tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg May 26, 2015 6:00pm-7:01pm EDT
we go way back here i feel like i'm in the family. thank you. we're pretty sure we think it is the first time ever of there being a science talk show on television. we didn't do it for that hurt this, but it turned out that way. charlie: they can't
you want to do a television show. why don't you just bring in your cameras into my radio station. [laughter] neuil: keep it simple. we filmed in the hall of the universe. i got to announce that come "from the hall of the universe." who knew where that is? it was a room of dark curtains. [laughter] it is still structured the same.
we have a comedian. a guest. i think the universe is completely hilarious. i is no zone who thinks that way professionally. there is a main guest who is typically human from pop culture. that is the real difference. many of the guests are the same ones you would see on the late talk show. i asked them about their nerd hood and their science teachers that they liked or hated. i found a house ident technology has impacted their livelihood. charlie: you are not looking for people who like science, but just people who simply -- neil: it matters that you have heard of them. then you take an interest in them from the beginning. then you learn these extra things about them. do they have a nerd underbelly?
charlie: how do you find a nerd underbelly? neil: if they want to break into a fight about which captain they prefer in "star trek." [laughter] or did han solo shoot first? there are nerd questions. i think there are many people with hidden interests or maybe there is an ember that needs to be fanned and ignite. charlie: is it the fact that people are simply curious about things they do not know about an curious about the future? neil: everyone of us was deeply curious about our environment as children. scientist tend to not ever lose that. they stay curious. i think other people get it beaten out of it.
i'm in search of that soul of curiosity that continues to lurk and all adults. charlie: do we tamp it down? neil: what happens if you are in a class and you say, what is that? sit down. do your lesson. our school system tends to be rewarding people who obey and do what they are told. people who hand things in on time. the honors students. the best students. the student is distracted by the butterfly -- back to be the next great naturalist, but doesn't get rewarded in school because you should be studying for this curriculum that you have established -- that we have established for you. yes you need a curriculum and exams, but if you see energy in a student being expressed by questioning their environment,
that should be nurtured and that somehow declared as out of line. charlie: was that you as a kid? neil: yes. [laughter] no, i think teachers had energy in the classroom. a six great teacher who noticed that i had -- 6th grade did you notice that i had energy bordering on destructive. charlie: even then. neil: starting at age nine, but they deny jones until age 11. the teacher noted for me that the local planetarium, hayden planetarium had lessons on the universe. now i had a whole new universe here.
charlie: when did you know you wanted to be in astrophysicist? neil: that put something in my veins. i still think it was the universe who called me and not i who called it. growing up in the bronx, there aren't many stars visible. the sky in the planetarium was magical to me. i thought it was a hoax. i have seen this guy from the bronx. this is -- the sky from the bronx. this is not the sky. i had the answer to the annoying question adult asked children. what do you want to be when you grow up? astrophysicist. that ended conversations clearly
-- pretty quickly. [laughter] charlie: you have said before we go outside -- too many of us don't do that. neil: i did that even back when it was dangerous to do that. pre-pooper scooper laws, you had to look down every few seconds. [laughter] i would risk the incident just for looking up. especially at night, but also in the daytime. it is harder to see it. the sun is so dominant. you look for the moon. the most beautiful time of the night photographically speaking
is the curtain of twilight colors. the moon becomes more apparent. they the -- the first rcc are generally planets because they are brighter. -- the first stars are generally planets because they are brighter. when you make a wish on a star, star light, first start i see tonight, your wishes do not country because you are wishing on a planet. [laughter] when viewed from new york city, it is kind of over new jersey. you would confuse it with planes coming out of newark airport. if your western horizon is near an airport, you had seen the lights. charlie: have you ever wanted to write a science fiction novel? neil: yes, but i don't have the talent at writing.
but i've got a story that is ready to go. [laughter] charlie: you just need a good writer. neil: i've got a good story. in terms of character development and emotions, i don't have the experience. certainly not writing it. i have one in my right now. i'm happy to tell it. world is at war, ok? charlie: the world that we know. neil: the world that we know is at war. in some very disruptive way with regional battles everywhere and people are accusing sides and an asteroid is discovered. charlie: tell us what an asteroid is. neil: a chunk of rock that berries in sizes. -- varies in sizes. the orbit -- they cross the orbit of the earth.
