Famed astrophysicist and vest owner Neil deGrasse Tyson is moving his StarTalk Radio podcasts from Sundays to Friday nights starting tonight. And he’s got a special guest to kick off his new quasi-time slot: Edward Snowden.
In the media, that’s what they call a “get.”
Despite the name, StarTalk doesn’t limit itself to just chitchat about outer space and the cosmos. Tyson explores a whole slew of different topics, inviting on guests like Richard Dawkins, Arianna Huffington, Bill Nye, and Janeane Garofalo. The whole thing stinks of autodidacticism.
StarTalk’s blog doesn’t really say too much about what Tyson and Snowden discussed, apart from “a lot of non-top-secret stuff, like chemistry and the Periodic Table, Isaac Newton and Isaac Asimov, self-directed education, and even Ben Franklin.” But Snowden, who is currently in self-imposed exile in Moscow, seeking asylum from the Russian government, linked into Tyson’s Hayden Planetarium office in New York City using a telepresence robot.
While the two are entrenched in different spaces (both literally and figuratively), it’s not too hard to imagine the talk veering into topics intersecting space and government surveillance. It’s pretty well-known by now that agencies like the CIA and NSA use orbital satellites to gather intelligence information of what’s happening down below. (Haven’t you ever seen Enemy of the State?). It wasn’t too long ago that China launched a government surveillance satellite into space.
I’d say there’s a good chance Tyson will try to pick Snowdens brain on the kinds of emerging satellite tools that technology intelligence agencies around the world are buying in bulk. Tyson has previously expressed his concerns about the United States’ use of “Cold War” style surveillance on its own citizens today. And there’s nothing more Cold War than a space race.
We’ll have to wait till tonight to see what we might learn. In the meantime…