Neil De Grasse Tyson Makes the Connections Fox Fails to Make – on Fox

May 6, 2014

MediaMatters:

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has found a surprising home on FOX Broadcasting Network to host Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. In the 13-part documentary series, Tyson’s advocacy of scientific literacy — particularly related to climate change — is directly at odds with its sister network, Fox News.

In the latest episode of Cosmos, Tyson devoted the hour to the Earth’s history of changing climates and subsequent mass extinctions. He ended the show by forecasting the next mass extinction due to climate change, imploring his audience to break society’s “addiction” to fossil fuels:

TYSON: We can’t seem to stop burning up all those buried trees from way back in the carboniferous age, in the form of coal. And the remains of ancient plankton in the form of oil and gas. If we could, we’d be home free climate-wise. Instead, we are dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate the earth hasn’t seen since the great climate catastrophes of the past. The ones that led to mass extinctions. We just can’t seem to break our addiction to the kinds of fuel that will bring back a climate last seen by the dinosaurs, a climate that will drown our coastal cities and wreak havoc on the environment and our ability to feed ourselves. All the while, the glorious sun pours immaculate, free energy down upon us, more than we will ever need. Why can’t we summon the ingenuity and courage of the generations that came before us? The dinosaurs never saw that asteroid coming. What’s our excuse?

During the series, Tyson has also spelled out how corporate interests and funding can debilitate science, and has touted alternative energy research into artificial photosynthesis to reduce climate disruption from greenhouse gases.

FOX’s decision to broadcast the remake of Cosmos might seem unexpected. You would never hear these narratives on Fox News — at least without being mocked. A study from the Union of Concerned Scientists found that when Fox News does bring up climate change, it is overwhelmingly to mislead. In an interview with theNew York Times, executive producer Seth MacFarlane stated, “I suppose it’s incumbent upon Fox to do something like this, to make up for all the damage it’s done with its news network.”

Tyson himself has admitted that the idea of broadcasting Cosmos on FOX initially gave him pause. In an interview with tech blog io9, Tyson recalled a meeting withFamily Guy‘s MacFarlane, who worked with Tyson to turn the idea of a Cosmos re-make into a reality:

[MacFarlane] told me he wanted to do something to serve science in America and he asked me what he should do. I thought maybe he could invest in a pilot that we could use to show sponsors. He said “I have a good idea, let’s take it to Fox.”

Now, there are a series of thoughts I’m about to share with you that I think lasted about 12 seconds. My first thought was “This is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard, he doesn’t get it, this is a waste of a lunch.”

[…]

Yes, there’s Fox News, but also the Fox Network which has acerbic liberal commentary of The Simpsons and Family Guy. And there’s Fox Sports. I realized Fox has more demographics of American culture going through their portfolio than any other network. And so, I concluded that there’s no better place to be than on Fox.

Tyson has beseeched the necessity of “scientific literacy,” particularly for those that make decisions on energy, security, transportation, and health, warning that the “scientific illiterate adults” are “in charge of things.” He has also decried those that “cherry-pick” science, saying “[s]cience matters in our lives for us to be better shepherds of not only our civilization, but the world.”

Those on Fox News that make scientifically illiterate statements and cherry-pick the science could take a page from their sister network.

 

13 Responses to “Neil De Grasse Tyson Makes the Connections Fox Fails to Make – on Fox”


  1. […] Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has found a surprising home onFOX Broadcasting Network to host Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. In the 13-part documentary series, Tyson’s advocacy of scientific literacy — particularly related to climate change — is directly at odds with its sister network, Fox News. In the latest episode of Cosmos, Tyson devoted the hour to the Earth’s history of changing climates and subsequent mass extinctions. He ended the show by forecasting the next mass extinction due to climate change, imploring his audience to break society’s “addiction” to fossil fuels:  […]


  2. NDT said:

    We just can’t seem to break our addiction to the kinds of fuel that will bring back a climate last seen by the dinosaurs, a climate that will drown our coastal cities and wreak havoc on the environment and our ability to feed ourselves.

    Good description of the problem.  Then comes the non-sequitur:

    All the while, the glorious sun pours immaculate, free energy down upon us, more than we will ever need. Why can’t we summon the ingenuity and courage of the generations that came before us?

    Mr. Tyson (and all others reading this), the generations that came before us tried to make the sun work for them too.  Farrington Daniels describes the thermochemical work of LaVoisier in the 1770’s.  At a Paris exposition in 1878, a solar-heated boiler drove a steam engine which powered a printing press.  Yet here we are, 136 years later, and we’ve barely moved beyond that.  Why?

    Those generations knew something that people today seem intent on denying at all costs:  clouds, night and seasons are very hard problems and do not yield to engineering.  The insistence that energy must be “renewable”, literally trying to destroy other energy that is carbon-free, will be our downfall.

    Everyone should read James Hansen’s response to Sen. Menendez.

    research and development of nuclear power slowed to a crawl in the past few decades, in good part because of decisions made in the Carter and Clinton Administrations. Nevertheless, progress was not entirely prevented and it is still possible to minimize the damage that was done.
    The enormous growth of coal use in countries such as China and India needs to be replaced with carbon-free energy. “Renewables” can help, but despite large subsidies and mandated use, they provide only a small fraction of energy use, and cannot even match the growth of global energy demand, let alone replace existing fossil fuel use, which is the requirement imposed by climate.

    Carl Sagan would never have made such a sin of omission, the fallacy of the false dilemma.  We need more men of his caliber.

    • ubrew12 Says:

      “clouds, night and seasons are very hard problems and do not yield to engineering”
      You know, you should tell Germany that. They are so short of engineers over there, that they think Solar is the way forward. Despite the fact that they get less annual solar than Alaska. It’s all very sad. THIS is why I drive a Yugo rather than an BMW…


      • Someone should tell you that Germany has 6 times the per-kWh emissions of neighboring France.

        Someone should tell you that a Leaf consuming 200 Wh/km just barely falls under the 99 gm/km spec for low-carbon vehicles if charged from the German grid, but comes out at a spectacular 15 gm/km at French figures and an astounding figure of less than 5 grams per km if driven in Sweden.

        France and Sweden didn’t do it with wind and solar.  They do it with hydro and nuclear.

  3. mbrysonb Says:

    I don’t want to reject any low-carbon form of energy. But nuclear power has real challenges of its own– after decades of work and massive subsidies, power too cheap to meter became power too expensive to build. I’m open to the possibility that other approaches may make nuclear power a real alternative. But time is running short. It will take a long while (decades, on past form) to design, test and build enough new nuclear plants to replace a substantial part of carbon-based generation. Meanwhile the costs of solar and wind continue to decline, and storage options are improving too. We need to pursue all our options, but to bend the curve as we must, we need options we can begin to implement now, not in 2030 or 2040.


    • after decades of work and massive subsidies, power too cheap to meter

      Nobody ever promised that.  It was blue-sky speculation in 1954, 3 years before the first commercial NPP in the USA went on the grid.  And for a while it was looking like it might come true:  by the late 60’s nukes were coming in cheaper than coal.  Then came the NRC, and it all went pear-shaped.

      became power too expensive to build.

      China is building it for $2500/kW and under.  Labor does cost more here, but what we have in the USA is “too expensive to get permission”; Hansen quotes figures of $100-$200 million just for “review” work as part of getting a license.  By the time the plant is operational, 7% interest has more than doubled that figure.

      Might I suggest that the solution is to dis-employ some lawyers, and hire some engineers?

      time is running short.

      Indeed.  What’s easier to change:  legal obstacles, or the laws of physics?  France essentially de-carbonized its electric grid 3 decades ago.  Had we not thrown up all those legal barriers, we could have been done by the turn of the century.  I have no objection to letting the renewables do what they can, but they must NOT be advantaged over other actual solutions either by subsidies or mandates.  We must have exactly one standard of success, and that is “getting the carbon out”.

      Meanwhile the costs of solar and wind continue to decline, and storage options are improving too.

      Storage is an interesting issue.  If you have generators that run constantly, you can time-shift off-peak generation to supply the peaks using storage holding about 1/10 of a day’s worth of total consumption.  Bridging gaps in wind and solar generation takes a minimum of 1 full day of storage (10 times as much) and you can still expect frequent fallback to combustion systems.

      I keep hoping for storage to get cheap.  I want all vehicles to go electric.  Whether renewables or nuclear win in the end I don’t care, I just know what has been proven to do the job today.  Sadly for the Greens, it’s not their horse.

    • Glenn Martin Says:

      I would love to find out what idiot first coined the phrase “power too cheap to metre”. I’m positive it was someone with no background in science or engineering. If it’s too cheap too metre, how do you recover costs?
      While there are fourth generation nuke designs that are shovel ready, the present economic framework of nuclear power is simply not profitable.
      Go with much more economical solar and wind and keep shooting for cheap storage solutions. But in the meantime, keep developing thorium, travelling wave and integral fast breeder designs but in a smaller and inherently simpler modular design that’s far more economical than the present “go big or go home” monstrosities. That way when you’ve reached the limits of what solar and wind can do you have a carbon free technology to fill the gaps.