you do the math. you learn that earth and these asteroid will collide with one another guaranteed eventually. what we want to do is keep track of all of the objects and monitor them. ideally, where are you now at this time at 10:00 p.m. where the killer asteroid is? we learn there is an astra that could render us extinct. at that moment, everyone comes together and sees that asteroid as the common enemy. the technology that has been developed all around the world -- it is the future -- developing countries are now technology enabled. they had to assemble pieces of all of these technologies. we need different pieces of
technology for the deflection device to put together. then we all sing "en kumbaya." [laughter] than the heads of state come into play. run with that. charlie: go back to the sides. this is real. you could make this as a real possibility. neil: the space mission to deflect it and the tools you would use to engage -- if something doesn't exist, you could invent something that would work. i have a piece of this, but i have to go to my enemy to make the whole thing work. it could be quite dramatic. maybe we have a piece of astra that hits the earth.
maybe water. for hollywood. [laughter] i remember "armageddon." they managed to hit the earth, but it had good aim. they were aiming. it will most likely hit the ocean. charlie: a big one came to earth? neil: two years ago, there was one the size of the studio that collide with earth's atmosphere. charlie: what would've happened if it hit the center of manhattan island? neil: that happened to explode about 20 miles up. that is high enough so that energy gets deposited into the atmosphere and dilutes before reaches earth's surface.
that was enough of the shockwave to shatter every single window in the city. people were wondering the light was that they had seen. they see this bright light. they look at the window. lacerated hands and skin. 1600 people were injured. the universe telling us, asking us -- [laughter] if that happened over manhattan manhattan would have a different problem. shuttered windows -- windows would fall. it would dissent into the street -- descend into the street. charlie: have they done a lot with the lessons that happened there? neil: people are talking about it. we didn't know it was coming until it was too late. that one is not large enough to
catch it. charlie: and if it is far enough away, we shoot it down? neil: macho man. shoot! i think i have heard of those movies. the kyler, gentler ways to -- kinder, gentler ways to reflect it -- nothing has been built or funded to make this happen. when we to do it is to take your spaceship. bring your's patient nearby. park it there. -- bring your spaceship nearby. park it there. slowly tug the asteroid out of harm's way. you don't have to destroy it. if you get good at this, it is like shooting pool cues.
just knock them out of the way. that is one way to do it. you could monitor your progress and you don't just blow the thing out of the sky. in america, we are good at blowing stuff up and less good of knowing of where the pieces will go when we are done. it is very messy to try to explode the asteroid pit will it break into two pieces? now you have to back both coasts? -- the asteroid. will a break into two pieces? now you have to evacuate both coasts? suppose it is heading for the indian ocean. the you tell them they have to defend themselves? should we pay for it? tax everyone? the way the membership at the u.n. is taxed?
charlie: what are the most important unanswered questions for you? neil: that is a good question. i have an unorthodox answer. it will sound like a copout, but it is not. the greatest unanswered questions are those questions we don't even yet know to ask. the only manifest upon reaching some next frontier of ignorance. i want to know what dark matter is. it is 85% of the gravity of the universe. we have no idea. little he have the right to call it dark matter. we are on it. we have top people working on it. cap equipment. at this moment, we do not know what it is. i have a preferred answer. particle physicists want to say it is a particle because they
are particle physicists. [laughter] bigs boson is a very -- higgs b oson is a very powerful particle. there is dark energy. the universe is accelerating and expanding against the wish of gravity. we don't know what is causing that. we don't know how we went from -- that is a transition that is on the frontier. how do you go from organic molecules to self replicating life based on those organic molecules? charlie: we don't know that either. neil: we don't know what happened before the big bang. we have top people working on it. [laughter] i will put you on the speed dial. charlie: dark matter. neil: we don't know.
