James Cameron emerges from the Deep Sea Challenger after his successful solo dive to the Mariana Trench. Photo Credit: Mark Thiessen/National Geographic.
James Cameron emerges from the Deep Sea Challenger after his successful solo dive to the Mariana Trench. Photo Credit: Mark Thiessen/National Geographic.

The Spirit of Exploration, with James Cameron

Shown: James Cameron emerges from the Deep Sea Challenger after his successful solo dive to the Mariana Trench. Photo Credit: Mark Thiessen/National Geographic.

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About This Episode

What do filmmakers do in their spare time? Write? Think? Explore the deepest parts of our ocean in a one-person submarine risking their life for the sake of exploration? On this episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson interviews James Cameron, filmmaker and explorer, on the convergence of exploration, imagination, and innovation throughout his multi-dimensional career. In studio, Neil is joined by comic co-host Chuck Nice and astrophysicist and StarTalk All-Stars host Charles Liu to discuss the impact of Cameron’s career and explorations. You’ll hear about James’ inspirations growing up, including Jacques Cousteau and his groundbreaking films and discoveries. James tells us about his early beginnings as a geek and how he transitioned into the world of filmmaking. We explore some of his seminal films including The Terminator, Titanic, and Avatar. You’ll learn why James wanted to make Titanic – and it wasn’t just to make a movie about the famous ship. Neil confronts James with some issues he has with the “science” of the floating mountains on Pandora, the alien moon in Avatar. You’ll also hear how the ocean influenced the eclectic life seen on Pandora, why detail is the most important thing when creating a film epic, and James tells us the secret to creating aliens in science fiction. Then, Chuck leads Neil and Charles in a game of “Outer Space or Underwater” where our two astrophysicists try and guess where certain life forms are found: science fiction or the ocean. We dive into James’ adventure to the depths of our own ocean as he recounts the process behind his historical voyage to the Mariana Trench. You’ll find out how they built the submarine that got him there and why it was only fit for one person. Neil and Charles give insight into how the pressure of the water that far down can become more and more deadly every meter you continue downwards. Neil and Charles provide a quick lesson on how many ways the universe can kill you. All that, plus, you’ll discover more about exploring Europa and Enceladus, James asks Neil his own Cosmic Query, and we ponder if sending artists should be a facet in the next generation of space travel. 

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