Several months ago, I listened to a wonderful podcast featuring a conversation between Neil deGrasse Tyson and Jonathan McDowell about “NASA’s Vision for Human Space Exploration.” The podcast was memorable on several accounts. These included:

  1. The importance of ideological cross-pollination between people of different disciplines (in this case scientists) needs to be remembered. Without idea sharing between people in different “content areas” (to use a K-12 term) many new technologies (like the microwave oven) would never have been invented or discovered. The microwave oven did not come out of conversations with experts on thermodynamics. It actually came from work scientists were doing related to radar in World War II. It is wonderful to become steeped in the ideas and theories of a particular discipline, but it is also vital to provide opportunities for people to challenge, enrich, and cross-pollinate the ideas of others who have diverse perspectives. The stories and examples related in this podcast along these lines were superb and worth listening to again.
  2. One of the biggest values of NASA lies in its ability to inspire entire generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers. It is difficult (if not impossible) to put a pricetag on scientific inspiration.
  3. Innovations in science and technology are likely to continue to be HUGE drivers of the global economy (including the US economy specifically) in the decades to come. If we recognize the plausibility of this prediction, the need for increased investment in scientific R&D as well as programs like NASA is abundantly clear.

old microwave oven

This was a podcast from the WGBH Forum Network. I highly recommend their podcast channel. While only the last five lectures/presentations are available on the feed, many more presentations are available on the forum’s website.

Incidentally, Neil deGrasse Tyson is the director of the Hayden Planetarium, and Jonathan McDowell is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. What a treat to hear such knowledgeable experts converse on these topics! This is precisely the sort of high-quality, expert-level content that I hope more students will access, reflect on, and share their ideas about on Talking Science. (I hope to work more on the “Talking Science” project in 2007.)

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, subscribe to Wes' free newsletter. Check out Wes' video tutorial library, "Playing with Media." Information about more ways to learn with Dr. Wesley Fryer are available on

On this day..

Share →

One Response to Idea cross-pollination and inspiring scientists

  1. Glad you liked our little gabfest! We had fun doing it, much better than the usual single-person lecture.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Sharing from Matthews, North Carolina! Connect with Wes on Mastodon.