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Neil deGrasse Tyson addresses 21st century science communications

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Making science easy to understand and relatable has always been a challenge, but in the world of social media and misinformation, it's become even more difficult. Few people know this better than popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

In a break from our usual focus on weather, Tyson joins the podcast this week to discuss the state of science communication in the 21st century. Why does misinformation spread so easily and what can be done to combat it? How can we improve science education? Tyson also shares the words he thinks are most misunderstood, what they really mean, and some alternatives to use instead.

Tyson is the Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and host of the StarTalk podcast. He's hosted numerous science programs including "Nova ScienceNow" and "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey," and has made appearances as himself in programs such as "Family Guy" and "The Simpsons."

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About the Across the Sky podcast

The weekly weather podcast is hosted on a rotation by the Lee Weather team:

Matt Holiner of Lee Enterprises' Midwest group in Chicago, Kirsten Lang of the Tulsa World in Oklahoma, Joe Martucci of the Press of Atlantic City, N.J., and Sean Sublette of the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia.

Episode transcript

Note: The following transcript was created by Headliner and may contain misspellings and other inaccuracies as it was generated automatically:

Sean Sublette: Hello, everyone. I'm, meteorologist Sean Sublette. And welcome to Across the Sky, our national Lee Enterprises Weather podcast. Lee Enterprises has print and digital operations at more than 70 locations across the country, including my home base here in Richmond, Virginia. I'm joined by my colleagues from Scross the Sky, Matt Holiner in Chicago, Joe Martucci at the New Jersey Shore. Kirsten Lang is on assignment this week. Our special guest this week is Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Formally, he is the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He has numerous books, television specials, and he hosts a podcast, Star Talk, where science and pop culture collide. And he's one of the most popular science communicators in the country today. His, most recent book is called To Infinity and Beyond: A Journey of Cosmic Discovery. I had a chance to talk with him just before he went out on a speaking tour of the East Coast. And fellas, I got to tell you that I got to sit down with him for about half an hour, and it was absolutely tremendous. You see some of the work that these folks do in popular culture and media, and you think, if you get a chance to talk to them, are they going to be that genuine? And, dude, absolutely was. He was just a joy to talk with. Joe, what did you kind of see?

Joe Martucci: Well, I kind of took away the excitement that you had while you were interviewing him, Sean, that was tremendous. I know this was, a really special moment for you, recording, this on your birthday, no less. Happy Birthday, Sean, was.

Sean Sublette: Thank you.

Joe Martucci: But as somebody who has been to the Hayden Planetarium a number of times in New York City, and just the connection he has with there, of course, it's, very special to have him on and haven't really talked about some Earth and space, of course, but more the broader picture of society today and how he's contributing to the progression of society as the human race.

Matt Holiner: Yeah, he really is just great to listen to. Just an excellent communicator. And it just so happens that he wants to communicate science. So that's really what's different about this podcast. Just a heads up. We're not going to just talk about weather on this episode. We really dive into all aspects of science communication and how it's become more challenging now because there's so many voices now, and how do people sort through all the information that's out there and really find the good information? So I really like how he dives into that. It's just an excellent conversation.

Sean Sublette: Yeah, we really started off by talking about the importance of scientific literacy, and as you're going to be a consumer of information, what to be mindful of and what to be on the lookout for. So, without further ado, let's get right to our interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The importance of scientific literacy and scientific communication in an era of disinformation

Sean Sublette: You do so much of this outreach, and it's extraordinary. So I want to talk about the importance of that outreach. specifically the importance of scientific literacy and scientific communication. In an era of disinformation, you work tirelessly to get the solid scientific information out there. There's so much bad information, whether it's disinformation or, know, the change in slash X and Facebook, they're always changing algorithms. So, my first question to you, thinking about cosmic perspectives, as we do, how concerned are you about scientific literacy, both domestically and internationally, and what can any or all of us do to strengthen it?

