Sunday, April 22, 2012

2nd grader comes very close to stumping Neil DeGrasse Tyson with a question.

I absolutely love the fact that Dr. Tyson is shocked that such an advanced question came from such a young child. 

It is children like that who are the hope for our future.  The ones with great imagination, who constantly wonder about how things work, and dream the dreams which expand out horizons and push out civilization forward.

These are the children who are NOT taught to believe rather than think, and who we desperately need to protect from becoming burned out in high school after years of memorizing facts to prepare for their exit exams that NCLB demands from them before providing them with their diplomas.

Because our education system now seems determined to destroy this kind of "outside the box" thinking in exchange for creating a country filled with cookie cutter versions of what certain politicians believe represents the "best" America has to offer.

I could not disagree more with that opinion.


  1. A. J. Billings4:30 AM

    0/T, but the FBI has released documents confirming that Don Young spent his campaign money on hunting trips, and just plain outright theft.

    1. Anonymous6:50 AM

      Pubic corruption is everywhere -- but why is it so overwhelmingly dominant in Alaska?
      Most of the "leaders" either were dominant in the early days of statehood, or their lineal descendants have taken up their corrupt, insular ways.
      Is it because the state is so huge, so many parts are physically cut off from each other, or ???
      How does your state merit Palin, Murkowski, Stevens, Parnell, Young, Sullivan, and on and on....
      Is there no possibility of reform?

    2. wakeUpAmerica9:35 AM

      I would guess that it became the way of doing business when the pipeline was built and the arrival of big oil.

  2. wolfbitch4:36 AM

    Superb question!!! I do wish the panel hadn't started out being so lalala condescending to the kid, though.

    But I'm not sure Dr. Tyson's answer is entirely correct - that once the black holes had collided, the resulting black hold would be the size of both combined. Wouldn't the end result be dependent on the angle at which they'd collided?

    I know, maybe this isn't the right place to ask this, but it's Sunday, I'm at freakin' work, alone, and I'm already bored shitless.

  3. Could listen to him all day. Been really busy in the garden, Gryphen, just wanted to say have a great day, thanks for all you do, keep up the good work........

  4. Anonymous4:49 AM

    I loved the way Professor Tyson handled the question which, in itself, is very interesting. I am someone who can neither understand nor even fathom anything about astronomy but it still fascinates me. He took the little boy's question seriously, he never made the child seem silly and proceeded to give as complete an answer as one possibly could. Great teacher, Neil DeGrasse Tyson! Would that all of our children and grandchildren could be blessed with such teachers always.

  5. the infinity of space and all its possibilities has always fascinated me.

    its the one hope i hold out for an afterlife to spend eternity traveling and exploring its vastness.

    since i have nothing but contempt for most human beings my only wish is the life i find has no resemblance to earth, except for its gorgeous animals.

    1. Anonymous8:37 AM

      O/T, "THRIVE ( is an unconventional documentary that lifts the veil on what's REALLY going on in our world by following the money upstream -- uncovering the global consolidation of power in nearly every aspect of our lives. Weaving together breakthroughs in science, consciousness and activism, THRIVE offers real solutions, empowering us with unprecedented and bold strategies for reclaiming our lives and our future."

      This movie addresses universal approaches in thinking about and taking action to address educational and other issues.

  6. I’m just sitting quietly trying to think of how to respond to that wonderful kid…

    Tyson did a good job.

  7. GrannyMe5:35 AM

    Not to toot my own horn, but this is precisely why I chose to homeschool my 7 kids. We started in public school, but after some more than unsettling experiences, I pulled them out.

    Homeschooling didn't mean staying at home. We were constantly out in the community--volunteering, dance classes, Scouts, 4-H, historical re-inactments, theatrical productions, a couple of feature films and much more. Whenever the children's museum needed B-roll for local TV coverage, the kids were willing participants. The older ones were invited to become docents at age 10, often presenting to visiting public school students.

    As the children grew older, we partnered with our local community college, and later a nearby university. The kids were welcomed into occasional classes, the library, and especially the science and computer labs. When the oldest turned 16, they were regular full time students, one an officer in Student Government. The youngest was invited to attend a few international conferences on the brain at the request of the founder. I think she sealed the deal when she picked up a skull and quipped, "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio." She was 11, btw.

    They were all cast members of an outdoor historical drama for several years, too. fyi, our activities took place in small, rural towns, not the big city.

    My point is that ALL children are curious about the world and it's hard to keep them from learning. Sadly, NCLB has quashed the joy right out of school for students AND dedicated teachers.

    1. You may have been able to address homeschooling - most parent's can't. Many home school for religious reasons and their answers would be a someone else mentioned "god works in mysterious ways";

      In my schooldays we would get "guest" speakers who would come into the school and discuss many issues social sciences and traditional science - rather than have to take the class to the experts - they came to the school. Maybe those times are gone.

  8. Chenagrrl5:36 AM

    As the mom of two boys, I have fielded this question with more questions. It is amazing to hear a second-grader ask it and to hear the graceful, fun-loving answer. My fervent wish is to create an atmosphere in American classrooms that would foster that kind of learning.

  9. Anonymous6:00 AM

    I noticed that Dr. Tyson struggled to find the words that could be understood by a 2nd grader, and for all his effort, I'm not sure he totally succeeded. These topics, and Clayton's question in particular, show how much advanced knowledge and even specific vocabulary is necessary to understand and explain the answers. And herein lies the problem plaguing America. Rather than reaching for understanding, buying the books, perhaps taking college courses and attending seminars, too many people take the easy route and content themselves with 2 convenient answers - God did it and God works in mysterious ways. Bravo to Clayton and all the kids with inquiring minds. And bravo to Dr. Tyson and teachers everywhere who take these kids seriously, love them, teach them, and guide them through their quest for learning and understanding.

  10. Beldar Eightheeism Conehead6:12 AM

    Gryphen, you and your obsession with knowledge... Ya wanna why atheism will NEVER be a widespread belief system in this country? Well, I'll tell you why: there's no money in it! People are NEVER going to donate their hard earned cash to rationality, logic and reason when there are angry and/or loving white-bearded Sky Gods to pony up to. Get real, man!

    Now, Dr. Tyson is an entertaining figure, I suppose, but of what real value is his knowledge? I'm pretty sure his doctorate is NOT in theology from a recently televangelist-founded college in the Bible Belt so he clearly knows nothing about Jeebus or religion. It follows logically, then, does it not, that he probably doesn't know much about anything of real value?

    Afterall, it clearly states in the Bible - which was WRITTEN by god, hello!! -

    "Learn ye not of Science and other Earthly Matters as Everything ye will Ever Need to Know is Right Here in this Bible. All Else is of Satan, yo!".
    Aphasians 21:12

    Wow! Could it get ANY clearer than that??? You don't have to be Kirk Cameron to understand that The Bible HAS to be true because IT SAYS SO IN THE BIBLE!!!!

    Think about it: besides a few questionable advances in first aid and maybe, using static electricity to hold balloons on someone's sweater in the winter, name ONE thing that science has ever discovered that is more awesome than learning that some people in ancient times heard voices in their heads?

    1. Anonymous8:27 AM

      Bravo! Best comment of the day! I'll be chuckling for quite a while.

    2. Anita Winecooler5:34 PM

      Beldar, I love how your mind works, your wit and satire are always a pleasure to read! Thanks for the chuckles!

    3. Anonymous7:12 PM

      Aphasians 21:12
      Can I write that under my eye yo? (for those T-bo fans out there)

  11. Anonymous6:17 AM

    Tyson did a great job of taking this young man seriously. Clayton was able to ask a question that deserved an honest, forthright answer. Both presented what is best about the human mind. And Gryphen, I like your short line of valuing the ability to think and not simply taught what to believe.

  12. This was an absolutely fascinating exchange. Thank you for posting it G.

  13. WakeUpAmerica6:31 AM

    It is possible that this child came up with the question on his own, but as an educator, I can also tell you that the children are often given questions to ask.

  14. Anonymous6:32 AM

    2nd grade is on the event horizon of curiosity -- if it is stifled at that early stage, getting it to grow later is far more difficult. I can remember in the mid-70's being amazed at the many university students could not think for themselves and the few who would ask questions and seek the answers on their own. Trying to find the "think" button on the greatest number was an exercise in frustration.

    This kid already knows how to think and I suspect that he understood the final answer better than any of Republicans in the USA.

  15. Anonymous7:15 AM

    I was fortunate to be able to send my children to private same sex schools where they were taught to think, not memorize; explore, not accept; question, not submit. I support any educational setting, whether public, private, religious, etc., that allows are children to grow in this matter. I would love to see what this little second grader is like when he graduates from HS and if he still has this curiosity.

  16. Anonymous7:26 AM

    Medieval scholars debated how many angels could dance on the head of a pin and science devotees debate the potential outcomes of "colliding black holes" (an oxymoron).

    Interesting to hear Mr. Tyson admit he didn't understand the field issues arising from multiple Schwarzschild radii. At least he managed to express the key feature of the question (assuming, of course, Einstein was correct): the collapse of space.

    And no, I'm not an atheist.

    1. Flipping through the cable stations the other night I chanced on a "Public Service Announcement" on a Christian Broadcasting Network. This informercial was done by a perfectly coiffed and made up Christian Lady. She told how to explain to children learning science theory in the "evil public schools" that the world is too wonderful to have evolved from a "big bang" and human beings as a species are much to complex to be a product of evolution... just read the bible... that is all you need to know...This got me to this how learning died out and the "dark ages" took over at the fall of the Roman Empire???
      Seeing children and scholars interact like this gives me some hope for the future..

    2. Anita Winecooler6:05 PM

      Brick, I went to a museum exhibit of Leonardo Da Vinci's works, he was so freaked out by the threat of being tried as a "heretic" by the Church, he devised a way of taking notes that had to be held upside down and read in a mirror. I never saw the PSA, but your assessment of how learning died out in the dark ages is something I agree with wholeheartedly. The Flat Earth Society was all the rage.
      I can't imagine living in such a mind numbing world.

  17. Anonymous7:47 AM

    JPL took photographs of binary black holes several years ago. My son showed these images to one of his teachers, who pretended to disbelieve in black holes until he saw proof.

  18. hedgewytch8:15 AM

    This could be my little boy - but mine's cuter!! ;-)

    Gosh I love me some Neal DeGrasse Tyson. What a great man.

    My husband and I are striving to raise our child with the same quest and love for knowledge. I sure hope we succeed, because this country needs a bunch of children like these to help bring us back to the 21st Century.

    Happy Earth Day!

  19. It's easy to make NCLB the whipping boy for everything that is wrong in public education, but that is overly simplistic. Mandated testing is not the culprit in the muffling of kids' love of learning.

    I know that our students do NOT "spend years memorizing facts to prepare for the high school exit exam." It wouldn't do them any good, because
    the Standards Based Assessments do not test "facts". They test the students ability to read and comprehend a variety of texts, to write coherently, and to solve multi-step math problems.

    There are problems with high stakes testing, but please disabuse yourself of the notion that they only test students' memory of a collection of "facts".

  20. Anonymous9:51 AM

    I had a conversation with a teacher today (in my state, teachers are under fire from the DEMOCRATIC governor). She promised to send me some information to show that the push for charter schools, more testing, less support for public school teachers is funded by large corporations (she named Target as one) that would benefit by selling education at for-profit schools. Meanwhile, the public schools (where I once members of the local symphony orchestra, professional artists and dancers used to perform for students) continue to decline.

    1. Anonymous3:44 PM

      It is one of the ALEC issues though why corporations would want their employees and customers dumber than dumb I simply cannot understand.

  21. This is a little of topic, but not real far.
    There is a short 10 min or so movie on Youtube called "Caine's Arcade" about a 9 yr old boy and the functioning arcade he built from cardboard boxes. This little kid is so smart.

    It is so refreshing to see smart kids, and thought being encouraged. Education rocks!

  22. Maddies_Mom12:24 PM

    Beldar (fill-in-the-blank) Conehead, welcome back! I've missed you!

  23. abbafan3:59 PM

    Kudos to Dr.Tyson and all dedicated educators for broadening childrens' horizons and realizing their full potential! Hopefully, the youngster who posed this query to Dr.Tyson will have a bright future ahead of him in science or humanities. O/T -I would pay BIG MONEY to hear the Palin jackoffspring pose the same question, and interpret the response logically -NOT!!! The only thought process they "conceive" is by spreading their tree trunks wide!

  24. Anita Winecooler5:56 PM

    I love Mr Tyson's response, and the fact that he values the second grader's question enough to try to give him the same response he would of someone much older.

    Your assessment of the state of Education today is spot on. This child's inquisitiveness should be rewarded and displayed instead of being marginalized and stifled by rigid arbitrary rules that need to be met, made by committees of people who have no clue about children's developmental needs.

    And one need not be "book educated" to learn. My Father dropped out of school in the fifth grade to help his family after his father passed. That man's most valuable possession was his library card.

    When my first daughter was about five, he bought her a candy bar. After sharing it, she dropped the wrapper on the ground. He took that and turned it into a "teachable moment" about stewardship of the environment, reading, and a lesson in astronomy.

    He picked up the wrapper and taught her to spell "Milky Way", then took a bus to the library and showed her the galaxy in one of those huge books with transparent overlays, then, when he felt she grasped the concept, he taught her to put the litter in the trash can, after another lesson in pollution and delicate eco systems.
    She never forgot how infectious his joy of learning was. And my husband and I learned to look for those "teachable moments" and take advantage of them.


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