What does NASA mean for our future?

03Apr10

If you’re not familiar with Neil deGrasse Tyson, he is an American scientist well known for his role in popularizing science. He’s been featured on the Colbert Report 6 times, for good reason. His talks are engaging and quick-witted, and he does an excellent job of explaining the beauty of science.

Here he is discussing the role of NASA in our society.

Will shooting people into space make people more money? Will running experiments at the LHC cure cancer? Will abstract paintings buy me a new car, or will the Olympics end wars?

These are the wrong questions to ask. Many of these enterprises are a sinkhole for money, and they will likely not generate a net profit anytime soon. But these are the activities that ignite a new generation of informed, physically active, well-rounded citizens.

Teachers play the same role. Of course students need to be prepared to enter society with the requisite skills, but the Krebs cycle will rarely come up in everyday life for most people. Maybe the more important role of teachers is to ignite a passion for a subject that didn’t exist before. Society gets productive, thoughtful workers, and individuals acquire a passion for a subject that hopefully fulfills them. Everyone wins!

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