 2012

Neil DeGrasse Tyson -- I scream for you like a leetle girl!

I did scream for you, Neil, my beloved astrophysicist, although I did not scream for Wil Wheaton, even though he probably deserves it, what with all the cool roles that I've never seen him in -- besides Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: TNG back in the day.

mar 194 That is just so Neil-looking

And where the hell was this? It was at Star Talk Live at the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, also starring Paul F. Tompkins and Kristen Schaal. I'll let my Blogging Notebook of Rich, Chocolatey Doom take over from here:

I've quickly found a seat at the Neptune theater, cameramen are setting up, and the people sitting on either side of me and behind me are all touching their phone screens -- I am not joking! I could probably even take pictures of this without any of them noticing, but it doesn't seem worth the bother.
` I've been sitting here for some time, watching people streaming in, some wearing "Drunk Blogger" tags. [Considering that I'm currently drunk, I should be wearing one of those now!]
` I'm up in the front row of the balcony and have a good view of the giant circular grate on the ceiling, and all the stained-glass windows and creepy Neptune heads with glowing purple eyes. And the spotlights shift, the water bottles are set in place...
` This guy next to me was saying that Richard Dawkins is so much more noticeably stuffier when speaking alongside Neil, and also seems to be gay, and I interjected to say that Richard is actually married to Dr. Who Timelord Lalla Ward, which he thought was nerdy.
` The girl next to me also asked what I was writing, and I told her it's for my blog, and she said she was thinking of starting her own blog -- I recommended Blogger (because it's the only one I know) and told her how it practically sets itself up.
` And now... is this a radio ad? It's like a movie trailer, without the screen! That must mean, the show's beginning! Here comes Eugene Mirman... to introduce....

IT'S HIM!! The Justin Bieber of Science! Along with Paul, Kristen and some guy they found out in the parking lot named Wil Wheaton. And now Neil is introducing Star Talk Radio [which I've only just now added to my podcast list].
` From left, that's Eugene, Paul, Kristen, Wil and Neil -- and the rest of the theater:

mar 176 Live at the Neptune

[Disclaimer -- this post has less than 100% accuracy! As I was so thoroughly enjoying myself, I didn't bother to write much about a thing (in Squiggle Spoonhand, at that) unless it sounded like something that would translate well to text. To compensate, I reconstituted details that I remember but did not write down.]

Wil noticed that Tyson's sideburns are now pointed -- wow.

Wait a minute, the buttons on Star Trek don't do anything?! Wil says he made up button sequences, but no one cared! And then he wrote a book about it which no one bought! Awww!

You know, I really have to see The Big Bang Theory, now that both Wil and Neil have been on it.

Wow! Wil can still squawk like Wesley?

While we're at the Neptune, Neil figured he should talk about misbehaving Pluto and how it's a Matchbox car next to the planet Neptune, if it were a Toyota. Yeah.

LOL! Neil is so old that he didn't think doors would ever open when you walk up to them, like they do in Star Trek! Crazy!
` Wil actually came up with a bit in Star Trek TNG where he's confused at doors that don't open automatically because he's never seen such a thing!

This would explain a lot: Rick Santorum is the offspring of the inter-alien sex in Ringworld! Of course! Why didn't I see it before?

Why does Captain Picard have a British accent? Because Britain took over France -- that's the real purpose of the Chunnel! LOL! Really, there's a whole web ring devoted to this on geocities! [As amusing as that might be, I'm not going to bother checking out the insanity.]

mar 181

This is something that I've sometimes wondered about: Since doctors got the word "Venereals" first, aliens from Venus now are called "Venusians." Of course, this point is related to the question of how Captain Kirk managed to keep his dick from disintegrating.

Our telescopes are frickin' amazing, so Eugene advises us to wear a lead robe around the house.

We can't hear sounds from things in space, so let's send the Black Eyed Peas there!

Windows are cloaking devices because they're transparent to visible light? AWESOME!! And so is our atmosphere! WHOA, DUDE!!!

OMG, this girl is texting on her phone right next to me! Like, SRSLY?

mar 185 The girl next to me is texting NOW?

I'd nearly forgotten this -- air temperature is the same in the shade as in the sun. Paul: "You shadegers (?) make me sick!"
` Apparently, I'm having some technical difficulties with my Scribble Spoonhand, because I've documented Kristen as saying: "So, the sun is cloaking thar (!?)."

Neil is describing the electromagnetic spectrum.

mar 188

Paul: "It's so violet, it's like... ultra violet!"

So, when you leave Seattle, it's ultra-Seattle, and Pike's Place Market is infra-Seattle!

The color 'indigo' doesn't belong -- Newton made that up just so he could have seven colors. But then, he discovered that there was more to light than just what he could see in the prism below the color red.

mar 191

Kristen: "That prism was cloaking, by the way."

Indeed, Newton's thermometer discovered infrared light, as infrared was even hotter than red!
` Paul: "But is that thermometer on a stamp? No, but Elvis is!"

