With its heat shield facing the planet, NASA’s Perseverance rover begins its descent through the Martian atmosphere in this illustration. Hundreds of critical events must execute perfectly and exactly on time for the rover to land on Mars safely on Feb. 18, 2021.
With its heat shield facing the planet, NASA’s Perseverance rover begins its descent through the Martian atmosphere in this illustration. Hundreds of critical events must execute perfectly and exactly on time for the rover to land on Mars safely on Feb. 18, 2021.

Things You Thought You Knew – Need for Speed

NASA/JPL-Caltech
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About This Episode

Metric system, acceleration, and heat shields, Oh my! On this episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice run us through some things you thought you knew: the metric system in the U.S., speed versus acceleration, and heat shields.  

Why isn’t the U.S. on the metric system? Are there any problems that arise, since we’re not? What even is a meter? Discover the history behind the meter. Are we already inching toward the metric system? We break down why we may be using the metric system more in our daily lives than we originally thought. 

Do you feel the need… the need for speed?! We break down why this might actually be a need for acceleration. Find out about vectors, velocity, and the motion of the earth. Have you ever timed how long it takes for a car to go from zero to 60? You’ll learn about “jerk” as a change of acceleration and what it does to the human body. What does it mean to “feel” speed and the road? We talk cars, planes, and why you can drink a glass of water in a turning airplane without spilling.

Do heat shields actually shield you from heat? What are heat shields really for? We explore objects entering Earth’s orbit. Do these objects always heat up when they enter our atmosphere? We talk about retrorockets versus aerobraking and how they are both used to land spacecraft in different places. How does landing on Mars differ from landing on Earth or the Moon? Discover our world in another episode of Things You Thought You Knew!

Thanks to our Patrons Ray Sousa, jon delanoy, Louis Cirigliano, Violetta + my mom, Izzy, Hector S. Dominguez, Joshua Moody, Tyrel Carson, kbw, Autumn Moles for supporting us this week.

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

About the prints that flank Neil in this video:

“Black Swan” & “White Swan” limited edition serigraph prints by Coast Salish artist Jane Kwatleematt Marston. For more information about this artist and her work, visit Inuit Gallery of Vancouver.

In This Episode

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