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Yeah, I mean, in a free country, science illiteracy is. Anyone has the right to be illiterate, scientifically illiterate. No one's going to chase after you and pin you down to a table and force feed you science. Of course, in every state, you're required to go to school through some age, but, it's not clear how much science is required in the minimum educational portfolio of each state. But most people do graduate high school. Okay, so we can ask the question, what's going on in the science classroom in the high school? Is it what it needs to be to preempt what we see rampant across society? And apparently it's not enough or it's not the right ingredients. And so I've thought quite a bit about consider. You know, there's this song by Alice Cooper. I don't know, the title of the song maybe just called Schools Out. And the line goes, schools out for the summer. Schools out. an. It's anthemic, right? It's like, school is done and I'm done with school, and I'm going to celebrate that with a rock song. And so no one seems to be asking what's going on in school so that you would celebrate not having to go to school when your only job is to learn. That's an OD state we find ourselves in. And I don't want to blame the student, all right, we've all toiled through classes, but if your only job is to learn, maybe that can be made joyous. Maybe the curiosity necessary to learn, to learn on your own is what school needs to impart in all of its students, so that when you get out of school, you say, I'm sad school is over. But I now will continue to learn on my own because I've been inculcated with a. That's not a good word. I have been infused with, a curiosity about all that I still have yet to learn. Okay, that's a foundational comment about the school system. More specifically about science. We're taught science in these fat books with words that are bold faced that you're supposed to memorize for the exam, and then you move on. And I don't remember science being taught as a means of querying nature. Science is a tool to probe what you do not yet know. And the scientific method, which whoever can remember how to recite it, the recitation and the words used are not very informative. Test hypothesis. No, that's not what the scientific method is. I will tell you what the scientific method is. It is do whatever it takes to not fool yourself into thinking something is true that is not. Or that something is not true that is. That's what the scientific method is. Top to bottom, left to right, front to back. And if it means we can't trust our senses, bring out a chart recorder or bring out some other methods. If it means you're biased, get someone else to check your bias. If you have a hidden bias within you that you don't even see yourself, what are some of the. And, if you're susceptible to thinking something is true just because it feels good, get someone else for whom their feelings are not invested in it being true and get their view on it and compare it with yours. These are ways for the checks and balances of what it is you declare to be true. What I have found is a lot of the misinformation is peddled, shall I use that word? By charismatic people who will tell you, on a YouTube channel or whatever is their platform. I'm telling you the truth. But the big establishment wants to suppress it because they don't want you to know it. Apparently. That's irresistible. It's irresistible for truth telling. It's irresistible for product marketing. All right, I have this new device that will bypass all of these decades of marketing that's gone on with Big Pharma, big business, big government, and I am your advocate. Oh, my gosh. We're all in. When someone appeals in that way, advertisers know this because they know that you will respond more readily to a testimony of another human being than you will to a bar chart or a pie chart, which might encapsulate all the information you need to know about the integrity of the product, but that's insufficient. Get one person saying, this was the best thing I'd ever seen, and say, wow, I want that. So there's a missing dimension to our educational training. Much of it is rooted in our knowledge, understanding, and awareness of probability and statistics. Can you read the weight loss data and find out that 90% of the people do not have the result of the person who's testifying? Did you read that? Did you look at that? If you want to know where you're likely to fall in the data, go take a look. No, you don't want to fall there. You want to be with the successful person. So our inability to think statistically confounds our ability to think sensibly and rationally about data and without understanding what the scientific method is, especially with regard to our bias, implicit or explicit bias, known or unknown bias. It leaves adults susceptible for all the behavior we see on the Internet and especially in social media. So I'm taking the hard, easy answer to you and saying it's the educational system that, if it were properly wired, would preempt so much of what we see in conduct in adulthood. That's a very long answer to your question. But you asked a very loaded question there.

Sean Sublette: Well, there's a lot going on there. I'm absolutely of the same mind that there is a lot of money to be made in a capitalistic society and selling something, selling information that people already want to believe. So I'm absolutely of the same mind there. And we see that, all the time.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: I want to add one other thing I meant to include. So there's the charismatic person who's telling you they have the answer and others don't. There's also the lone expert. Okay, the person. And we saw this during COVID There's some MDs who are just right. That is not mainstream medicine. This is fringe medicine talking. And so they'll have their pedigree on the screen. MD, Stanford, Harvard, whatever these name. Impressive places. And then you're going to say, well, that's what I want to think is true anyway. It resonates with where I'm coming from. So I'm going to go with them, and I'm going to tell people, I'm listening to an expert. What people are not realizing is that scientific, objective truths are not established by lone wolves. They're established by repeated measurements, observations of, a declared result. And only when the repeated measurements verify it is that result. Anything that can be brought into the world of objective truths until that happens. It is fringe for some reason. Forces were operating to get the public to think that mainstream equals bad for some reason.