Wil is talking about how the MRI was invented by a guy who got the idea from Star Trek! Neil adds that this guy was actually a physics professor of his! Apparently, one of the two "n" words ("nuclear") was originally in the name of the device but was later removed so that people wouldn't freak out because of its presence in hospitals!
` Evidently, anything in a hospital with an on/off switch was invented by a physicist, not a doctor, and originally was not developed for medical reasons at all.

Now we're transitioning to the next segment, but we're not actually having a break.
` Eugene: "Joke's on those people who thought they were going to pee. ... You can, just don't get up."
` And then Niel says, "Welcome back to Star Talk Live!" and we're all cheering again.

They're talking about how necessary geeks are in the realm of science and technology and I shouted, "I love you, geeks!" [like a leetle girl] and Neil said, "Someone just had a flashback!"
` Now that I think about it, I never had the chance to go to high school, but if I did, I would totally have been all over the geeks.

Tyson himself had been a geek-jock, captain of the wrestling team.
` Varsity inhaler squad! LOL!
` Tidal locking is how we own the moon. But then, the moon is trying to do that to us! And the Double-Tidal Lock was a wrestling move he tried to invent, but didn't quite succeed.

Important cool thing: The Earth doesn't "rise" from one's perspective on the moon because one side of the moon always faces the earth -- how could I have never thought about that?!?! Maybe it's because of that "Earthrise" photo, which is actually a product of the astronauts orbiting the moon, cresting the horizon!
` Now it all makes sense!!

Geek -- it's an approach to life. There are even Sex in the City geeks -- i.e. middle aged women who went to the SitC movie dressed up as the characters. And Wil used to go to Rocky Horror -- now he's doing the Time Warp! (I didn't bother getting a picture, thus missing the opportunity to create a reference point as to which of my pictures I took when.)

He is talking about his characters in third person again, and Neil calls him on that, so Wil says, "Hey, I don't tell you how to science!"
` Then, Eugene points out that, "William Shatner doesn't know he's not Captain Kirk, that's different."

mar 195

Neil apparently was geeking out over Wil when they met the first time, and he screeched and said, "That sound actually came out of my mouth!"
` Luckily, @WilW says that people don't try to steal his hair on Twitter.

Apparently, there's also a Geek Passion drink down at the bar, but I prefer staying here, thank you!

Interesting -- cell phones don't work as well in the rain because water affects their microwave signals. That also must be why they don't work well underwater, either! LOL!
` Even more interesting, there's a non-lethal weapon that's a microwave beam that burns people's surface moisture. You can even use microwaves to heat up food -- wait, this sounds like that imaginary device from Star Trek!
` Kristen: "I just wanted to say, Non-Lethal Weapon was the first draft and it was really boring."

How many people call microwaving their food "nuking" it? Well, you're wrong!! It has nothing to do with nuclear anything, it's just rotating the molecules.
` Kristen: "So, we molec it? ... Friction does a lot!" Hence, plate tectonics is sooo hot!

As for Wil's character Dr. Parish, his favorite nonsensical device that went awry was the Heisenberg Unstabilizer -- or one of the things he mentioned. Whatever it is, it turns off gravity.
` Neil points out that it actually would not turn off gravity so much as an object would stay where it is and the planet would move on. Thus, we're lying to our children!!

The orbit of a space station is 88 minutes, the same amount of time if you fell through the center of the earth and came back, thus orbiting the center of the earth. Cool!
` Mirman throws a water bottle to test this out, but it bounces off the floor. "Way to be a team player, Earth!"
` We, on the surface of the earth, orbit every 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds or whatever, so we're in a pretty stable geosynchronous orbit.

Although MASERS already existed in the universe, it was technically Einstein who came up with the idea. And now we have bar codes!!
` Paul: "How close is Einstein to taking the world hostage?"
` Wil adds, "He's like the Hank Scorpio of real people!"

Neil bought his first telescope with the money he earned from dog-walking, which was so long ago it was back before people were required to pick up after their dogs!
` Wil: "That was back in the poop era, all the way to the horizon, there was nothing but poop!"

In the 1960's, people used to think that we'd have jet packs and flying cars because this was supposed to be the energy age, where we would have unlimited energy, but instead, this is the information age. So, if aliens were to come down, we would have to tell them that we are still pulling energy from the ground.
` "But, in our defense," Wil adds, "the streets are clean of poop."

If there was some invention you would want to exist, what would it be? Eugene would rather have a Green Lantern ring or a Mind Control helmet.
` Kristen is running away -- to the bathroom! Darn water! (She's only the first.)
` How about a Super-kinetic beam? Eugene uses his "telekinesis" to make Wil throw things. Apparently, he is more into wanting there to be magic than science fiction.

But Neil is not creative enough to know what in 50 years people can't imagine living without. In Back to the Future, the creativity involved inventing concepts like being fired via fax machine. That just never happened, sorry.

