February 16, 2017 9:03 pm

Friday, Neil Tyson and Eugene Mirman Search for Life in the Universe from New York’s Upper West Side

StarTalk Live! is something else. The fantastic panel of guests and the atmosphere of the live audience always offers a special experience. This week’s podcast is no exception. It was recorded at the Beacon Theatre in NYC as a part of the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival. Neil deGrasse Tyson and Eugene Mirman welcome planetary scientist and StarTalk All-Stars host, Madame Saturn herself, Carolyn Porco, along with “Bad-ass Science Groupie” and musician Sean Ono Lennon, and comedians Vanessa Bayer and Michael Ian Black, to search the stars for life.

Elliot Severn's photo of the StarTalk Live team in In the Beacon's historic elevator. (Clockwise from bottom left:) Vanessa Bayer, Sean Ono Lennon, Eugene Mirman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carolyn Porco, Michael Ian Black.

In the Beacon’s historic elevator. (Clockwise from bottom left:) Vanessa Bayer, Sean Ono Lennon, Eugene Mirman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carolyn Porco, Michael Ian Black. Credit: Elliot Severn.

I always enjoy when Carolyn is on StarTalk because, as she is the leader of the Cassini Imaging Team, I know we’ll get to talk about Saturn. This night at the Beacon was no exception. To begin with, Carolyn tried to calmly explain the hexagon on Saturn’s north pole but even Neil said he was freaked out by its existence. She also explained why we still don’t know how old Saturn’s rings are, or how the rings might have formed, which caused Michael to ask if Earth could ever have its own ring system – made of space junk.

Next up, the group explored the possibilities of life on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Just like our audience that night, now you get to hear Carolyn share her wonder about the salty, liquid water ocean below the ice shell of Enceladus and the geysers that burst up to 100 miles above the surface. But when Vanessa asked if we could just throw some bugs into that ocean and see what happens in a few years, both Neil and Carolyn explained why that would be a bad idea.

You’ll also get to hear the panel debate the hot-button issue of sending our cosmic address into space for anyone or anything to find it. On one side, they argued that any civilization advanced enough to reach us would be benign. But on the other side, well, would you give your email out to a perfect stranger? Not everyone thinks being found by ET might not be the worst thing to happen to us here on Earth: Sean explains why he wouldn’t mind being enslaved by an alien race, as long as they’re smarter than us and can fix some of our problems.

I especially enjoy how the StarTalk Live! performances are a perfect place for comedians to bring their A-game. With Eugene, Vanessa, and Michael in the house, prepare for quick-witted comedy gold. But let’s not forget about Neil and Carolyn, though, who are more than capable of dishing some razor sharp humor of their own.

Another thing I love about Carolyn being on StarTalk Live! is that, because she’s been on StarTalk too many times to count, she’s totally comfortable having complex scientific discussions as if the audience and panel are just hanging out in her living room. So when Vanessa asks how we might communicate with aliens assuming they don’t speak English, Carolyn is quick and steady with an answer: physics. Sharp as ever, Eugene ponders if the aliens might also be able to speak some French.

StarTalk Live! wouldn’t be complete without fans lining the aisles to ask Neil and our guests Cosmic Queries live and in-person, and our panel never gives a dull answer. Most importantly, Neil’s comments on whether or not we are more likely to be in a matrix instead of a real universe are not to be missed.

If you want a taste of what it’s like to be at a StarTalk Live! performance, then please join us tomorrow night for StarTalk Live! at The Beacon: Searching for Life in the Universe (Part 1) at 7pm EST right here on our website, as well as on our StarTalk channel on iTunes Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and TuneIn. And if you’re an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
– Ian Mullen