The internet can be a great place, where ideas and information are shared freely for the benefit of everyone.
At the same time, it can also be a hub of misinformation, and a growing hotbed of skepticism when it comes to scientific theories that many would regard as no-brainers.
A casual scroll through Twitter will show you that there are people who question everything, from the shape of the Earth to the validity of climate change. Luckily, one brave scientist has taken up the task of shutting down misinformation and educating the masses - Neil deGrasse Tyson. Here are just some of the American astrophysicists finest Twitter clapbacks.
1. The Infamous B.o.B. Incident: How to Deal With A Flat-Earther
Back in 2016 the media was quick to report on a series of tweets by rapper B.o.B. where he voiced his skepticism regarding the shape of our planet. Like a growing number of people on the internet, B.o.B. had come to believe that the earth was flat, and that his photograph showing no curvature on the horizon proved his point.
The cities in the background are approx. 16miles apart... where is the curve ? please explain this pic.twitter.com/YCJVBdOWX7— B.o.B (@bobatl) 25 Ocak 2016
Enter Neil deGrasse Tyson, who shot down these claims with his trademark wit. Sometimes a short and snappy response is the best way to go.
@bobatl Duude — to be clear: Being five centuries regressed in your reasoning doesn’t mean we all can’t still like your music— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) January 25, 2016
2. But How Do We KNOW?!: Explaining Scientific Tools
There are a lot of users on Twitter who want to prove commonly accepted scientific facts wrong. Like this user, who questioned how we could possibly know anything about the sun for certain without having visited it.
Thankfully, deGrasse Tyson was online and ready to point out that tools are a thing. And that these tools allow us to stay a safe distance from the sun while observing its activity.
That’s why we have telescopes (and other tools of science). They allow us to know things from far away, without ever going there.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) April 8, 2018
3. Moon Landing Skepticism: How Could We Hear the Landing?
One of the most enduring conspiracy theories is the supposed moon landing "hoax". Skeptics of the moon landing will point to many aspects of the footage which they consider to be proof that the entire achievement took place in a movie studio.
This user thought they had a real "gotcha" moment on their hands when they pointed out that sound doesn't travel in space. Unfortunately for them, as deGrasse Tyson pointed out, this doesn't prove that the landing was faked. If anything, it simply proves that we have some pretty cool technology at our disposal when it comes to the conversion of EM waves.
Our collectives association of EM radio waves with sound is strong. Was one of the first ways we exploited that band of light. EM waves can carry information that we convert to sound on the receiving end. We sometimes do that with cosmic sources.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) February 7, 2018
4. Citations Needed: Shutting Down Misinformation
People occasionally accuse deGrasse Tyson of pedantry, especially when it comes to his critiques of science in major blockbuster films. But it's important to understand that he's a scientist, trying to make sure that pseudo-science and misinformation don't prevail online.
In this instance, the user was close to being correct, but not quite. The internet gives us the opportunity to spread information, but it's our responsibility to ensure that that information is correct and accurate.
False as stated. Maybe what you're trying to say is that “blue" things absorb all other colors, reflecting blue back to us.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 22, 2017
5. Classroom Clapback: Calling Out Academic Perceptions of Science
There's a lot of talk nowadays about social constructs, and a lot of the discussions are valid and welcome. However, the suggestion that science is a social construct and not an empirical fact is a fairly dubious claim, and one that was certain to rustle a few feathers in scientific communities.
True to form, deGrasse Tyson shot back at this Twitter user's professor by pointing out that science is all around us. The gadgets we use every day are a direct result of scientific endeavor. Sometimes it's important to question what you're taught in class.
The professor's Smart Phone is based on a thousand facts of science. The only social construct is the social media enabled by it.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 18, 2017
6. A Question of Time: The Suspicious Length of a Day
Science can often give us neat answers to complicated questions. To many, neat answers can seem a little bit too neat, almost as if they've been made up. Take, for instance, this Twitter user who questioned the length of a day on Earth due to 24 hours sounding like too round a figure.
He wasn't entirely wrong, as deGrasse Tyson pointed out. Though our rotation is slightly under 24 hours in relation to the stars, 24 hours is basically accurate in relation to our sun. Sometimes the simplest answer really is correct.
Earth’s rotation rate relative to the stars: 23h 56m 04s. Relative to the Sun: 24h, but with a leap second occasionaly added.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) September 21, 2017
7. Jurassic Hoax: Did Dinosaurs Really Exist?
It might seem incredible to think that, in the face of overwhelming physical evidence, that there are people who still don't believe that dinosaurs once roamed the earth. If anything, it's harder to believe that people have been designing and planting fake fossils for decades instead of just finding them naturally.
The idea is so preposterous, that deGrasse Tyson didn't even need to engage with it. Because if you believe someone who tells you that fossils are fake, it should be pretty obvious that someone's been pulling your leg.
Whoever told him that Dinosaur fossils are fake, does not hold his intellectual enlightenment as a priority.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) July 29, 2017
8. Moon Landing Part 2: The Problem With Dust Clouds
Another day, another moon landing skeptic. This time the detail under suspicion is the dust cloud (or apparent lack thereof) after landing on the moon's surface.
As usual, deGrasse Tyson was able to shut down this line of inquiry in a few short characters. The moon's surface simply isn't the same as that of Earth, and as such there are bound to be discrepancies in details between the two like, how dust moves and settles.
Dust settles promptly on the Moon’s airless surface -- in seconds. So would talc. Whereas in Earth air, the stuff billows.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) July 22, 2017
9. Pseudoscience At Its Finest: It Just Doesn't Work That Way
When one Twitter user suggested that humans are affected by the moon the same way as the tides are, someone stepped in to notify Neil deGrasse Tyson ASAP. Because when you need someone to drop some truth bombs in the face of ridiculous pseudoscience, he's your guy.
Rather than go into detail on how the OP was wrong, deGrasse Tyson kept it short and sweet. Basically, if you lack a fundamental understanding of physics, it makes sense that you'd think water in our bodies responds to the moon's gravitational pull in the same way seas do. But if you've done your homework, you should know this is just plain untrue.
If you've never been properly taught physics then you are susceptible to thinking that way.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) July 14, 2017
10. We Don't Have Answers!: Why Planets Are Round
Occasionally, someone will make a broad and patently untrue statement when it comes to science. Like this user, who claimed that we just don't know why planets are round - before questioning whether or not they were round at all.
In a fine display of education (and self-promotion), deGrasse Tyson simply replied with an Amazon link to his book, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Because if you are unsure about something, just look it up in a book!
11. Never Assume: Always Do Your Homework First
One Twitter user attempted to discredit deGrasse Tyson's opinions on the importance of the Paris Climate Accord, and America's withdrawal, by suggesting that he needed a background in economics to grasp the situation. Unfortunately for him, deGrasse Tyson does have a background in economics.
In classic snappy style, deGrasse Tyson gave him the class, college, and year during which he studied economics. This is why you shouldn't make assumptions on the internet.
Economics 10, Harvard College, 1978.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) June 1, 2017