Cutting through the disinformation in science

Neil deGrasse Tyson: When mainstream is exactly what progresses science, it is precisely how it works, and mainstream is not. Oh, let's just all agree and be stubborn about it. No, mainstream is. These are experiments that repeatedly give us approximately or precisely the same result. We're going with it and we're moving on to the next problem, where you will see us fight about what's true and what's not on the frontier. but until then, no. And by the way, the researchers are faceless entities. The people who verify their research, you don't know who they are, they don't have YouTube channels. And so there's this charismatic person speaking on their own YouTube channel, and there's this vaguely rooted result you hear. It sounds vague. Well, some research has found that this is what's actually going on. Here's what you should do. No, I'm listening to this person. And so that's just to round out what it is you were trying to get across there.

Sean Sublette: No, I tell people that in meteorology, before the computers got so good in these last 20 years, the best forecast is a consensus forecast. You take ten meteorologists, they look at the data, you take the average of all, they say over time, that's going to be the forecast that ends up correct. There will always be this occasional outlier, for sure, but in the longer term, that's where the money is to be made.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Right? And by the way, the word consensus, I think, officially means opinion. And so that consensus of opinion is actually redundant. But when we use the word consensus for science, these aren't opinions being expressed. These are the results of scientific experiments that are being reported by scientists. It's not simply their opinion that. No, it may come across that way. You say, well, what's the best medical opinion? Right. Opinions are, get a second opinion. All right? Usually when you ask for a second opinion, it's because you didn't like the first answer and you're going to keep doctor hopping until you find an answer you like, and then you're going to say, that's the diagnosis, which is itself a confirmation bias, which is the most pernicious among the biases. I wish we had a different word, but we have to use it. Scientific consensus is the alignment of research outcomes, not the alignment of whimsical opinions held by scientists themselves.

Sean Sublette: Well, talk about word usage for a minute, because we know there are certain words we use in the scientific community that have very different connotations in the general public. The first one that comes to mind is theory. When we say a scientific theory, that's pretty close to being effect, as opposed to some kind of wishy washy thing that a lot of, the general public sees, that's kind of hypothesis. We're nowhere near that yet.

Are there some words Neil deGrasse Tyson avoids in communication about science?

Sean Sublette: Are there some words that you've kind of run up against and you've kind of just decided to avoid in communication?

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Tons. Oh, yeah. So, I mean, if you're going to communicate, if you're going to call yourself an educator communicator, then you've got to sift through your entire lexicon, see what works, see what doesn't, see what. Now, I am fortunate. My expertise is in a field where our lexicon is highly transparent, so that I spend much less time defining words for someone than would normally occur with other professions. Jupiter has a big red spot on its atmosphere. We call it Jupiter's red spot. Right. The sun has spots. They're officially called sun spots. Right. So I don't have to then define what a sunspot is. I can just use the term and keep talking about them. So just make that clear with regard to theory. What I've done is because, it's very hard to change the public's understanding of a word. If that word has usage outside of your field, that will persist no matter how you define it for them. So theory is one of those words. So someone at home will know, I have a theory that my, so that's how they're using the word theory. You can't knock on every door and tell people to use the word differently. So I use the word theory only for established theories that are already in place. Einstein's general theory of relativity, special freely, evolutionary, theory, this sort of thing. And when people say, oh, well, if it's just a theory, that's, of course, the buzz phrase, I say, no, a theory is the highest level of understanding we have of the universe. It is not the lowest level. The lowest level would be a hypothesis. So if someone says, well, if I have a theory that, no, I say, Einstein had a theory, you have a hypothesis awaiting testing, and then people chuckle at that. So no one is then, distracted by it. So the word hypothesis is very helpful in this regard. Just tell people they have a hypothesis. If it's not yet tested, it's a hypothesis. If it's tested and it organizes ideas and it gives us insights into future discoveries, it is elevated to the level of theory. So I will say that if the conversation goes there. But if I'm just a few sentences and sound bites on the evening news, I will not use the term at all, by the way, nor will I use the word fact. A fact is that word is fraught. It's fraught because it is a fact that, if I remember the quotes correctly, it's a fact that President Trump said you could use bleach to cure COVID or whoever. It is a fact that they said it. That doesn't mean it works. So there's plenty of facts out there that reference things that are not true. So, like I said, the word fact is fraught. It is a fact that Andrew Wakefield published a paper declaring a, connection between MmR M M. vaccine and the m m measles, mumps, rubella vaccine and autism. There's a fact that he published a paper exploring that connection. That doesn't mean that's a connection. So it is a fact that mothers reported that after their kids were vaccinated, they showed, symptoms of autism. Okay? That doesn't make it a cause and effect correlation. So I don't. I never use the word fact ever. The word does not work to that point.

