A Conversation with Mario Andretti and Neil deGrasse Tyson

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About This Episode

“If everything seems under control then you’re just not going fast enough.” On this episode of Playing with Science, hosts Chuck Nice and Gary O’Reilly sit down with Neil deGrasse Tyson and “the greatest driver of the century” – Mario Andretti. For Mario’s second appearance on Playing with Science, we take a trip down memory lane as we explore his record-breaking and awe-inspiring career.

Find out about Mario’s upbringing and his time spent in a refugee camp when he was a child. You’ll learn about when he realized racing was his true passion and his early days of hitting the track without telling his parents. Mario tells us about racing cars with his brother and how they learned to be their own engineers and mechanics as well as the drivers. 

Discover more about Mario’s journey to compete in the Daytona 500. We discuss the differences driver’s feel when driving different types of race cars. Mario also tells us why practical knowledge and experience allow drivers to relay more precise technical data to their teams to improve their cars. You’ll hear about Mario’s time racing in Formula 1 for Lotus and their pioneering use of “the ground effect.” 

Neil teaches Mario some science of racing that he did not know before. Neil also ponders why Formula 1 has so many rules and Mario gives us the low down on the reasons behind certain rules. What is the most important element when trying to win a race: the driver, the team, or the car? Mario explains why the answer is more complicated than you might think.

We explore the impact racing has on the development of “normal” cars. Lastly, you’ll also hear Mario’s thoughts on his family carrying the Andretti name into the future of racing. All that, plus, we discuss the hot-button issue of driverless cars and their impact on the future of auto racing.

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