back to article US astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson: US is losing science race

Rock star astrophysicist Neil Tyson says the United States has lost pole position in scientific research and its people must refocus on innovation rather than wait for "the next app". Tyson (@neiltyson), Carl Sagan's former student and the narrator of recent popular documentary series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, said …

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  1. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Craving Attention

      A science communicator craves attention... oh the humanity.

      We might as well round up Tyson, Sagan's corpse, Michio Kaku, Brian Greene, Ray Kurzweil, etc. and drop them into a black hole.

      1. Vociferous

        Re: Craving Attention

        To be perfectly honest, not much of scientific value would be lost.

    2. ItsNotMe
      Pint

      Re: Craving Attention

      "I was never a fan of Neil Tyson. Ever since he decided to take it upon himself to demote Pluto from being a planet,..."

      I couldn't agree more. And on, or about, 14 July 2015, when the New Horizons Mission to Pluto flies by, I hope that his "theories" on Pluto are completely debunked...and he is made to look like a complete fool...which he is.

      http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/august/nasa-s-new-horizons-spacecraft-crosses-neptune-orbit-en-route-to-historic-pluto/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Craving Attention

        Q: Does the classification of Pluto affect its scientific merit? A: No.

        Q: Did Neil deGrasse Tyson "demote" Pluto? A: No, the International Astronomical Union did.

        Q: Who is the fool? A: It's not me.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Craving Attention

          Q: Did Neil deGrasse Tyson "demote" Pluto? A: No, the International Astronomical Union did.

          Tyson demoted Pluto.

          http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/tyson/listen/2009/01/23/living-on-earth-the-pluto-files

          http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/pluto-files.html: "When the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium stopped calling Pluto a planet, director Neil deGrasse Tyson found himself at the center of a firestorm led by angry Pluto-loving elementary school students."

          Way before the IAU even discussed Pluto's status, Tyson removed Pluto from the Hayden Planetarium's Hall of Planets. People asked where it was and he told them Pluto could be found in the floor below in an exhibit about asteroids.

          As he explained this on Letterman, he famously laughed as noted how children were crying when they saw Pluto was missing.

          I have absolutely no respect for ANYONE that thinks a child's tears are funny, under any circumstances.

          Tyson was the first to demote Pluto, then he opened the debate about Pluto's status.

          Does the demotion of Pluto affect it as all. No. But astronomy exists beyond science, it is meant to inspire us. What Tyson did fails to inspire.

    3. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Craving Attention

      Neil deGrasse Tyson > you

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Craving Attention

        Probably the majority of his lecture and conclusions are researched with as much care as his typical little anecdotes about politicians; that is made up from disconnected sources and not to be trusted. Pity he can't be honest about it.

    4. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      "...Carl Sagan's former student..."

      They reportedly met, but was NdGT actually CS's "student"?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    who?

    outside of silly reddit memes why should I know this guy again?

    (honest question, not trolling)

    1. intrigid

      Re: who?

      He's the host of a major prime-time hour-long science show in the US.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: who?

        @intrigid, so no one of any real importance then.

      2. Fungus Bob Silver badge

        Re: who?

        There's an hour-long science show in the US?!

        How did that happen?

        1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: who?

          "...an hour-long science show in the US?!"

          PBS.

          More generally, on North American satellite or digital Cable TV, waaaasy up into the 4-digit channel numbers, there's actually some high brow programming. Problem is, you have to be in the $100/month cost area before such channels come into view.

          "There's nothing on TV worth watching", means " I choose not to pay $1200+ per year for access to high quality TV channels."

        2. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: who?

          "There's an hour-long science show in the US?!

          How did that happen?"

          A mistake that will soon be recta, rectie, recter, er fixed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: who?

      "outside of silly reddit memes why should I know this guy again?"

      Well, Wikipedia would rather you not know about all the things he fabricates:

      http://thefederalist.com/2014/09/23/8-absurd-edit-justifications-by-wikipedias-neil-tyson-truthers/

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: who?

        "Well, Wikipedia would rather you not know about all the things he fabricates:"

        From the page you linked:

        "...we have historical evidence that Jesus Christ existed."

        Umm, we have? When? What?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: who?

