Can science be funny? Renowned astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson does. And that’s why he has teamed up with Comedy Central’s Lynn Koplitz for a new science-based radio talk show called .
Tyson says the show blends comedy, talk and great interviews with all kinds of people, from scientists and artists to TV celebrities like Stephen Colbert and Bill Nye.
‘The goal is to convince people that science is all around us,’ Tyson said in a telephone interview. ‘Science doesn’t have to be as though you’re taking medicine; you can have fun with it.’
Tyson said that he thinks his show will appeal most to the kind of working-class people he meets everyday who recognize him from the TV programs he has hosted or appeared on. ‘They’re discovery channel junkies, and they still want to learn. Maybe they didn’t get a chance to go to college, but they remained intellectually curious all their lives,’ he said.
‘I see this show as science for the common man. Science for people who never imagined they could have liked science at all,’ he added.
Essentially, the radio show will feature Tyson discussing some important scientific discovery or issue, and Koplitz ‘will riff on it.’ For example, Tyson asked, what would happen to you if you fell into a black hole?
‘Gravity would stretch you from head to toe, and it would rip apart your molecules. You’d fall into the center of the black hole as a stream of atoms. That’s kind of interesting,’ he said, chuckling. That topic and other far out disaster scenarios provide much of the fodder not only for science discussion but also the comedy on the program. Asteroids heading for earth aren’t named Jane or Bambi, they get names for Egyptian gods of destruction, Tyson explained.
An upcoming program will feature a discussion of global warming – on Venus. GPS for asteroids, rovers on Mars, black holes, time travel, the 40th anniversary of the moon landing and much more are covered.
‘The paradigm that science is dry comes about because the scientific community is not rewarded for whether or not they make it interesting to the public,’ Tyson noted. ‘So they just proceed on the frontier of research.’
Tyson complimented his co-host’s talents as well. Besides being funny and sharp, Koplitz is ‘smart enough to know how to ask interesting questions back at me,’ he said.
Interest in this type of programming has been boosted by President Obama’s own endorsement of science. ‘There’s no question that a president has influence over a public discourse in ways that go beyond legislation that gets written or passed. If a president mentions science as Obama did in his inaugural speech, then that becomes something people talk about, simply because the president talked about it,’ Tyson pointed out. ‘The access that people have to science as an enterprise grows.’
‘That can only be a good thing for the nation, because innovations in science and technology are the foundations for the growth of tomorrow’s economy,’ Tyson added. Without a serious commitment to science from our government and political leaders, we can expect to fall behind on the new innovations and discoveries that improve the quality of life, he explained.
The program airs weekly in the Los Angeles area () and is rebroadcast in Washington D.C. () a week later. Listeners outside those cities can access audio archives of the show at .