[Also, I took this picture just after Paul and Kristen "zinged" Wil and Neil, but I couldn't remember what it was that they'd said:]

mar 196

[Rest assured, though, Wil and Neil zinged them back!]

mar 197

[Sorry I couldn't remember what was going on there, but I do remember it was pretty funny. Because I didn't write that part down, I missed yet another opportunity to create a reference point between my photos and my words. Way to go, me!]

And now, Star Talk After Hours Q&A -- a line is forming!

mar 209

This guy asks how a humble paralegal like himself can promote science.

Of course, you can embrace it -- you can be a comedian and host shows like this one, be a politician and understand the science behind the policies -- and the rest of us can at the very least understand what to vote for!

This woman, behind him, is studying to be an astrophysicist. Neil says of her struggles, "But it's a good hard," and then thinks about that statement a second.
` At another point, he says, "You know what you know what you know," and Eugene says, "And that's it!" LOL!

So, how can an ordinary person get into space? One way involves a space lottery! And Wil says, of winning the golden ticket, "I don't want to be in a spaceship with Willy Wonka! I was already in a spaceship with a Klingon and that Barclay guy."

Meta-Question? I don't remember exactly what that was, but the Meta-Answer involved football players figuring out not to slam geeks against lockers because they were the only ones who understood computers. Today, we can find each other in the Geekaverse!

The last girl looks "marvelous(?) for 12 times around the sun."
` She asks about the whole 2012 thing, involving "The end of the world," (waving her arms melodramatically).
` Neil's answer: 1) The Mayans didn't predict the end of their civilization, and the idea that they did comes from people who like being miserable; 2) The Mayans thought the universe began in 3112(?or something) B.C. and so were more than 13 billion years off; 3) We know all the major sources of gravity in our solar system so it's clear that there's no Niburu; 4) This alignment of the earth and the sun and the center of the galaxy -- where there is a black hole -- happens every year, and we're still here.
` Eugene: "No, we're not!"

At one point, the girl's voice keeps cracking so much that Eugene gave her a bottle of water -- which contains molecules that passed through the kidneys of Ghengis Khan, who would be laughing at us right now!

mar 214 Girl gets water

She then asks if she's going to be on the radio. Neil says "Yes," and then she starts jumping up and down. I dare say Neil has gotten her all blurry!

mar 217 Girl jumping up and down

Part of being scientifically literate is knowing how to ask the right questions, or something like that, and now I'm walking out of the building! Here's me, crossing the street in a daze:

mar 221 Me walking away

It was a bit of a fight to get out of the entrance, as you can see:

mar 222 Other people hanging about

And a lot of these people were texting!! Like, seriously?!?

Anyway, that is the end of my evening, and I must run out the door this second and so will not be doing any further editing to this post, it's fine the way it is, and I'll be back next time with a post about going to another science-advocacy event, albeit of a different kind.
` After that, I'll be posting my own stuff, rather than just recording what I see.

P.S. I would like to add that Lou Ryan is now complaining that I'm too busy working on my writing. Last post, as you may recall, he complained that I didn't work enough on that stuff. I give up trying to please him!!

Edit: I've been getting feedback (see comments), including from the Twitterverse:

JC said: Your recap of StarTalk Live was almost as amazing as the event itself.

Me: RLY? I had no idea!

JC: You really captured all the high notes for those of us who were there.

Me: So, do you think I have a chance to make myself useful in this movement?

JC: Without question!! It is a collective effort, and we succeed only with those who contribute. Your enthusiasm is unmatched.

Me: So, if I believe in myself, it can actually work out? Not only that, but I can STAND OUT?

JC: As far as I am concerned, you are already standing out. Just keep at it.

Next time I see JC, along with Matt Crowley, Paul Case, and anyone else who's said they like my posts, I will make sure my brains short out in astonishment right in front of them so that they can see the effect this has on me themselves.

Edit: If you would like to listen to this episode of Star Talk Live, here is Part 1, and there's Part 2.


  1. Last time I checked, there was a comment here, but it's gone now!

    SO CLOSE!!!

  2. O.K. I'll Try this again...Thanks for taking me to Neptune! Always have wanted to go and Tyson is so inspiring! I've been enjoying your blog and am looking forward to much more from the mad science writer. I have no idea what happened to my previous post. bastards.

  3. Ha! Thank you, Zimmerman! Well, I see you're following my blog, so thanks for keeping tabs. Glad I could take you somewhere you wanted to go!

    And as for why your comment didn't display, maybe the blog thought you were a spammer? The nerve!

  4. Linked to your post from mine:

    That was quite a night. Enjoyed that panel a lot. I got the last tickets in the house.

  5. Brilliant job barely scraping your way into the show. You must have gotten a lot of practice from college, then?

    "When the stage panel was talking about Ringworld it was Martin who shouted “its unstable!” The motif persisted throughout the night."

    Aha, so it was him!! I felt I should have included that part, because they kept saying stuff like, "Oh, the black hole, it's unstable!" and whatever, but there was just too much awesomeness to write even half of it down!


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