Bill Nye The Science Guy and Corey Powell interviewed Nathan in a wide-ranging conversation for the podcast Science Rules! They discussed: the asteroid that finished off the dinosaurs, Nathan's research into how some of the biggest dinos whipped their tails at supersonic speeds (probably to show off for the opposite sex), and Benjamin Franklin's seminal contribution to geoengineering. They also talked about what kind of changes we'd have to make to the U.S. electricity grid—both how it works and how it's regulated—to meet the goals goals that states have set to ramp up renewable power and to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Nathan revealed how early food critics in Italy panned pizza. And Bill asked Nathan what one subject he thinks everybody should understand a little better.
Nathan Myhrvold is a barbecue world champion who studied physics under Stephen Hawking. In this exclusive extract from GQ’s book How To Win At Life, he explains why science is your secret ingredient...
Myhrvold has been able to combine two childhood passions
Back in 2005, Nathan Myhrvold, a former Microsoft colleague, showed me a long scientific paper on an innovative nuclear reactor and introduced me to the lead author, an inventive physicist named Lowell Wood who would go on to beat Thomas Edison’s record for the most U.S. patents in history. Lowell claimed that this reactor could satisfy “much of humanity’s requirements for electricity in the 21st century.” I was skeptical, but also intrigued.
“Nuclear reactors are not the thing you get into if you want to win popularity contests. Eliminating polio is a lot more popular.” — Nathan Myhrvold, co-founder of Intellectual Ventures Lab.
Nathan Myhrvold cautions against drawing unsupported conclusions from dinosaur growth data
A new study by Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira and Nathan Myhrvold of Intellectual Ventures concludes that about half of the warming occurs within the first 10 years after an instantaneous step increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration, but about one-quarter of the warming occurs more than a century after the step increase. Their work is published in Environmental Research Letters.
Could replacing coal-fired electricity plants with generators fueled by natural gas bring global warming to a halt in this century? What about rapid construction of massive numbers of solar or wind farms, hydroelectric dams, or nuclear reactors—or the invention of new technology for capturing the carbon dioxide produced by fossil-fueled power plants and storing it permanently underground? Nathan Myhrvold of Intellectual Ventures teamed up with Carnegie Institution’s Ken Caldeira to calculate the expected climate effects of replacing the world’s supply of electricity from coal plants with any of eight cleaner options.