Out of This World Sports, with Neil deGrasse Tyson

Chuck Nice and Gary O'Reilly interview Neil deGrasse Tyson in the Playing with Science studio. Credit: Ben Ratner.
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About This Episode

This week on Playing with Science, hosts Chuck Nice and Gary O’Reilly have a “play date” with their guest, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Referencing some of Neil’s more controversial tweets about sports, the trio dive into the physics and science embodied in Neil’s 125 character observations. (Yes, 125. Listen to the show to learn why.) You’ll find out why Neil’s not exaggerating when he says the fastest man in history, Usain Bolt, hits a top speed of 10.4 meters/second. Explore what the benefits and drawbacks would be to holding the Olympics on Mars, including the impact on cycling, swimming, and women’s beach volleyball. Find out why you couldn’t throw a curveball on the Moon. And, speaking of baseball, you’ll also learn what the slowest possible pitch can be and still reach the plate, and what’s up with knuckleballs. In this episode, the tweets mostly serve as jumping points for related science. You’ll learn why ozone blocks UV radiation, how water can simultaneously exist as a liquid, solid and gas, why pipes burst in the winter, and how the stability of an object is enhanced by rotating it. Plus, Neil describes in luscious detail the subsurface oceans on Jupiter’s moon Europa, the ice geysers on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and the physics and engineering books in Napoleon Bonaparte’s library. The highpoint of the show, however, has got to be when Neil gives Chuck a “brain orgasm” as he explains the science behind why ice skaters actually glide on a slippery layer of water, and not on slippery ice.

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