March 1, 2018 9:08 pm

Tomorrow: Neil deGrasse Tyson Talks to Lance Armstrong about Cycling, Physics, and Doping

This week on StarTalk Radio we explore cycling with one of the most controversial figures in its history: Lance Armstrong. Love him or hate him, Armstrong certainly made his mark on the sport and he still has things to say about it.

You’ll hear Neil and Lance talk about the history of the sport and how he got into cycling through the triathlon. Explore the aerodynamics of the bicycle and how it has, and has not, evolved over time. You’ll also discover what Lance thinks about his legacy, and, yes, don’t worry, we talk about doping.

Brandon Royal's photo of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Lance Armstrong.

Photo Credit: Brandon Royal.

In studio, recorded live at the Hall of the Universe in the American Museum of Natural History, Neil is joined by comic co-host Scott Adsit, Max Glaskin, author of Cycling Science, and Arthur Caplan, bio-ethics professor at NYU.

Adding to Lance’s interview, Max and Arthur provide insight on the history of cycling, the enhancements provided by technology, and the influence of doping on the sport.

Our panel makes an interesting argument about doping in sports: are we watching sports to watch human performance or are we paying to see the best show? If we’re watching to see human performance then obviously we wouldn’t want the influence of performance-enhancing drugs. But if we’re paying to see the best show, wouldn’t it make sense to give everyone the opportunity to gain an advantage? (Personally, I watch sports to see athletes do amazing things that they’ve trained and worked many hours to accomplish. If you taint those performances with doping, then we lose the humanity of the sport and the weight of the accomplishment.)

Getting back to technology, in this episode Chuck Nice stops by the Sports Science Lab on Staten Island, NY to get a glimpse of how cyclists train, and, surprisingly, he finds out he’s better than he, and all of us, thought he was.

Cycling is a sport bursting with science and even if you don’t have a great interest in the sport, the science alone is something to hear about. Not to mention that it’s fascinating to listen to a controversial figure work his way through a conversation on a subject very sensitive to his reputation.

We barely scratch the surface on the many-layered world of doping in this episode, so if you want a deep dive, please check out our Playing with Science episode The Murky World of Doping in Sports, which features Neil, Lance, and Michael Shermer, a former professional cyclist and Scientific American author who wrote “The Doping Dilemma.” It also features psychologist Dr. Tom Hildebrandt, who discusses the impact performance-enhancing drugs have on the brains and bodies of the athletes who use it. And of course, Playing with Science is hosted by Chuck Nice and Gary O’Reilly.

Please join us tomorrow night for Cycling, Physics, and Doping, with Lance Armstrong at 7pm ET right here on our website, as well as on our All-Stars channels on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Ian Mullen