Michael Jordan dribbling on the court for the Chicago Bulls. Image Credit: Unknown author – Public domain.
Michael Jordan dribbling on the court for the Chicago Bulls. Image Credit: Unknown author – Public domain.

Making a Phenom – Genetics

Michael Jordan on the court. Image Credit: Unknown author – Public domain.
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About This Episode

On this episode of StarTalk Sports Edition, we begin our mini-series Making a Phenom. Over the next 4 episodes, host Neil deGrasse Tyson and co-hosts Gary O’Reilly and Chuck Nice will explore the factors that go into creating a phenom athlete. Is it nature? Is it nurture? What causes success? What causes failure? They’ll be exploring these questions and more with expert guests from across the sporting world. 

To start, we’re exploring sports genetics with David Epstein, investigative reporter and author of The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance. David tells us how he went from scientist to sportswriter and how he eventually ended up covering sports genetics. Then, we dive right in: Is there a sports gene? You’ll learn why it’s so hard to unlock the mysteries of the human genome. David tells us why we might never uncover what genes influence athleticism. 

We explore body type and how it’s transformed in sports. Discover more about early 20th century sports science and “the perfect form of man” that has become wholly outdated. David tells us about “the Big Bang of body types.” Then, Stuart Kim, PhD, founder and CEO of AxGen, joins the conversation. What can we do with a player’s genetic information? Stuart explains how genetics can help find out where risk of injury comes from. We investigate the differences between a genetic predisposition and an occupational hazard. You’ll hear how genetics could help us understand the underlying mechanisms that cause concussions. 

Are athletes searching their genetic code for answers? How can we use genetics to come back from injuries faster? Is it possible to “crack” the genetic code? Lastly, we discuss the importance of ambition. Is there a gene for ambition? Does inspiration matter more than genetics? All that, plus, David tells us why having the ability to measure things doesn’t necessarily make them important. 

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons and All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.


About the prints that flank Neil in this video:

“Black Swan” & “White Swan” limited edition serigraph prints by Coast Salish artist Jane Kwatleematt Marston. For more information about this artist and her work, visit Inuit Gallery of Vancouver, https://inuit.com/.

In This Episode

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