In a Big Think Q&A, Bill Nye gave his opinion on why we cannot throw our trash into space. Flat-Earthers took Bill’s words out of context and used it to “disprove” space flight.
“Why we don’t throw trash into space? Because it’s too expensive. Lifting a ton of material into space takes an extraordinary amount of rocket fuel. And, by the way, when people want to send this much plutonium-238 which is not even the weapon’s plutonium, a baseball size, a grapefruit size, people freak out because the rockets sometimes blow up.”
“Now, one thing I really want your generation to embrace is that the Earth is a closed system. We cannot leave the Earth. There’s no place to go. There’s no place to throw your trash. And I wouldn’t be surprised if maybe not you but your kids develop ways to mine our landfills.”
Unscrupulous flat-Earthers took the specific part “Earth is a closed system. We cannot leave the Earth. There’s no place to go,” and presented it as if Bill was telling us we cannot go to space. From the complete video, it is clear that it is not what Bill meant.
Bill Nye is a space colonization skeptic. He does not believe space colonization is realistic. It does not mean Bill thinks we cannot go to space. In another Q&A, he said we need to have a presence on Mars for research purposes.
The bolded words are the parts often quote-mined by unscrupulous flat-Earthers.
Hi, I’m Rachel and I’m a student at Columbia. What would we see if theoretically a human were able to travel at the speed of light? My teacher told me some of the that we might see the past and the present or maybe the past and the future, I can’t remember, simultaneously. But whatever his response was it didn’t make a lot of sense to me so I was wondering if you could give me a better clarification.
Rachel, this is a great question. So, about what happens when you go the speed of light. I mean this is a great, we love to ask this question in physics class. It’s bit fun here on Big Think.
But, if you have mass which we all to, we are not pure energy, we are not beams of light, we are not electrical fields. We are not gravitational fields. We have mass. It has been shown beyond any doubt that you cannot go the speed of light. You can go arbitrarily fast approaching the speed of light but you can’t quite go the speed of light.
All the energy you pump in just adds to your mass. And this seems incredible. It adds to your mass relative to something you’re going to run into in a particle accelerator, or an atom smasher like at Lucerne in Switzerland. We call it a target that you run into.
That said, you can’t help but wonder what would happen if you go the speed of light. You’ve got to figure that only light you’d see is the light that you’d run into, either light that you happen to cross paths with, or light that was beamed straight at you. You wouldn’t see anything else.
About the change in time. There’s been a lot of talk about that. Can time have a speed effectively? Can you go backwards in time? Apparently not. People love to speculate about oh, they can’t get enough about this. What happens if you fall into a wormhole and then you like end up in another part of the universe like in another time? Maybe. But if you try to fall into a gravitational thing of that strength, of a black hole for example, which is a star with so much gravity light doesn’t escape, it would kill you. You’d be —the difference in gravity between your feet and your head would be so — just the difference in gravity would be so high it would stretch you into a piece of spaghetti, which would also make you dead. But you can’t help but wonder. That’s a great question.
My second question is, um, are there any reasons besides ethical dilemmas that we have if we shot some of our trash into space? I know it might contribute to space junk but if we shot it far enough away, um, besides maybe then contributing to other creatures’ environment if
they do exist.
What are the downsides to doing that and why haven’t we if it might then clear up space on Earth and clear some of the pollution that we have. Or not contribute then to landfills. We might be able to shoot it elsewhere.
Why we don’t throw trash into space? Because it’s too expensive. Lifting a ton of material into space takes an extraordinary amount of rocket fuel. And, by the way, when people want to send this much plutonium-238 which is not even the weapon’s plutonium, a baseball size, a grapefruit size, people freak out because the rockets sometimes blow up.
Now, one thing I really want your generation to embrace is that the Earth is a closed system. We cannot leave the Earth. There’s no place to go. There’s no place to throw your trash. And I wouldn’t be surprised if maybe not you but your kids develop ways to mine our landfills.
We throw away so much valuable stuff right now, especially raw materials. I may be wrong of course. I always may be wrong I wouldn’t be surprised if that turns out to be economically reasonable. All these plastics. It’s really hard to create and hard to get it to break down. It has value, you know. Like I have some clothing made out of old water bottles. So, just let go of the idea of throwing stuff off the Earth. It’s just too easy a solution. What we need to do is not throw stuff away, but you’ve heard it, you’ve heard it a hundred times. Reduce what we need to throw away. Recycle the stuff that we create and reuse it. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Those are the things we want to do.
And then I did a video years ago —there’s a fourth one — Rethink. Yes, rethink Big Think. Reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s all good. The key to the future, Rachel, is not to do less. That’s not what we’re talking about my engineering colleagues and me, and I. We are talking about doing more with less. More efficient transportation. More efficient use of fuel. More efficient use of farmland. More efficient everything. And that way we’ll have to throw away less and we can dare I say it change the world. Great question, Rachel!
- Hey Bill Nye, “Let’s Save Planet Earth before We Move to Mars” – Big Think – YouTube