          I know, I saw that Jesus thing too. It's a shame that someone who is in the process of exposing a coverup has to also insert something as bone-headed as that. I guess I should have gone with one of the many other articles about it, such as one from the Washington Post:

          http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/09/22/does-neil-degrasse-tyson-make-up-stories/

          No mention of Jesus in that WaPo piece.

        2. Fungus Bob Silver badge

          Re: who?

          ""...we have historical evidence that Jesus Christ existed."

          Umm, we have? When? What?"

          Josephus mentioned him in his Antiquities of the Jews.

          Tacitus made reference to the crucifiction of Jesus by Pontius Pilate in his Annals.

          Celsus and Lucian of Samosata also wrote about Jesus.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: who?

            "Josephus mentioned him in his Antiquities of the Jews.

            Tacitus made reference to the crucifiction of Jesus by Pontius Pilate in his Annals.

            Celsus and Lucian of Samosata also wrote about Jesus."

            Josephus, Tacitus and Lucian were all born well after 33AD, and so do not represent true historical mentions of Jesus. There was a contemporary Celsus, but I can't find any mentions by him via google. What are your references?

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: who?

          Well, apart from near historical records such as the Pauline letters, the letters of James, and two or three (possibly later insertions) mentions in Josephus, only the Gospels and other early church writings. It would be possible to assert that Jesus as a person did not exist but the evidence that he did, although largely circumstantial, is pretty good.

          That the Jesus of the Gospels truly represents the historical Jesus is another issue; the evidence that he was in fact one of a number of Jewish sectarians of the time preaching the imminent return of Jehovah and with it the (possibly spiritual rather than bodily) resurrection of the dead is also quite strong. And as such that he taught a fairly stringent form of traditional Judaism with an emphasis on Doing rather than simply Faith is also probably true.

          But the historical evidence of the existence of Jesus as a person is strong.

  3. ZSn

    Salary

    Yes, but if you compare the salary of a research physicist and that of a mediocre programmer (and to be downvoted by the score - most are mediocre) you can see why science doesn't get the kudos it did. We worship at the alter of apple, purveyors of phones, and ignore the wealth and health that science gave us.

    1. Kevin 6

      Re: Salary

      IMO it also doesn't help that to get a job in a science field in the US you are expected to be an unpaid slave for a few years as a research assistant to get some of the typical 5 years of experience any place in the US wants from recent grads for that mediocre pay(that is unless you know someone then that is ignored).

      1. Captain DaFt

        Re: Salary

        I've always thought that if teachers and researchers were revered/paid like celebrities and professional athletes are, we'd have colonies around Tau Ceti by now.

    2. Gray
      Headmaster

      Re: Salary

      It would make far more sense if the political and educational leaders in the USofA would pull their heads out of their collective asses ... and take a look around at the huge financial roadblock to higher education here.

      Thanks to the sweetheart "good ol' boy" arrangements between the banks and Congress, student loan debt in America now exceeds $1 Trillion dollars and is increasing at a rapid rate. It is so huge, it is now acknowledged as contributing to a lame economic recovery that is largely based on hopes of a consumer upsurge. Graduates are carrying too much crushing, high-interest student loan debt, and are pushed to take the highest-paying job they can find. That probably won't be in a science or research field.

      Increasingly, bright young people are being shut out of higher education, as right-wing "conservative" politics slash scholarship and student aid budgets. And middle-class families, who have seen their earning erode for the last three decades, can hardly afford student tuition increases that have soared well above acknowledged inflation rates. IE, a year's tuition and fees at my state's premiere public university, the University of Washington, is now at $28,000 per year. (A typical textbook is now $300 or $400 for a science book.)

      My 16-year-old grandson is a 3.8 GPA high school student, taking Advanced Placement classes in his junior year (3rd year), and he is extremely active in computer and ROTC activities. He's completely locked out of any possibility of becoming a biological scientist, which is his wish, given his family income and soaring university costs, and the current lack of sufficient student aid. The best hope is a US Military scholarship which the US Defense Department funds for a total of about $1 Billion per year. BUT ... of the 25,000 students who apply every year, only 4,000 will be chosen ... and the criteria is not based on need. If successful, the scholarship requires a commitment of 8 years military service.

      In short, IMHO, America has decided to outsource its access to brain power. Let other nations invest in science education. We'll reserve our aid dollars for young military officers, and let all the others be indentured servants to the American banking system during their productive lifetimes.