Sean Sublette: Are there other words that you were able to use in your external communications 1520 years ago? You just throw your hands up like, I can't use that word anymore. It's lost its meaning in the general conversation. I've got to think of something else now.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Yeah, of course. No, it's not an aha moment. It's a continual assessment and measurement of the stock value of words as they are used, come in and out of use as their definitions shift, as cultural, social, religious, political mores shift. You can't just declare that no one wants to learn. Or how come, they don't do their homework. Then you're not being an educator. Sorry. You're not being a communicator. Yeah, you are. You're being the professor talking to the chalkboard while you write down your equations. And without any concern whether people are either paying attention or meeting you 90% of the way there. You can't claim yourself to be a communicator unless you turn around, face the audience, and meet them 90% of the way towards wherever their brain wiring is. This happens all the time. I also find that humor enables people to smile while they're learning, and then they come back for more. But the landscape of humor has changed, as you surely know, over the years and especially over the recent decades. Certain things that were funny in 2000 are not funny today because our sensitivities have been realigned or arisen, or maybe the sensitivities were always there, but there was no platform, to position them. So, yes, plenty of words. Happens all the time.

Sean Sublette: All right, so let's step back a little bit and we talk about.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Here's a good example. I wrote about this in the late 90s. So this is 25 years, in the can right now of, course in science, in a measurement, we speak of measurement errors. And so the public wants to know what is the answer? And they don't really have much way to embrace measurement errors. It doesn't really work unless we retrain everyone in school.

Sean Sublette: I don't think box and whisker plots test, very well, do they?

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Exactly. So what happens is I saw a news account of, a research paper that described the result, and it said, oh, but, it didn't catch on because the paper had a lot of errors in it. I said, what does that even mean? And then I realized the paper talked about the measurement errors, and the journalists thought that this meant it had errors. And so I've never used the word error unless it's a literal error. So I changed error to uncertainty. I wrote an essay called Certain Uncertainties, where I talked about, when you measure something, there's uncertainties around those measurements. And I don't even use the word margin of error, which is still used when they report political voting results. That's a start. Margin of error plus or, -3% that came in, in the last 20 years. That's very good. It's a start. But error is the wrong word because they are not errors. Even though we use that term, uncertainty still works. That still has scientific validity, and you don't have to define it for the public. They know what an uncertainty is. And you can say some measured, quantities are more uncertain than others. That is a completely understandable sentence.

What would happen if the sun instantly went away?

Sean Sublette: All right, before I cut you loose, I do have a couple of more tangible science questions.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Sorry I haven't given you a chance to ask. No, this is two questions so far.

Sean Sublette: This is just extraordinary. And I'm happy to have you here and talk about these things. So I was reading the book and.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Which book?

Sean Sublette: The most recent one. To infinity and beyond.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Yes. Just came out two months ago.

Sean Sublette: So, speed of light, of course, we know the speed of light, and it takes eight minutes for sunlight to get to Earth.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: About that. Yeah.

Sean Sublette: Right. One of the things that I have trouble thinking about, and this is one of these cosmic query type things, sun instantly goes away. We wouldn't know about it for eight minutes.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: That's correct. We'd still orbit, we'd still feel sunlight, we'd still feel gravity.

