In a StarTalk episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson was given the question “what is gravity?” He quipped “we have no idea” before elaborating more. Flat-Earthers quoted it out of context to discredit Neil and gravity, completely disregarding what Neil explained afterward.
In reality, Neil did provide a very comprehensive answer to the question “what is gravity” but flat-Earthers only gave an emphasis to the “we have no idea” part of his answer, and skipped the rest of his answer.
Leighann Lord: What is Gravity?
Neil deGrasse Tyson: We have no idea. OK, next question. *laughs*
NDT: OK, here’s the difference. We can describe gravity. We can say what it does to other things. We can measure it, predict with it. But when we start asking like what it is, I don’t know.
LL: So, did I just accidentally asked a deeper question than I meant to?
NDT: Yeah, no. You were meant to ask the question in life. So, to say what is it, I think Einstein, in an Einsteinian answer, we’d say gravity is the curvature of space and time. And that an object will follow the curvature of spacetime, and we interpret that as a force of gravity. That’s probably the best answer I can give to a “what is gravity” question, or why is there a gravity. That’s the best I can do. I think that’s a good start. And I can also say that Einstein noted that matter tells space how to curve, space tells matter how to move.
LL: Say that again.
NDT: Ain’t that beautiful?
LL: It is. No, I wanna get that. I like that, it’s a ???
NDT: Yeah, so, matter and energy will curve the fabric of space. It is the curvature that tells other matter how to move in a curvature of space itself. And so Einstein juxtaposes those in a poetic phrase where he said matter tells space how to curve, space tells matter how to move. It’s beautiful.
LL: That is beautiful. It sounds like the opening to a dance lesson. How do we begin?
NDT: So, that’s your co-host privilege for the first question.
LL: Thank you so much.