we should call it dark energy. dark energy -- we don't know what it is. how did life get here? charlie: and the big bang? neil: the beginning of the universe. charlie: i know that. neil: duh. [laughter] if you turn the clock back, it was smaller and hotter. charlie: smaller and hotter. neil: you run the clock all the way back and you learned that universe was in the same place at the same time. extremely high temperatures. trillion is the highest number anyone has any comfort with, but the temperature was hotter than that. it was unstable and explodes. you have the birth of the universe. charlie: the universe -- neil: i would order it that way.
i care about the dna. all of those are very real questions that exist with us today. the answers to though, you start -- to tbohose, you start dishing out nobel prizes. i want to know what questions we are not intellectually mature enough to ask yet. they will reveal themselves after we answer these questions. charlie: a new question has revealed itself in the last 15 years? neil: yeah. dark energy was discovered in 1988. charlie: who discovered it? neil: two teams. they were studying a supernova. a particular species of supernova is like a standard candle. a yardstick and measuring time and distance in the universe. they are very potent and the
ability to measure the expansion rate of the universe and the size of the universe. two teams are working on the same problem and arrived at the same answer and shared the nobel prize for that. charlie: i assume it is the most frequently asked question -- are we alone? neil: the people as it next to on an airplane -- once they learned that i do astrophysicist -- charlie: how do they get to the question? neil: i think some people still look up. you cannot help but wonder. all these stars. we like to know there are stars just like the sun and planets orbiting the stars. if they are planets, how could you now wonder if there is life? if there is intelligent life, are they smarter than us? if they are, should we be scared
of them? my best guess is the universe is teeming with life. the galaxy is proxy for other galaxies. teeming with life, but the complex life might be much rarer. charlie: why is that? neil: here is the argument -- you have the timeline of the earth. 4.5 billion years. what this planet out there. some planets were born yesterday. you don't know when in the timeline. here is earth. most of the time, the darkness hits earth, there is only single cell life. if we are randomly coming upon planets and earth is any measure of things -- we spend 3.5 billion years as single cell life on earth.
that we have an explosion of life. the chemistry of the atmosphere changed. oxygen is like rocket fuel for complex life. life now has the launch to become complex. the system could support it. now you have limbs and detectors like eyes and sensors. it is a stunning development. then you have complex life. that is a smaller piece of the total timeline. where will you find intelligent life? we only know this little bit that we define as intelligent. there are planets we could land on. who is to say we will find what we call intelligent? maybe the planet has conditions that are specially right for complex life. if they did, they would have
billions of years to develop intelligent life. if that is the case, it is quite clear to me that if they are observed us and landed here and looked, it would be clear to them that there is no sign of intelligent life on earth. [laughter] charlie: they would land and look around. neil: nope. not what we're looking for. [laughter] charlie: they may be people, but they are not intelligent. [laughter] charlie: what is on mars? neil: the curiosity rover is the size of an suv. charlie: what is up there. water? neil: the martian surface has rampant evidence of running water. charlie: that is something. neil: yes.