Sean Sublette: That's exactly what I wanted to ask. Does the gravitational information also take eight minutes? Does the Earth still act as if it is going in orbit around the sun, or is that gravitational force instantly gone?

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Yeah. So, there's a slight, subtle difference here. In Einsteinian description of gravity, gravity is the curvature of spacetime. Okay? So we are orbiting in this curved spacetime continuum caused by the sun. And the dimples in a rubber sheet get you most of the way to understand that. Where we are sort of, spiraling, orbiting, in the dimple. Okay. So if you instantly take away the sun, that is a change in the gravitational field. And changes in the gravitational field move at the speed of light. So it would take eight minutes for you to even know that the sun's gravitational field was no longer operating on Earth, and we would instantly fly off at a tangent if that were the case. I mean, after the eight minutes. Eight minutes and 20 seconds, if you want to be precise.

Sean Sublette: Right.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: And, Einstein demonstrated that gravity would move at the same as the speed of light.

Sean Sublette: All right, excellent.

Neil deGrasse Tyson explains his speaking tour and what to expect

Sean Sublette: Last thing before I let you go, talk a little bit about this speaking tour. I've seen it advertised at different theaters slightly different ways. Is it going to be very different at each place, or is this kind of all tying back to, to infinity and beyond, or what can people kind of expect?

Neil deGrasse Tyson: So thanks for noticing that. So, my speaking tour is hardly ever bordering on never related to books that I've just published. The speaking tour is I get invited by a city, and many cities across the country, fascinatingly, have this sort of old grand Dam theater from 100 years ago, that if there's municipal funds, typically there are or business interests, they fix it up and what do you call it? Renovate. And they fix up the molding and the statues and the gilding. And so it's beautiful spaces. And these are back when going to a theater, you would dress up to go to see movies in the movie theater. So many of them come from that era. So many towns have such theaters, and they remain in active use. I get invited to a city to present, and so I'm, honored and flattered. I give them a list of twelve to 15 possible topics that they choose from, and then they tell me, we want you to come talk on this subject. And that's what I do. So for Richmond, they picked the topic that I've given them. Cosmic collisions. Oh, my gosh. Cosmic things that go bump in the night. There's so many things that collide. Stars collide, galaxies collide, black holes collide. Asteroids collide with Earth. We collided with an asteroid recently to try to deflect it. So it's everything that's going on in the universe. This idea that, oh, we live in a static, beautiful. No, the universe is a shooting gallery. And so I'm there to talk about how much of a shooting gallery it is. And yes, I have some videos, slides, and it's mostly me talking, but that's what Richmond is getting. There are other topics, I think I've been in this venue before. Other topics that either they didn't choose because I was there a couple of years ago or not would be the search for life in the universe. And that's continually being updated with the congressional hearings on aliens and all of this. That's a whole topic, search for life in the universe. One of my favorites is an astrophysicist goes to the movies, and that's where I highlight all manner of scenes, not just from Sci-Fi films, but other films you would never imagine cared about science. Yet there's science in it, either done very well or done very badly. And I highlight that. And that was so popular. There’s a sequel to it called an astrophysicist goes to the movies. The sequel, anyhow, that's just a smattering of the topics. And typically there's a book that I written recently, and if the theater is interested, they might task a local, indie publisher to sell them in the lobby. But most of the time, that's not what happens. And if they do, it has nothing to do with the talk. In other words, when I go on, quote, tour, I'm, not trying to sell you anything. I'm a servant of your appetite, of your cosmic appetite, as declared by the host for whatever it's their judgment of the audience's interest.

Sean Sublette: Excellent.

Sean Sublette: Well, I've got the book. It's wonderful. And personally, thank you for, as a meteorologist, thank you for starting with the atmosphere in the book.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Oh, we did. Thanks for noticing that we start.

