Neil deGrasse Tyson returns this week with the second season of National Geographic Channel’s “StarTalk” featuring former president Bill Clinton.
“You want to come out of the gate strong,” Tyson quipped when Business Insider interviewed the astrophysicist from his office at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
In a very frank conversation on the Nat Geo show based on the podcast of the same name, Clinton spoke of his early understanding of the ways in which science will shape the future. Tyson also took him through his record on science during his administrations.
“I wanted that interview to bring out his science record, whatever that was, and there’s things about his record that he’s proud of,” Tyson explained.
During Clinton’s campaign, science organisations had banner funding, Americans started using the internet, and the Human Genome Project was funded, and well on its way to completion.
There was one huge project that Clinton was forced to abandon: the Superconducting Super Collider. Intended to be built in Texas, it was funded under President Ronald Reagan and then defunded under Clinton.
“We lost the leadership in particle physics the moment that happened,” said Tyson.
Clinton explained that the canceled project was the result of a political compromise. There was a bill that had to be passed that had bipartisan support if he zeroed out the particle accelerator. So, Clinton killed the project.
“I regret not exploring the politics of that more, because, for me, that’s interesting,” Tyson admitted. “How do you weigh what you really love, as a leader, versus what you really have to get done politically? How much political capital will you invest in something that you want to have happen, because you love it? Meanwhile, you won’t have the capital to spend for some later negotiation that has to unfold in the halls of congress.”
“StarTalk: Bill Clinton” airs Sunday, October 25 at 11 p.m. on National Geographic. It will pre-premiere online Oct. 19.
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