      America has been engaged in slashing and burning its infrastructure and social budgets for the last few decades. I call it "eating our seed corn" as a foolish system of government cutbacks.

      (/rant)

      1. Gray
        Facepalm

        Re: Salary

        it has been reported that in 2009 the US gave $486 Million worth of cargo aircraft ( a total of 16 C-27 cargo haulers) to the Afghanistan government. These planes were purchased from Italy and refurbished at US expense by a military contractor.

        This year the Afghanistan government demolished all 16 aircraft, shredded them, and sold them for scrap metal priced at $0.06 per pound. Total recovery? $32,000. That is a conversion of $486,000,000 ==> $32,000. That works out to a loss of 99.993%. The problem? At the time of the "gift" to Afghanistan, they had no spare parts, no maintenance capabilities, and no pilots trained to fly the C-27s. The planes spent the entire time parked in the runway weeds until they were finally scrapped. None was ever flown in service by the Afghans.

        How many four-year university scholarships could be awarded to US students seeking science degrees, if $486 million were made available for the program?

        Hell, I'd even take the $32,000 the Afghan government got for the scrap metal. That would put one student through a full year, and pay board & room besides. Maybe the kid would go on to help cure cancer.

        Sad. Don't look to the US for any form of leadership anytime soon. We're done for.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Salary

        Can confirm; am your average, evil conservative that literally hates college students... especially students attending the University of Washington.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Salary

      It's true that higher-education funding in the US is badly broken, and that the career track for new science graduates is highly flawed as well. This is broadly true of all the STEM fields - there was a piece in CACM not long ago pointing out that poorly-compensated, temporary post-docs are the main source of employment for new CS PhDs, for example.

      Despite that, the US still produces more STEM graduates at all levels than any other country (at least the last I checked), still publishes more basic research, still generates more patents... Tyson and others can say that the US is "falling behind", but it's far from clear what metric justifies that evaluation. Falling behind whom, and on what grounds?

      I'd like to see more money spent on primary and secondary R&D. I'd like to see STEM grads get good jobs (and see those jobs distributed more equitably, instead of the lion's share going to grads from a handful of schools, for highly dubious reasons). I'd like to see higher-ed funding fixed. But I'm not sure that "we're falling behind" is a valid justification for those things. "It'd be broadly useful for everyone" seems a lot more plausible and persuasive.

  4. intrigid

    I'll tell you one thing

    While science may be more important than the next big app, there's one major thing that the next big app trumps in terms of usefulness, and that would be space exploration.

    Few things drive me as bonkers as reading about scientists getting excited over discovering water droplets in an otherwise uninhabitable planet 2,000 light years away. These people are being allowed to use billions of dollars worth of scarce resources on their fruitless pipe dreams about space utopia that were brainwashed into them by Gene Roddenberry.

    1. LaeMing Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: I'll tell you one thing

      But spunking three orders of magnitude more money on new ways to kill people is all okey dokey.

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: I'll tell you one thing

      "Few things drive me as bonkers as reading about scientists getting excited over discovering water droplets in an otherwise uninhabitable planet 2,000 light years away."

      Then you must be absolutely livid at the billions spent annually just to enable people to watch other people kick, bat, toss, club, swat, dribble, and carry various balls around.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >The centre of particle physics is in Switzerland.

    The centre of particle physics is in Europe and is funded and staffed by Europe + Friends. Please give credit where it is due.....

    TFTFY.

  6. ma1010 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Spot on

    Tyson is absolutely right. Back in the 1950's and 60's, US schools spent a lot of time on STEM, creating the next generation of engineers, the guys who brought about innovations such as clean cars (air pollution was horrible in the 60s), computers, communications satellites, cell phones, microwave ovens and many other things people take for granted nowadays. Today the schools mainly seem to be geared towards getting kids to memorize the answers to standardized tests with less time spent on actually teaching them to think, or so it seems to me. Not sure exactly how it happened, but certainly the U.S. is not the hotbed of innovation it was in the 20th century. Look how our space program -- once the world leader -- is now pretty much gone. Supposedly they're working on a new rocket and even perhaps a mission to Mars someday, and we put people on the moon 40+ years ago, but now the U.S. can't even get people to LEO -- we're dependent on others to get people to/from the ISS. How the hell did THAT happen?

