Bringing Science to Life, with Ben Stiller

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Ben Stiller in Neil's office at the American Museum of Natural History. Credit: Brandon Royal.

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About This Episode

When it comes to the concept of “bringing science to life,” perhaps no movie series in history has taken it quite as literally as the Night at the Museum films. In this episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson interviews Ben Stiller, the star of the franchise, who grew up just 4 blocks from the American Museum of Natural History. Find out how the museum influenced Ben as a kid, as it did Neil and guest astrophysicist Charles Liu, both of whom work there now. Explore the role museums play in making science accessible to the general public, whether the Creation Museum is a legitimate museum or not, and which exhibit Neil would show to aliens if they ever visited the AMNH. Bill Nye chimes in about the power dinosaur bones have to educate and inspire. You’ll also learn what a serious Star Trek geek Ben is, as he describes his personal collection of memorabilia, including the actual Gorn’s head and a set of Spock’s ears given to him by Leonard Nimoy himself. And of course, Neil asks Ben what he asks every guest comedian who appears on StarTalk: whether there’s a science to comedy. Cognitive Neuroscientist Scott Weems calls in to explain how the human brain reacts to comedy, and how the anterior singulate cortex seems to be the center for both understanding humor and resolving conflict. Find out what makes chimps laugh and the importance of rhythm and timing to comedy. Plus, you’ll hear about Zoolander, topology and underwear removal, Neil’s guest appearance in the sequel, and what’s actually on co-host Chuck Nice’s panties.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to Neil’s extended interview with Ben Stiller here.

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