Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh
Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

Starry Starry Night with Roberta Olson, Jay Pasachoff, & Heather Berlin

Vincent van Gogh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Free Audio
  • Ad-Free Audio
  • Ad-Free Video

About This Episode

Can you hear colors? On this episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice explore science through art in Van Gogh’s Starry Night with art historian Roberta Olson, astronomer Jay Pasachoff, and neuroscientist Heather Berlin. How do artists reflect on our universe?

How do artists depict celestial objects? Discover how artists have interpreted the cosmos over the ages and how science and art collide. Was the star of Bethlehem a comet? We discuss the drawings of astronomers and how illustration aided in the sciences. Was Isaac Newton an artist? Find out about the history of comets through the Nuremberg Chronicle. When did artists start putting their subjective pawprint on their work? 

Was the night sky like television in earlier times? How are the cosmos used symbolically? We discuss the Enlightenment and the meaning of comets, meteor showers, and other celestial events historically. Find out about Van Gogh’s nocturnes. Did he really paint what he was seeing? Or did Van Gogh bend the truth? Did he have synesthesia (seeing colors with sound)? We break down the accuracy of the moon and the stars in Starry Night. Is the gibbous moon really the worst moon to paint? 

To finish, Heather Berlin brings us the neurosciences of what happens in the mind of an artist. Does creativity come from the right side of the brain and logic from the left? Heather debunks some creativity myths for us and helps us understand the default mode network versus the salience network. Is there a neurological cost to being more creative? Could you make a person more creative artificially? Is it possible for AI to be more creative than human beings? How do synesthesia and chromesthesia work in the brain? Was the jump from traditional art to impressionist art a creative leap or just plain lazy? All that, plus, we break down how we would inject a joke into Chuck’s head!

Thanks to our Patrons Rob Carter, Will, Matthew Power, David Born, CARLOS A HERNANDEZ, jon delanoy, and Trisha Donadio for supporting us this week.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

 

In This Episode

  • Host

    Neil deGrasse Tyson

    Neil deGrasse Tyson
    Astrophysicist
  • Co-Host

    Chuck Nice

    Chuck Nice
    Comedian
  • Guest

    Roberta Olson

    Roberta Olson
    Curator of Drawings, N-YHS; Professor Emerita of Art History
  • Guest

    Jay Pasachoff

    Jay Pasachoff
    Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College
  • Guest

    Heather Berlin

    Heather Berlin
    Neuroscientist, Clinical Psychologist, and Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Get the most out of StarTalk!

Ad-Free Audio Downloads
Ad-Free Video Episodes
Stickers & Mugs
Live Streams with Neil
Priority Cosmic Queries
Early-Access Videos
Learn the Meaning of Life
...and much more

Episode Topics