when i mean evidence, the riverbeds dry riverbeds -- when you look at things that floodwaters have done and longtime rivers have done and the grand canyones on mars. charlie: when do we see them? neil: anytime you take a photograph of a surface. the resolution is very hard to pick up. you want to get close. then you could see ridges and valleys. charlie: that tells you water is there? neil: certainly liquid. that means that a river was there for some time. you do not meander overnight. not only that, there are dried
lake beds. salt deposits at the bottom. how do you get salt deposits? standing water that had minerals deposited in it. the water evaporates. when there is no water left, you get a salt lake. you fly over utah, that is what salt lake city is sitting next to. charlie: is it feasible and doable? neil: people say, the radiation -- we have clever engineers. i have no doubt they will figure out the technology. it is just money. it is only ever money at all times. charlie: are you disappointed we don't do more in space? neil: the curiosity part of me disappointed. the politically astute side of me fully understands why that is the case. charlie: a pr move? neil: we have always had
priorities. when he went to the moon, we had plenty of other priorities. the civil rights movement. the cold war. we did it because we were at war with the soviets. that was an act of war essentially without the weapons. and we were not at war, the motivation to go to the moon, we would tell ourselves, we went to the moon because we are americans. we are explorers. it is in our dna. that might be chu, but the people who wrote the checks don't care -- that might be true but the people who wrote the checks don't care. when security is at risk, that is when money flows. charlie: but should we create that kind of urgency again for something like going to the moon? neil: let me go visit china and
whispered to the head of china psst, can you break a memo that says you want to put military bases on mars? [laughter] don't tell anyone. the memo shows up in the pentagon. we would be on mars in 10 months. one month to design, build, and find a space craft. that is how motivated i think we would be. that is how motivated we were in the 1960's. i don't want to go to mars for military reasons. i think there a strong, economic one to make. i think it takes longer than the proverbial elevator ride. it takes maybe twice as long as an elevator ride. i voted for my representation in congress. i want them to listen to me for longer than an elevator ride. it is simple. if you're going to space in a big way, mining asteroids
tourist jaunts on the moon, military activities, all of this to accomplish this would require advancing space here. patents would be granted. you have these discoveries weekly if not daily in your newspapers. that infuses a culture of inquiry. a culture of exploration. a culture of innovation. you come from a culture of innovation, stuff gets solved. your whole mindset is different. charlie: how we lost the culture of innovation? neil: yes. charlie: what about silicon valley? neil: a great culture of innovation. i was misrepresented in some headlines when i said -- i gave a talk and there was a question. someone said -- i said the world has problems that are bigger
than can be solved just waiting for your next app. we have problems interpretation. housing. already. disease. -- poverty. disease. climate. if we sit down and play with our apps, it won't get solved. the headline was "tyson attacks entrepreneurs." charlie: what did you mean? neil: what i mean is to bask in the pleasures of your next app will hide from you the fact that there are larger problems that need to be solved. charlie: are you saying the next app should be something that could influence climate change and not something that could yet -- neil: i don't know how an app could help fix the climate just yet. if there is one, i want to know about it. i don't know how an app to get rid of poverty. charlie: maybe develop an economic model?
neil: sure. ok. that doesn't build bridges or tunnels and transportation. charlie: of all these people like jess bezos and elon musk who want to build vehicles in space -- don't laugh at me. neil: no, somebody has got to do that. you want someone there. they affect how other people think. in classes i have spoken to, one day i went to work at spacex. they are the smartest kids. i want to explore what he is doing. i want to invent a new car. the next rocket. that is the influence that fuses a culture of when you go into space in a big way. everything else comes in after that.
charlie: when you get up in the morning -- neil: i hope the phone doesn't ring. i want to play with my kids. fsdate with my wife. then go to my lab. charlie: are you serious? neil: what happens when i get a phone call because something switched in that universe and they want a soundbite for the evening news -- i serve those interests. i'm a servant for the public appetite for news. i don't go door-to-door. i will never tell someone who to vote for. that's not what i do. i'm an educator. charlie: when they continue to do cosmos was carl a mentor of yours?
neil: that is an easy way out for people to mention the relationship. we met a few times. my first time meeting was influential for me. he was a professor. he was a guest on johnny carson's tonight show and published his own books. he was famous. he is making time for me, a kid. he showing me his lab at cornell . he reached back. grab a book. signed it. it was cool. it was a book that he wrote. [laughter] he didn't even look. i still have that book. it is signed to a future
astronomer. i met him a few more times after that. people think the big things are big. more often than not, little things are big. i was a little part of his day, but he was a big part of my life. it is the little things. charlie: roll tape. >> there are two types of dangers. we have arranged society on science and technology p at this combustible mixture of ignorance and power, sooner or later it will blow up in our faces. who is running the science and technology in a democracy where people don't know anything about it? the second thing i'm worried about is that science is more than a body of knowledge. it is a way of thinking.
in way of interrogating the universe with a find understanding of human fallibility. if we are not able to ask skeptical questions to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical and we are up for grabs for the next charlatan political religious figure and going along. it wasn't enough to enshrine some rights in the constitution in the bill of rights. people have to be educated. they had to practice their skepticism in the education, otherwise we do not run the government. the government runs us. neil: was at the same table? [laughter] that is kind of spooky. he is alive now as he was then. charlie: that was the famous interview i did.
