November 2, 2013 11:33 am

This Sunday, Neil deGrasse Tyson Answers Your Questions about UFOs

Promotional poster for the 1950 film “The Flying Saucer.” Credit: Colonial Productions

Promotional poster for the 1950 film The Flying Saucer. Credit: Colonial Productions

I was watching Neil deGrasse Tyson on Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO last night, and he mentioned that the Pacific Ocean is the great “toilet bowl” for dumping space objects into when we de-orbit satellites. One of the other guests, Rob Reiner, gave him a quizzical look, but Neil didn’t have time to explain as the conversation moved on to something else.

Well, coincidentally, Neil explains that a bit more in this Sunday’s episode. He’s explaining to co-host Eugene Mirman why in space, spaceships don’t need to be aerodynamic and shape doesn’t matter nearly as much as weight. That’s why, as soon as a one of our launch rockets flies high enough that atmospheric drag is no longer an issue, the fairings that protect our satellites and spaceships are jettisoned.

It came up as Neil was answering one of the many questions you all asked that had to do with the shape of UFOs, most of which referenced the flying saucer shapes made so popular in science fiction movies of the 1950s and 1960s.

Yes, that’s right, your own personal astrophysicist is answering your questions about UFOs. But before you assume that StarTalk Radio is going the way of The Discovery Channel or The History Channel, rest assured, Neil is staying firmly on scientific ground.

For instance, when it comes to those old spinning flying saucers, Neil explains why the laws of physics and the conservation of angular momentum would make them a bad idea: uncomfortable to fly in, if they could even fly at all without crashing. Plus, they all spin much faster than they’d need to create internal gravity, if that was in fact the reason.

Or, when a fan asks if an alien spaceship could be built out of energy to reach the speed of light, Neil discusses what happens to matter when it is converted into energy and back into matter.

It’s a refreshing approach to the subject, and you’ll even learn a few facts on subjects other than unidentified flying objects. You’ll learn why it’s hard to throw up on rotating amusement park rides like The Round Up (and how to do it if you’re so inclined), why mining our Moon for heavy metals would be a bad business to get into, and even why helicopters have tail rotors.

Listen to Cosmic Queries: UFOs this Sunday, November 3th at 7:00pm ET on our website, iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher.

Oh, and if you’re planning to come to StarTalk Live at Town Hall in NYC this Monday, November 4th, and you haven’t gotten tickets yet, you may not want to procrastinate any longer. There are less than 100 seats left. You can buy tickets here.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!

–Jeffrey Simons