Neil DeGrasse Tyson On Big Data and Why Work-Life Balance Is Overrated

Neil de grasse tyson
Neil deGrasse Tyson is an author, TV host, meme-spawner — and Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History.

In a recent podcast with FiveThirtyEight he talked about how data is revolutionizing astronomy and why he hates work-life “balance.” He started the conversation by talking about how science is everywhere:

Don’t confuse science literacy with possessing a body of knowledge. Science literacy — it’s an aspect of it, of course. Science literacy is more, how is your brain wired for thought? Are you wired for curiosity? Are you wired for doubt — in search of evidence, in search of data to arrive at a conclusion rather than start your day with preexisting conclusion and cherry-picking data to fit it? And so the more examples I can put on the table about how science moves through our culture, the more people will feel comfortable about it and not walk away guilty that maybe they didn’t do well in science class or they didn’t take enough science. I can tell you curiosity matters more than your body of knowledge.

DeGrasse Tyson still does a bit of research though he mostly works on books and analyzes data obtained by the Hobble telescope. The amount of data is constantly growing:

“We’ve been into big data from the beginning, long before anybody knew the term ‘big data.’ We have the universe we’re measuring here. So that, in principle, is the biggest data set of them all.”

Together with his staff, they gather data from around the world telescopes and make them coherent with one another to compare them in a meaningful way. Reconciling the different times is an effort to be on the same footing to work with real data during the space shows. Everything is now on a computer.

When discussing how he juggled athletic pursuits with studying, DeGrasse Tyson says there was never any balance:

They were never balances. When I was wrestling I should have been studying and when I was studying I said I want to get back on the mat. There is the psychological discomfort knowing you should be doing something else and we presume balance is a good thing. The very fact that you ask the question that way implies that we should seek balance in our lives.

There are whole philosophies on that. […] what I can tell you is that when something is out of balance, you can get quite innovative in your attempts to resolve that fact.

DeGrasse Tyson says in his life he resolved that imbalance by getting to new talents and new investigations. Providing you still get stuff done, that's quite a fun ride, he says. He continued to like wrestling in college where he mostly lost:

Not enough people embrace the hard in life.

Press play above to stream the full episode of What’s The Point with Tyson after minute 4:46.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *