A Miami Q&A with Neil deGrasse Tyson


📷 Photo credit: Amazon.com

Interview lightly edited for brevity and clarity

What are your first impressions of the Magic City?

“All I can think of when I see the streets and the buildings and the shoreline is Miami Vice. I’m looking at the waterways that come through the city here and I’m fascinated.”

On how Miami had influenced him long before his arrival

The Miami Planetarium had Jack Horkheimer who had nationally broadcasted ‘The Star Hustler.’ He took to the public what we always say among astronomers, we always say ‘Keep Looking Up.’ He would end every show with ‘Keep Looking Up’ so that’s how I end every one of my podcasts.”

As the host of StarTalk Sports Edition… have any takes on our local teams?

I am completely distracted by the fact that the Miami Dolphins in the day, in the ’70s, went undefeated in the entire season. I still think about that all the time. Like, how is that even possible?! I can’t shake that memory. Of what that would have required and taken, and the legacy of that.”

What constellation best represents the Sunshine State?

I think of the relationship that Florida has to regional sea creatures. I’m intrigued by that because I’m from New York City and the state of New York has no such relationships with animals. There are many constellations that are animals, including sea creatures: cetus, which is the whale, delphinus, which is the dolphin. So I think Florida does well in that regard.”

His other Florida fascination

“I just love how they invented Gatorade. They analyzed the sweat of people and found out what you were losing on a hot, sweaty day and then said let’s put *those* in this drink so you’re not just simply rehydrated, you’re actually re-nourished with the minerals you were losing for having sweat. I thought that was a brilliant idea and the rest is history, of course.”

The ‘Cosmic Perspective‘ he has for Floridians regarding climate change

“If you’ve ever looked at a map of the world with no water in it — so you see the bottom of the terrain, the bottom of the ocean — you might notice the coastlines look a little different. For example, on the east coast of the United States is what we call the continental shelf, which extends far beyond our actual coastline before it drops off into the abyss of the ocean. And you might say, ‘well why is that? What is that?’

You know what that is? That’s a former coastline of North America, when the oceans had much less water in them during the Ice Age. For the longest time, North America was much larger because the coastline went much farther out in to the ocean. What I’m trying to convey here is when we think of what the land on earth looks like, it’s a very temporary thing.

20,000 years ago there was more land because there was less water in the ocean. The trend line now is that there’s more water in the ocean because we’re melting glaciers from Greenland and Antarctica. And as you add more water, we’ll have less coastline. And you know who’ll have the least coastline? It will be Florida, because the average elevation above sea level is lower for Florida than any other state. So Florida is at highest risk of completely changing because of climate change. There’s a limit to how long you can or should stand in denial of what’s happening, and Florida is the canary in that coal mine. Climate change is a world problem, and Florida is at the front lines of the consequences of climate change — doubly, because of the sea level change and the strength of storms that put Florida at risk.”