Sean Sublette: Oh, I noticed that right away.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Yeah, there's a whole discussion of the atmosphere, because the book, to infinity and beyond, by the way, it's a beautiful book. I would say that even if I was not co-author of it, I co-wrote it with our longtime senior, producer for Startalk my podcast. This is a collaboration between Star Talk and National Geographic books. And so the book is, they don't know how to make an ugly book. This is National Geographic, so it's highly illustrated. And it's an exploration of what it was like standing flat footed on Earth, looking up. And what did it take for us to ascend from Earth to the stars and know we go from Icarus? That's a nice first story to tell. And Icarus dies. And you say to yourself, well, oh, I'm not going to try to fly. Or you're going to say, well, let me maybe design the wings differently of a different material rather than wax. Okay. And of course, they thought that temperature would get higher as you ascended the atmosphere, when, of course, the exact opposite is the case. And so it's fun to explore what was imagined to be sort of infinitely far away in the history of this quest. We would then conquer it. Let me use a less militaristic word. We would then achieve those goals, and then we're standing in a new place now. We are now in balloons, and we can say, well, how do we fly with not a balloon. Now we have airplanes, and how do we fly out of the atmosphere? We have rockets. How do we fly beyond? How do we fly to the moon? How do we fly beyond the moon? Well, we can't do that yet, but we can send our robotic emissaries. How do we go beyond those? Well, then our mind takes us there. All right. And so part of this quest, the whole book chronicles and storytells this quest, which is quite, the noblest thing. Our species did it, and no one other, species comes close to even wondering that this could be something we could do. So I got to hand it to humans, to making this work in that way. So, yeah, that book only just came out two months ago and very proud of it, and it's a very beautiful. And the DNA of my podcast, Star Talk, is science, pop culture, and humor. I mentioned humor earlier. The pop culture part is you show up at the door with a pop culture scaffold that I already know, because that's the definition of pop culture. It's a common knowledge. I don't have to say who Beyoncé is or what a football field looks like. There's certain fundamentals that are out there. We take the science and clad it onto that scaffold so that you already care about something, and now you care about it more because I've added more information for you to celebrate about the thing this pop culture thing you cared about. Point is, in this book, we do that continually. If there's a Hollywood movie that touches some of the topics that we address, this is like the scenery along the way of the book. I dip into the movie and we talk about how well the movie did or didn't, portray that physics.

Sean Sublette: Wonderful. Dr. Tyson, I know you've got to get going, so thank you so much for your time. Shout out to Chuck, nice and all the team there at Star Talk. Love the work, love what he brings to it as well. And when you have the guest, my.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Comedian, my co-host, comedian or foil.

Sean Sublette: But, it's wonderful. Thank you so much. Looking forward to seeing you, when you're down here in Richmond next week. And travel safe, sir.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Excellent. Thank you for those well wishes.

Neil deGrasse Tyson says you have to reach people where they are

Sean Sublette: And guys. I was just absolutely in my element talking with him about science and how to communicate science, and the things you want to do, as he said, to reach people where they are. I let my daughter know I was doing this and she really emphasized this point that he made is that you have to meet people 90% of where they are already. Don't turn your back and write on a chalkboard. Look at people, be with people, understand where they are to make that connection with them. That is so key in this day and Age.

Joe Martucci: I agree with that 100%. I think I might even said on this podcast, when it comes to weather forecast, you Have, I don't kNow, maybe two dozen places to get a weather forecast from at any given point in time, at any point in day. So what differentiates you from those other 24 people? Well, accuracy is going to have something to do with it, but a lot of times it has to do with the connection that you have with the community. Now, there's downsides to that. as Neil deGrasse Tyson spoke about, you have some people who are very personable, but who might not know what they're talking about. But when you have somebody who knows what they're talking about is in the community or meeting with the people where they are, that is where you have the best results. And that's why you have people like Neil deGrasse Tyson, who's widely respected and acclaimed not only because he knows what he's talking about, but because he's doing it in a way where you can listen and say, hey, yeah, I know what he's talking about. Hey, I Know What She's Talking About.

Joe Martucci: So, great job, Sean, with the podcast.

