Nuclear weapon test Dakota (yield 1.1 Mt) on Enewetak Atoll.
Nuclear weapon test Dakota (yield 1.1 Mt) on Enewetak Atoll.

Nuclear Winter with Ann Druyan and Brian Toon

United States Department of Energy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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About This Episode

Are advanced civilizations doomed to destroy themselves? On this episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson and co-host Chuck Nice explore the Cold War, The Drake Equation, and Carl Sagan’s work on the nuclear winter hypothesis with producer of Cosmos and Carl Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan and atmospheric scientist Brian Toon. 

Learn about the Future of Life award (details here) and how scientists came up with the nuclear winter hypothesis. How close to annihilation were we? Ann tells us about working with Carl Sagan on Cosmos and his research on this world and others. Find out how Carl Sagan’s research on the climate of Venus inspired work on the runaway greenhouse effect in our own atmosphere. Are scientists always supposed to be dispassionate? 

What are the long-term consequences of nuclear war? How did they discover nuclear winter? Find out about volcanic eruptions and how the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs helped spark the idea of a nuclear winter. What happened after the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? We learn about what smoke does to the atmosphere and what a post-nuclear world would look like. Why haven’t we seen any other advanced civilizations in the universe? Where are they? We talk about the Drake Equation, the fate of the Earth, and the current state of weapons of mass destruction. How much food would be needed to save up to survive a nuclear winter? Is there anywhere that would be safe? 

What was the public’s reaction to nuclear winter? How did it impact geopolitics? Discover how Carl Sagan publicized the hypothesis to US and Russian politicians. Has the global amount of nuclear weapons gone down? We discuss the role of science communication and the concerning instability in the world today. Finally, are we safe? 

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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

In This Episode

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