    In Victorian times, Britain was the world leader in innovation. Then the U.S. took over that role and continued it through the 20th century. Now perhaps China? Certainly not the U.S. unless things change greatly here.

    1. dogged

      Re: Spot on

      > In Victorian times, Britain was the world leader in innovation.

      Wait, Alan Turing was a Victorian now?

      1. Dazed and Confused

        Re: Wait, Alan Turing was a Victorian now?

        His early life was largely based on what was expected of the child of a Victorian/Raj official.

        1. ian 22

          Re: Wait, Alan Turing was a Victorian now?

          And Turing was destroyed by Victorian laws.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spot on

      Right and wrong.

      US did drive science, technology and industrial innovations. However, in the last half century or so it did so by being able to attract the best talents from all over the world. Its leadership in this arena had little to do with the education system and lot to do with the good old green.

      Today’s talents can earn as much or enough by remaining in their home countries. Also, the advancement in information technology and communication means that they can stay home and innovate even working for American companies.

      The loss of leadership is not simply a problem of deficiencies in the American education system That even though we can all agree the education system here is broken

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And just wait until "Common Core" kicks in and we have another generation who knows all about oppression and barely anything about math.

  8. Yag

    " Carl Sagan's former student "

    Informations from other sources states he met Sagan once, but did not study with him...

    Care to clarify?

    1. Simon Rockman

      Re: " Carl Sagan's former student "

      Hey, I met Sagan once.

      Just saying...

  9. zen1

    He hit the nail square on the head. Kids seems to be more interested in becoming a professional athlete, a rap artist or a high ranking manager/director in a large corporation, without a need to work their way up. Furthermore, the US education system has become so mired down with shrinks who convinced that everybody just needs a hug or that everybody should win, just because they participated.

    I could go on a rather large rant but I'll stop here.

  10. William Donelson
  11. Alex Walsh

    I've often wondered who this bloke is. I see quite a lot of photos of him looked excited at a lectern with some quote next to him. Is he a sort of mobile version of Stephen Hawking?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      He's Stephen Hawking without the handicap. Almost.

  12. Nicko

    USA is not that great in science really...

    Rather than just pick abstract assesments ("I'm the leader", "No, I am" etc.), apply some metrics.

    A useful table for science is the number of Nobel Laureates per capita for different countries.

    Using that metric, of the major winners (*), Switzerland is 3rd with 24 per 10,000 pop, the UK is 8th with 15.4 per 10,000 pop and the USA languishes in 12th with 9.9 per 10,000 pop.

    What is interesting is that 9 of the top 10 countries are in Europe. So much for the USA leading the world in science - they do so by virtue of having a large (320 million) population only, not by any special aptitude they think that they may posses that differentiates them from others - indeed, compared with many European countries on this metric, they're pretty poor!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Nobel_laureates_per_capita#Scientific_prizes

    * Small countries that win one or two Nobel Prizes completely skew the figures

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: USA is not that great in science really...

      * Small countries that win one or two Nobel Prizes completely skew the figures

      Why should that matter? Are you saying that there is a threshold of bigness that makes small countries ineligible to be counted? Could we not say that countries are arbitrary boundaries set by and for purely political reasons often without regard for the people living there and while politics may help or hinder science it can't really stop it from happening. IIRC there were quite a few powerful political people way back when who were rather upset to find this rock isn't the center of the universe. The funny thing about globalization is that it does a rather nice job of leveling the playing field and makes geography less important.

      It's fairly pointless to compare swaths of dirt based on who is chosen for a particular prize regardless of the prize or the swath of dirt. To mangle an Onion article headline: You will suffer humiliation when the scientists from my area win more mobile prizes than the scientists from your area.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: USA is not that great in science really...

        Because Luxembourg having a single nobel prize winners might statistically give them 100x the winners/population that the USA has - it doesn't follow that Luxembourg is 100x better at science than the USA.

  13. nohorse

    anyone able to find a link to the video? it does not play embedded and I can;t find it on youtube

  14. nohorse

    link to original video?

  15. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Only themselves to blame

    > the United States has lost pole position in scientific research and its people must refocus

    A good start would be to teach actual science in schools, rather than creationism.

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