Onward to the Edge: Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson amazes on Reddit

The Ask Me Anything session with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson yesterday was so illuminating and inspiring that it's already prompted talk of a monthly series. 


Kevin Morris


Posted on Nov 14, 2011   Updated on Jun 3, 2021, 1:24 am CDT

Neil deGrasse Tyson is the king of Reddit.

That’s a title the eminently rational astrophysicist and educator would no doubt decline, but too bad. The man has been a major celebrity on the science-friendly, social news site, thanks to his unique ability to communicate complex scientific principles and promote science in the United States.

And yesterday, he conducted a brilliant and illuminating Ask Me Anything (AMA) session, one of the best Reddit has ever seen.

The thread collected over 10,000 comments in 24 hours and saw deGrasse Tyson’s comment karma score skyrocket to nearly 80,000 over just three days—most likely a record jump over such a short time period. (The only other contender, Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings, has yet to surpass 65,000 comment karma.)

The AMA only lasted about two hours, meaning that a whole lot of redditors were left answer-less. That’s no reason for despair, however. DeGrasse Tyson will soon host the new Cosmos series on FOX; he’s active on Twitter; and he was recently featured in Symphony of Science’s latest “Onward to the Edge!”

Even better, DeGrasse Tyson finished by proposing a monthly appearance on Reddit.

“I’ve always admired the intensity of arguments that unfold on these pages,” he wrote.

We’ve collected a few of deGrasse Tyson’s responses below. Click the user name to view the full discussion started by each question:

Q: What is your favorite short science fact you like to tell people to really make them think? (redwater)

A: That our bodies atoms are traceable to supernova stars that scattered their chemical enrichment across the cosmos, spawning the birth of star systems that contain planets, at least one of them containing life.

Q: What never fails to blow your mind in physics?  (guitard00d123)

A:  1) The fact that an electron has no known size — it’s smaller than the smallest measurement we have ever made of anything.

2) That Quarks come only in pairs: If you try to separate two of them, the energy you sink into the system to accomplish this feat is exactly the energy to spontaneously create two more quarks – one to partner with each of those you pulled apart.

3) That the space-time structure inside a rotating black hole does not preclude the existence of an entire other universe. MindBlown x 3

Q: What do you think will be the biggest scientific breakthrough upcoming in the next 50 years? (agoody117)

A: Life elsewhere in the solar system. Mars, most likely.

Q: What are you feelings on religion and the afterlife, and are you scared to die? (Reasonable_Roger).

A: “I remain unconvinced that anything other than rapid decomposition is the fate of my body and mind after death. I’ve accomplished enough in life so that I do not fear death. In fact, I’ve left instructions for my Epitaph – a quote from the educator, Horace Mann: “Be Ashamed to Die, Until You Have Scored Some Victory for Humanity”. That’s the creed I live by. And will die by.”

Q: If a taco and a burrito are traveling near the speed of light and collide, will the result be delicious? (detaer)

A: The result would be an explosion large enough to destroy a small village. high speed collisions do that, whether or not they are made of Mexican food.

Q: Can we inspire more kids to pursue space-related science and research? If so, how? (h3h)

A: Kids are never the problem. They are born scientists. The problem is always the adults. The beat the curiosity out of the kids. They out-number kids. They vote. They wield resources. That’s why my public focus is primarily adults.

Photo by NeilTyson

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*First Published: Nov 14, 2011, 12:07 pm CST