neil: yes. charlie: 1996. neil: he died that year. he said it better than any of us connecting science literacy with what it is to have an informed democracy. if you want to take control of your fate, you can i do it if you are misinformed or underinformed about what matters -- you cannot do it if you are misinformed or underinformed about what matters.
charlie: i'm really concerned about this and the things you talked about. you got another award for your service to science in terms of raising the necessity of paying attention inside them popularizing science. neil: thanks for mentioning that. charlie: i worry that are we losing not our competitive edge but the race to develop the brightest minds in sufficient quantities that we serve science as well as other people may come to serve science? neil: a lot of focus tends to be on who the brightest students and can we get them interested in science and invent something to save the world? i think there are world always
be the smartest kids in the class. there will always be that. i'm not word about them. i'm worried about the rest of everyone else -- worried -- i'm not worried about them. i worried about the rest of everyone else. i'm not good at math. i'm into the other stuff and somehow be ok with that -- suppose i said i don't read because i was never good with nouns and words. i stick with science you would laugh me out of the room. these are fundamental parts of civilization. it defined civilization ever since there has been civilization to separate yourself from one or another and claim to be -- that is a combustible mixture especially that kind of ignorance is wielded by people of power.
for me it is sufficient to say left us spread and appreciation of science to everyone. you don't have to be scientists but understand what it is. charlie: more likely to support it? you are supporting the idea that science is important and you are creating a culture that respects it and therefore wants to enhance it. neil: couldn't have said it better myself. if people understand what science is and how it works and why it works, you could vote intelligently on issues that involve scientific principles and issues. you could know who is not telling the truth and who is in analyze it. charlie: do we had too many scientific deniers? those who want to look the other way? neil: there are some of those.
there i implicate some elements of journalism? there is a journalistic if those. -- ethos. the journalist obligation is to give equal column space to all sides. if someone says the earth is round and some and says the earth is flat, at some point, you'll make a judgment. the earth is flat people are flat-out wrong. i won't give them attention. and so, i think journalists are smart people and highly educated and curious. had the curiosity of kids. that is a great thing to have. at some point, invest your brain energy to recognize when something is fringed. report it that way.
people are properly informed about what is and is not true. what is in emerging truth? what is a truth that is in doubt? what is something has been refuted? the responsible on the frontier. it will help my job. charlie: you are a journalist. you are a journalist. neil: i host a talk show. i cannot say i'm not a journalist. charlie: not only that, but you are in pursuit of questions. neil: yes. charlie: i thought you might have a disparity in the sense of journalism. neil: we need all the journalists i think we can get. i attended the white house correspondents dinner here it was teeming with journalists. that is fun.
it is a zoo for sure. i agree i am a journalist to ask questions. the only question we do not ask is the who? who moved the black hole? there is not an answer to that who. in fact, if you take einstein's equation -- charlie: there is no idea what a blackhole is? neil: it is a region of space where matter has collapsed to such density that the gravity -- if matter collapses and gets denser, the surface gravity gets higher. it would be harder to escape. at some point, this collection of blob of matter has condensed so significantly that for you to escape, you would have to travel
faster than the speed of light. that means light cannot escape. if light cannot escape, you are not getting out of this place. it is not only dark, but it is a whole -- hole. three-dimensional. blackhole. charlie: how long have we known about it? neil: dan stein -- einstein -- nine charlie: he was interested in them? neil: no. i asked stephen hawking over dinner went in at isaac newton make certain discoveries with his own mathematics that he invented? his response was, einstein did not come up with black holes. you cannot think up everything. [laughter] charlie: what else did you talk about at dinner? neil: the conversation was slow
of course. charlie: i have talked to him as well. neil: this was just banter. the conversation is going. you might even send something his way, but then you keep your own number station with others. later on, that answer comes out. you rejoin the conversation. charlie: what dazzles you about him? the triumph of his life? of his mind? -- the quality of his mind? neil: all of the above. i'm glad the public on a glimpse in "the theory of everything." it was clear to me if there was going to be an academy award for best actor, it would go to his name -- charlie: eddie redmayne.
