April 11, 2015 12:01 pm

On Sunday’s Podcast, Neil deGrasse Tyson talks autism and animal science with Dr. Temple Grandin

Photo of Dr. Temple Grandin teaching Animal Sciences at Colorado State University.

Photo Credit: © 2009 Colorado State University

Dr. Temple Grandin wasn’t in the 1997 Apple “Think Different” ad, but she might have been.

Because it is the very fact that Temple thinks differently that led her to see what other people missed and revolutionize the way we treat animals in turning them from livestock into lunch.

As Temple tells host Neil deGrasse Tyson in Sunday’s podcast, “My mind thinks kind of like Google Images.” She explains that this type of photo-realistic thinking is one of the ways that the autistic brain can differ from the normal brain.

Temple’s visual thinking allowed her to “get into the head of cattle,” noticing how they feared shadows and reflections which everybody else had missed. Thanks to her innovations, animals which we grow for food suffer less in their captivity and eventual death.

Dr. Grandin is both an expert on animal science, which she teaches as a professor at Colorado State University, and on autism spectrum disorders, with which she has been diagnosed.

In the first part of the podcast, Neil and Temple talk about her life, her experiences, and her concerns for how people on the autism spectrum are treated by society. She is especially concerned about other people like her: smart, geeky kids on one end of the spectrum who may end up isolated “playing video games in their basements” rather than having their passions and their opportunities broadened to match their often surprising capabilities.

Neil and co-host Chuck Nice are joined in the studio by Dr. Paul Wang of Autism Speaks, who explains some of the difficulties in attempting to find the cause of autism.

In the second part of the show, the conversation moves to animal science and Temple’s innovations in the field. Paul Shapiro, VP of Farm Animal Protection for The Humane Society of the United States, joins Neil and Chuck in the studio to discuss how important Temple has been to animal welfare issues. (He’s also a vegan, he and Chuck have an interesting conversation about cultured meat compared to real steak.)

Throughout the entire podcast, one theme that shines through is Temple Grandin’s concern for others, from race horses and dairy cows that are being overbred and over-selected for a single trait, leading to biological system overload, to people who, like her, think differently but have so much to contribute to the world.

Join us for Autism and Animal Science with Dr. Temple Grandin this Sunday, April 12 at 7:00 PM ET on our website, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn and SoundCloud.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Jeffrey Simons

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