Cosmic Queries: Holiday Edition

Post Date: 23 December 2012

Listen now:

Season 3, Episode 24

Image Credit & Copyright: Dani Caxete

Get into the spirit (or should we say science?) of the season when Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice answer fan questions about the holidays and winter. Is it true that no two snowflakes are alike? Why is it cold during the winter? Could Santa be exploiting the multiverse to hide his workshop and deliver his toys on Christmas Eve? Could Santa’s sleigh travel at the speed of light? Neil and Chuck discuss the importance of ritual in people’s lives when Neil answers the question, “Should parents let their children believe in Santa?” and Neil shares what he told his daughter about the Tooth Fairy and Santa. As an extra present for our fans, you’ll get to hear Neil’s recommendations for what to do in NYC during the holidays and his favorite holiday drinks, including how he makes his own homemade eggnog.

Chuck Nice, comedian

Happy Life Day – The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)
Holly Jolly Festivus – Karaoke Diamonds/Randy Kemp (inspired by Seinfeld)
Santa Baby (Official Video) – Kylie Minogue
Original Hanukkah Song – Adam Sandler
Oh Santa! – Mariah Carey
Drunk on Christmas – Big & Rich
Christmas In Hollis – RUN-DMC
Auld Lang Syne – MxPx
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Jackson 5

  • Bernice

    Depending on the volume of questions that get asked, this one might not get answered. Unfortunately this question has nothing to do with the topic of discussion, but being a fan of NDT, would he ever do Dancing With The Stars?

  • Tracie Wilke

    Hey Dr. Tyson….

    Wishing you & your family a sparklingly joyful holiday season.

    With love,
    Joe & Tracie Wilke

  • Eugene

    Chuck Nice is a great co-host,please keep him.

  • James

    Happy Holidays =]

  • Drew Mcdowell

    Great as always, I really do love the Cosmic Queries sections.

  • Tilted

    Why talk about seasonal temperature differences at all without mentioning Earth’s axial tilt of roughly 23 degrees? Seriously, Neil, please don’t disappoint me like this in the future.

    • Jeff

      Tilted, Neil never mentioned axial tilt by name, but he did describe its effects (the sun drops lower on the horizon) as the cause of the temperature change.

  • Tilted

    Exactly my point, Jeff, he didn’t give the cause. He described the effect – but the person who asked the question wanted to know why…

    Neil’s explanation was decidedly lacking. He didn’t mention axial tilt, nor did he mention how the tilt coupled with Earth’s revolution about the Sun causes sunlight to become more or less direct for the Northern and Southern hemispheres, alternately.

  • marasu66

    Season’s Greetings. Merry Kwanzukamas, and a Happy New Year!

  • Todd

    You can expect that anyone submitting a question on the average temperatures of seasons hasn’t been to the first class of introductory astronomy. NDT did a great job of giving an explanation that ANY person can understand and appreciate. One of the most important jobs of any scientist is to communicate what they know in a way that the general public can understand. It was a great response considering the audience.


  • Alain Maury

    The actual date of change to the gregorian calendar was 1582 not 84. Just to nitpick.

  • michael

    So I went on Google to look for the 6-story tall triangle on the Time-Life building that you can see from Rockerfeller Plaza and saw zilch. There was a blue logo-ish sculpture but no 6-story triangle. Is it gone or did Neil have one too many homemade egg nogs?

    • Jeff

      Michael: Dr. Tyson asked me to apologize for his error. He actually was referring to the McGraw-Hill Building at 1221 6th Avenue in NYC, 2 blocks south of the Time Life building. Here is a description of the triangle from Wikipedia:
      “The sunken courtyard of this building contains a large metal triangle designed by Athelstan Spilhaus and fabricated by Tyler Elevator Products, arranged so the Sun aligns with its sides at solstices and equinoxes.[3] When built, the south-western corner held a display of scale models of planets in the Solar System. A mosaic map of the Earth survives in the north-western corner.” — Jeff

  • michael
  • Tilted


    I was taught that the seasons result from Earth’s axial tilt in a public elementary school – by the 5th grade. I’m not exactly sure whether it was 3rd, 4th, or 5th. What “general public” audience are you talking about? I’d like to think that the U.S.’s public schools cover this information by the time students get through elementary or junior high school. Therefore, I’d like to suggest that this is pretty general knowledge that is taught to little kids. Otherwise, I would not have commented on what I saw as a significant omission by our beloved astrophysicist.

  • Galen

    I know this is late coming, but January 1st does have religious relevance. It marks the eighth day after Jesus’s “birth” on the 25th (which the Church admits is most likely not Jesus’s actual birthday). In Jewish society, both then and now, the eighth day is when the male child is circumcised and entered into the Covenant of Israel.

  • Amber Thompson

    “Santa Baby (Official Video) – Kylie Minogue” I prefer the Original, by Eartha Kitt.

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  • Code912

    Which podcast did you listen to? Or not listen very closely too LOL