neil: he became stephen hawking. he became stephen hawking. the actor had transcended acting . there's something else going on. delighted that the public got a glimpse of this. i think what it says is and i cannot speak for disabled people because i have never been disabled in any way that matters in this world, but when you see someone with that level of disability meaningfully contributing to the world and be held up as one of the greatest minds there ever was if i needed hope, i would mine that for hope of what i could do and be if i were disabled at least physically you the mind is still there. as an academic, i value what you can do with your mind. if anything, it gives you hope
for what our species is capable of. charlie: explain to me time travel. neil: it has been suggested that there might be some law of physics we have yet to discover that would prevent you from going backwards in time. think about it. maybe there is a law of physics we would have two yet discovered. it would declare -- thou shalt not go back in time. if you do and you prevent your parents from meeting one another -- unlike the terminator series where they kill people so that they do not mate or prevent them from meeting or having sex -- that's really all you have to do. have the people have 10 minutes later you would be a different person. if you go back and prevent your parents from meeting one another, you would have never
been born to have been linked to go back in time to prevent your parents from meeting one another. you have this paradox. that being said, we have no shortage of interesting ways to go forward in time. we could speed you what. send you in a spaceship that goes fast. your time takes more slowly. the electronics in your digital watch. your physiology, everything about you would tick more slowly. you would age of more slowly than your twin on earth. you would have effectively gone into the future. in gravitational fields i think the ape or trade this in the film "interstellar." -- portrayed this in the film
"interstellar." you could measure this. gps satellites that are farther away from earth and we are, the time takes -- ticmks differently. but it sends you the correct time. we knew in advance about general relativity. the gps satellites are corrected for this time change by the formulation of einstein general theory of relativity now it could send the correct time down to a dispute other times, the times would separate from one another and you could not use gps satellite to tell you anything while we are on the earth surface. it is not something that we cherry picked. charlie: member you told me
about -- remember you told me about dust. neil: finally, not everyone comes out better than when they came in. [laughter] but thanks for your interest. in my life and work. charlie: it was dust to dust. the composition of the earth in dust within the human body. neil: ok. charlie: if you want to me with the basic fundamental things the essence of science and your work and others. neil: i think the single greatest gift that astrophysicists has brought civilization is the discovery back in 1957 by four authors. no movies are made of them. it is four and not just one. we romanticize the lone
researcher burning the midnight oil. four of the working for a decade to get this result. they realized that the elements on the periodic table that we remember from chemistry class owe their origin to thermonuclear fusion in the course -- cores of stars. they come together to make heavy elements. if it stayed in stardust, it would not be interesting. but they happen to explode and scatter across the galaxy. all of these elements scatter into gas clouds. it then collapses and forms next generation star systems, one of which was ours. the very ingredient that comprised life is traceable to stars. they gave their lives billions of years before. we're not only figuratively but
quite literally stars. charlie: i like that. finally, the notion of you, you don't have a mission. neil: not really. i'm a servant. that is what i think of myself. charlie: do you have things you want to accomplish? neil: i would say one of my favorite quotes -- i don't remember if i told you -- one of my favorite quotes that was uttered by an educator who said "be ashamed to die until you have scored some victory with humanity." i want that on epitaph. i want that on my tombstone. charlie: "be a shame to die
until you have scored some victory with humanity." neil: it can be anything. raising kids that are responsible. that is a very broadly defined victory. i think -- i'm not the first to say this. at least leave the world a little better off for you having lived in it. why not? clean up your mess. [laughter] after you have cleaned up the room you lived in leave a flower behind. april could come in and say -- people could come in and say, this is a slightly better place. we could all celebrate each of our existence in this world and not lament it or regret it. there's so much in the world that regresses civilization. i wonder how far we would be
♪ angie: changing channels. charter confirms its $55 billion bid for time warner cable. no need to panic. the fed number two says any rate hike will be slow and sure. and the case for the currency. china's bid for reserve status is strengthened by the imf assessment. welcome to "first up." i am angie lau, coming to you from our bloomberg headqua