      • greenman3610 Says:

        per wiki:

        Lewis Lichtenstein Strauss (January 31, 1896 – January 21, 1974) (pronounced “straws” /ˈstrɔːz/) was an American businessman, philanthropist, public official, and naval officer. He was a major figure in the development of nuclear weapons and nuclear power in the United States.[1]

        Strauss was the driving force in the hearings, held in April 1954 before a U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Personnel Security Board, in which J. Robert Oppenheimer’s security clearance was revoked. President Eisenhower’s nomination of Strauss to become U.S. Secretary of Commerce in 1959 was not confirmed by the Senate.


      • If it’s too cheap too metre, how do you recover costs?

        You buy a subscription which delivers X number of kilowatts, 24/7/365.  You can use it or not, but like a magazine that arrives whether you read it or not, you pay for it.

        The subscription model is really interesting.  What would you do with all kinds of “extra” power in the wee hours?  An electric vehicle makes a lot of sense, because it charges overnight.  A “heat battery” water heater and ice-storage air conditioner look pretty good.  Maybe your refrigerator makes ice overnight to chill itself with minimal power during the afternoon, so you can re-sell some of your power to someone else.  Maybe you have entire industries which operate only in the spring and fall seasons, using the power not needed elsewhere when temperatures are moderate.

        The current “renewable” model has extended periods of scarcity with intermittent surfeits.  What if you had regular, predictable surfeits?  Surfeits that come often and reliably enough that you can invest in ways to use them?  It requires a different way of thinking.

  4. mbrysonb Says:

    So you’re really convinced it’s just legal obstacles that stand in the way? I’m skeptical. France’s system is the result of very large scale dirigisme and a massive public investment. Japan’s system (in a rich and technically sophisticated country) still failed to manage the siting risks of a massive reactor. Wind over wide areas is rarely down– and rarer still offshore. Concentrated solar with molten salt storage is another serious contender. And breeders will be needed if we want nuclear as a long-term solution. Go ahead and do the engineering– if it works, great, but I don’t think it’s time to go all-in on one solution, least of all one that’s been heavily subsidized and failed in its current instantiation. Solar costs are dropping at a amazing rate, and the potential for mere energy efficiency is still under-valued.

    • Kiwiiano Says:

      And scarcely a day goes by without the announcement of a new development or refinement in solar power generation or battery technology. If only the billions being wasted on supporting obscenely profitable fossil fuel companies could be diverted to the alternatives.


    • So you’re really convinced it’s just legal obstacles that stand in the way?

      Yes.  Wind farms go from zero to operation in 1/3 of the time the NRC takes to review an application.  The NRC can and does hold up construction over the most trivial of issues, such as two slightly different versions of a rebar specification.  These are not engineering problems.  China does not have them.

      France’s system is the result of very large scale dirigisme and a massive public investment.

      Which is exactly what so many people are calling for with “renewables”, which are less successful in reducing carbon emissions.

      Japan’s system (in a rich and technically sophisticated country) still failed to manage the siting risks of a massive reactor.

      Yes, about that.  Fukushima Dai’ini and Onagawa were hit as hard or worse than Dai’ichi, but neither had a meltdown.  The details would take an essay to address properly, but it has to be noted that modern designs like the AP1000 are specifically immune to the loss-of-power disaster scenario which took down the Dai’ichi BWRs.

      Wind over wide areas is rarely down– and rarer still offshore.

      Such a rarity hit the Bonneville Power Administration from 1/15 to 1/29 last January.  And it doesn’t have to be “out” to hit you badly; “too low” hurts too.  How much work are you willing to miss because there isn’t the power to run your office… or get you home and cook your dinner?  How about when the available power will only let you heat the house to 45 degrees?

      Concentrated solar with molten salt storage is another serious contender.

      Their storage is measured in hours, not days.

      breeders will be needed if we want nuclear as a long-term solution.

      We know how to build them.  There was even a breeder core put in a conventional PWR (Shippingport).  It used thorium, which is 3-4x as abundant as uranium.

      I don’t think it’s time to go all-in on one solution, least of all one that’s been heavily subsidized and failed in its current instantiation.

      Most of those “subsidies” are actually part of the DOE weapons budget, Hanford cleanup and such.  Also, what’s “failure” in this context?  If France did it all over again, it could de-carbonize most of the rest of its economy.  Denmark, for all its green-ness, has a grid that’s 5 times as dirty as France’s.  If anything has failed, it’s renewables.


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