Matt Holiner: yeah, there's just a lot to unpack mean, I wish we could have kept the conversation going. I wish we all could have been in there and asked questions. We could have chatted with him for hours. But obviously a very busy guy and does not have the time for, you know, I think what really highlighted for me the challenge that we're facing these days is he went through words that are difficult to use these days and have double meanings. He talked about how he doesn't even like to use the word fact. He Said the word does NOt work, fact. And that kind of blew my mind. It's like, gosh, we don't even know what facts are because he says it's a fact that somebody said this, but it's not a fact that what they said is true. And it's like, gosh, that's a good point. So even the meaning of the word fact is difficult. And how I liked also how he used, if something hasn't been tested yet, what you're saying is a hypothesis. It's not a theory. He talked about, oh, I have a theory about this. It's like, no, you have a hypothesis because you haven't tested it yet. If it's been tested, then you can call it a theory. So just talking about that and the word error, he mentioned that as well. How if you use the word error, people might say, oh, well, then this paper is just garbage because it's full of errors. Like, no, those were measurement errors. It's talking about uncertainty. It wasn't an error itself. So he's very cautious about the word error and only using the word error when a true error was made. So, gosh, we have to be so careful about the wording because it can be misconstrued and misunderstood so easily. Gosh, him just going through those different words just shows you what a challenge it is today, how you have to be so careful about the wording and is all about the wording and being very explicit and explaining things in detail. Otherwise it'll get totally misunderstood.

Sean Sublette: It takes a lot of work because certain words have different connotations. And like you said, you're not going to go in, knock on people's doors and go, no, you're using that word wrong. You're not going to do that. Right. So this is why you kind of have to take opportunities as they come to redirect, what you want to get out of a word or a meaning like that. It's like when we talk about weather, we talk about severe weather. In meteorology, we're talking about something very specific. We're talking about damaging winds that are generally more than 58 miles an hour. We're talking about a tornado. But to a lot of the general public, severe weather is just bad. That's just bad weather, right? So language is always changing, and as he said, it's always evolving. It's not like, well, we just kind of watch how the lexicon changes. Some terms just don't mean what they used to. Humor is changing through time, so it is always a process. And I think that's one of the things that anybody who's trying to communicate science needs to be aware of. And he does a great job with the humor as Well. I try to do it with humor. sometimes I'm a little more successful, than others, but it was certainly just a great podcast. I'm very grateful for him, to spend some time with us.

Coming up on the Across the Sky podcast: American Ninja Warrior, Bob Dylan and more!

Sean Sublette: Joe. We've got a couple other more interesting things coming up, down the pike, right?

Joe Martucci: Oh, yeah, we sure do. So coming up on the, Monday after Thanksgiving, this is October. Excuse me. November 22. Oh, my gosh. Doing it all wrong. Let's try it again. November 27. There we go. Third time is a charm. We are going to have Joe Morovsky from American Ninja Warrior Come on the podcast. Joe, is also known as the Weatherman on American Ninja Warrior. Yes, he is a meteorologist, and yes, we are going to talk to him about the weather and his time on the NBC hit show. Then on December the fourth, we actually have one of my college professors, Dr. Alan Robock. Now he courses a meteorologist, but he's also a very big Bob Dylan fan. In fact, he's such a Bob Dylan fan that he did his PhD thesis on Bob Dylan and the Weather. so that is really interesting. And then we also have an episode for you on December 18. That's going to be ten things to know about winter. And then sometime in that week, between Christmas and New Year's, we're going to have our year in review. So the train keeps on rolling here at the across the Sky podcast team. we've gotten a couple of emails of feedback over the past days and weeks, and we certainly appreciate that. And you certainly can continue to send that to that's Or feeling like it and want to give us a call. You certainly can at 609-272-7099. 609-272-7099 Back to you, Sean.

Sean Sublette: All right, good stuff all around. Anything else, Matt? Are you good, man?

Matt Holiner: I'm still letting that interview wash over me. Man. I, think the other thing he know, a lot of times, a lot of the people that are spreading misinformation are very charismatic, and so that's why they're catchy and people latch onto them. But it's like, well, you know what? We need charismatic people to be spreading good information. He is the prime example. We need more Neil deGrasse Tysons in the world to spread good information and be charismatic.

Sean Sublette: Yeah. No argument with that for me. All right, gentlemen, thank you very much. And Joe Martucci and Matt Holiner. And in absentia, Kirsten Lang in Tulsa, thanks for joining us. A week on the across the Sky Podcast. I'm meteorologist Sean sublet in Richmond, Virginia. Have a great week, and we will see you next time.

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Across the Sky

The Lee Weather Team hosts a fast-paced weekly podcast that tackles hot topics (and cold!) plus what 
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