Astrophysicist/geek icon Neil deGrasse Tyson dropped by The Daily Show on Thursday, humoring Jon Stewart with the most scientific of debates: Batman versus Superman. “Batman is just a guy with a nice belt,” the host argues in the above clip. But Tyson’s response is more philosophical, as he defends the Caped Crusader’s allegiance to Gotham City and its people.
“Who does Superman report to?” Tyson asks (to which Stewart responds, “The guy in the ice castle”). “So it’s no one we know. It’s no one we have any insight into. He just behaves in whatever way he wants. So at the end of the day, what might matter is the public reception of the superhero’s conduct – and if Batman executes our wishes in the city and Superman does what the hell he wants, that’s a conflict.”
Tyson also has some encouraging words for the “geek-isphere,” sharing his enthusiasm for the rise in America’s scientific curiosity. “There’s a culture that thinks about science and likes science that is rising up in this country,” he says. “The geek-isphere led that. . . In the old days, if you were a geek in high school, you were the one who got the wedgie by the football quarterback. You were the one who was exploited. ‘Four eyes,’ whatever it is.
“Then the quarterback learned that they needed you to fix their computer — then the stock value of geeks rose. The richest person in the world is the patron saint of nerds, Bill Gates. So the world is different because of this. Because we only enter the future on the intellectual capital brought to this world by the geek-isphere.”
Tyson also plugged his new National Geographic series, the science/pop-culture crossover StarTalk, by recounting an early visit – during the show’s original podcast era – from Stewart. The host, a chemistry major in college, told Tyson his favorite element is carbon, “the slut of the periodic table,” because it “combines with all the other elements.”