Article Lead Image

Nerds rejoice! Stephen Wolfram and Paul Lutus hit Reddit’s live-interview section

What do you get when an award-winning astrophysicist, genius, and former NASA shuttle engineer visit Reddit? Find out in the week's best Reddit AMAs. 


Kevin Morris

Internet Culture

Posted on Mar 6, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 8:28 pm CDT

It was a week for nerds and geeks on Reddit as a broad spectrum of geekdom lit up the site’s live-interview section.

Superstar astrophysicist and educator Neil deGrasse Tyson finished up his trilogy of AMAs on Sunday. This time around questions got a lot less scientific and a lot more silly. (“who is your celebrity crush?”) Still, you can almost feel the separation anxiety as Tyson bid adieu to his Reddit fans.

Tyson was accompanied this week by former boy genius turned recluse turned adult genius Stephen Wolfram, former NASA shuttle engineer Paul Lutus, and Tim Shafer, the designer of hugely successful adventure games such as Monkey Island 2, Fandango, and Day of the Tentacle.

If that wasn’t enough, Charley Koontz, the actor who plays lovable mega geek and Dungeons and Dragons fan Fat Neil on NBC’s Community, stopped by on Wednesday.

So brace yourself for a geekgasm (you know, if that’s how you react to this kind of thing) as you read this week’s best AMAs.

Below, we’ve compiled the top seven posts (seven being our lucky number) from Reddit’sr/IAmA this week, as voted by redditors themselves. We’ve also included a sample question and answer from each. For the complete list, check here.

A note on terminology: AMA stands for “ask me anything,” while “IAmA” is simply “I am a;” AMAA means “ask me almost anything.”


1. I am Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ask Me Anything…

Q: What can you tell a young man looking for motivation in life itself? (yourflysopen)

A: The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation.
For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And along the way, lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.

2. I’m Stephen Wolfram (Mathematica, NKS, Wolfram|Alpha, …), Ask Me Anything

Q: Do you believe that the ‘Technological Singularity’ is coming, and if so, when? How soon do you think we will see AI pass the Turing test? (lambo91)

A: I think the Turing test will creep up on us. There will be more and more “outsourcing” of human activities (remembering things, figuring things out, recognizing things, etc.) to automated systems. And the line between what’s human and what’s machine will blur.
For example, I wouldn’t be surprised if a future Wolfram|Alpha wouldn’t be inserted in the loop for peoples’ email or texts: if you want to ask someone a simple question, their “AI” might respond for them.

3. I am a Tim Schafer, ask me about Loom! Or anything you want!

Q: Is there any “motto” that you follow when designing your games? What inspires your designs? (Gamexcb)

A: Lets see… “All games are wish fulfillments…” “don’t be afraid of stupid-sounding ideas…” (three-headed-monkey rule) “get home by 6:30 so my wife doesn’t get mad…”

4. IAmA former NASA Space Shuttle engineer, created “Apple Writer”, retired at 35, sailed solo around the world, became Oregon’s “Scientist of the Year”. AMAA.

Q: Describe your perfect Sunday. (Arsingr)

A: I was working on the Shuttle in the early 1970s. One Sunday I decided to take a bike ride.
I saw a hot-air balloon in the distance, moving slowly across the landscape, slow enough so I could keep up.
For the next four hours, I pedaled by bike and tried to stay directly under the balloon. It was great fun — like being in the balloon, but on the ground at the same time. It was a pretty day, with just the slightest wind blowing.
Finally the balloonists decided to land. I jumped off my bike, caught their mooring line, and kept them from drifting into a tree.
It was the most perfect experience.

5. I am Charley Koontz, I play Fat Neil on NBC’s Community AMA

Q: How do you feel about the story of Fat Neil? (ra602)

A: really great actually. It’s hard for a heavier actor to get parts where they are not just a fat joke for a half second. so when I got the D&D episode and had the opportunity to be featured so heavily and also have such a complete arc it was really exciting. I learned a lot about me as an actor while I was doing it. I can’t ignore what I look like, its ok to comment on it because its a real thing. but at the same time I try to control it. I have a sense of humor about it, but I don’t wanna portray characters that are just the butt of the joke.

6. We are the filmmakers behind AMA! or rather “Ask Us Anything!”

Q: Have any of you considered leaving the site? It seems like you have kept your cast fairly consistent? How nice is the atmosphere? (OriginalBubs)

A: We all have dreams of bigger and better things but what would we do without 5sf? We’ve been doing this for so long and so consistently that it’s been ingrained into our brains. I mean, in the end my goal is to not have to work stupid soul sucking jobs to stay financially afloat and just focus on comedy. I love 5sf and whenever I get exhausted and mentally drained (which happens a lot) from the grind I get cheered up when the site gets a really sincere email or comment from a fan. I’ve made a lot of friends because they love 5sf. Feels pretty good.

7. I am a writer, director and other things, too (Boy, Eagle vs Shark, Flight of the Conchords). I’m Taika Waititi. Ask me anything!

Q: I’d really like to know how you achieve that perfect balance of sadness and humor in a scene. (ashmaht)

A:Getting the balance of humour and sadness is a wonderfully hard thing to do. I spent months on both films trying to get it right. You’re trying to make a film that is neither all comedy or all drama, it’s something in between. The problem with making films like this is they are hard to market – audiences need to know exactly what they are seeing. They know what Spiderman 13 will be like but with a small film from NZ that’s sad and charming and funny and poignant etc it’s hard to convey that on a poster. Usually my scripts read funny in the first half and depressing in the second, so I have to go through and punch them up with a few gags to balance the 2nd half.

Photo of Paul Lutus 

Share this article
*First Published: Mar 6, 2012, 3:01 pm CST