Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Because of Pink Floyd, I’ve Spent Decades Undoing the Idea That There’s a Dark Side of the Moon”

In 1973, Pink Floyd released their influential concept album, The Dark Side of the Moon, which garnered both critical and commercial success. The album sold some 45 million copies, and remained on Billboard’s Top LPs & Tapes chart for 741 weeks (from 1973 to 1988). All of which was great for Pink Floyd. But not so much for science and education.

As Neil deGrasse Tyson explains above. “That Pink Floyd had an album with that title meant I spent decades having to undo [that fact] as an educator.” That’s because “there is no dark side of the moon.” “There’s a far side and there’s a near.” “But all sides of the moon receive sunlight across the month.”

To delve deeper into this, it’s worth reading this short article (Mythbusters: Is There Really a Dark Side of the Moon?) from Yale Scientific Magazine. There, they elaborate:

No matter where we are on Earth, we see and always have seen only one face of the moon. Since the moon rotates on its axis in the same amount of time that it takes the body to orbit our planet, the same half face of the moon is consistently exposed to viewers on Earth. This timing is caused by a phenomenon called tidal locking, which occurs when a larger astronomical body (Earth) exerts a strong gravitational pull on a smaller body (the moon), forcing one side of the smaller body to always face the larger one….

[T]he fact that we earthlings cannot see the far side of the moon does not mean that this face is never exposed to sunlight. In fact, the far side of the moon is no more and no less dark than the hemisphere we do see.

Get the rest here.

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Comments (19)
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  • Fred says:

    The chasim between art and science if often very wide. At least he didn’t have to convince his students the moon wasn’t made out of cheese.

  • Hop David says:

    Well actually… The far side is darker. It never gets any earth light. The nights on the far side are always stygian black.

    From the near side however, the earth is always in the sky. And it’s brightest at midnight. The earth is much brighter — it reflects more than 30 times the light our moon does.


  • Pieter says:

    In fact, i think there is no dark side on the moon. I think it is all dark

  • Martln says:

    At 1:37 in the last song on the album, “Eclipse”, spoken in the background, you hear “There is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark.”. So, once again, you can’t judge an album by its title. Or something like that.

  • Bienvenido Bones Banez Jr. says:

    Well, Pink Floyd have a right, they’re entitled that interpretation, think about this, “There is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact is all dark”. This means our human nature like a “moon” represent the innocence souls of humankind,but “matter of fact is all dark” this symbolize from dark teaching the deep things of Satan like examples: some scientists,Pope, philosophers, political leaders, religious leaders and some major satanic scholars have a camouflage being good sheep or good adviser,and pretending know how about this universe, and truly hypocrisy from university suckers. And we favor from Pink Floyd statements,and they’re eye opener to the world of perpetual curse!

  • David says:

    didn’t “dark side of the moon” come from Astronauts losing radio contact with Earth on the far side of the moon?

  • Thomas says:

    I listened to this interview while also listening to Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. Breathe, breathe in the air Neil. You’ll be fine.

  • Howard says:

    No, the term “dark side of the moon” originated long before radio was invented or astronauts trained. It referred simply to the unknown, unseen side of the moon. Over time, we can view approximately 59% of the moon’s surface. In 1951, the Soviet Union’s Luna 3 spacecraft took the first photographs of the far side of the moon. In 1960, the Soviet Union published an atlas of the features of the far side. In 1968, American astronauts became the first to see directly the far side. No one has ever walked on the far side.

  • Luis says:

    The term “dark side” is used in English, but other languages use different expressions for the same concept, probably more appropriate. for instance, in Spanish the far side of the moon is called “la cara oculta de la Luna” – The hidden face
    of the moon-

  • Andy says:

    Yeah, but to be fair, you’ve made your own share of public misstatements.

  • Bill says:

    I would beg to disagree with your position. If anyone viewed the total elcipse today I would offer that that is proof that there actually is a “Dark Side Of the Moon”

  • Jawaid Bazyar says:

    dark: adj, “hidden from knowledge; mysterious.”

    That’s the meaning of “dark side of the moon”.

    Also, the phrase was in common use for hundreds of years before the Pink Floyd album.

    What ignorance of history and English.

  • Andrew says:

    Yes. in the 17th and 18th centuries, Africa was a large white area on our maps and was referred to as “the Dark Continent.” I truly doubt anyone thought it was literally night there 24/7. DeGrasse is a person with no imagination. How sad.

  • GregH says:

    This is not NGT’s finest hour. But it does continue his general pattern of self-serving blather. But “People like him!” so it doesn’t matter.

  • Thomas Green says:

    The last line of the album, “There is no dark side of the moon, as a matter of fact it’s all dark” refers to the fact that the moon makes no light at all. The light from the moon is reflected sunlight.

  • Bread says:

    Isn’t that line a sample of an astronomer trying to explain the thing this article is about?

  • jantruss says:

    It’s a doorman at the recording studio being sage about the human psyche, which was what the album was talking about. NDT and many of the commenters here seem to have a peculiar case of metaphor blindness.

  • rich graham says:

    So by that logic theres no dark side to the earth either? Mr Tyson is a reasonably smart person, but his obsession with syntax is sophomoric. The word “is” is present tence. Right now there is a side of the earth and moon that ‘is’ dark.

  • Diamond90 says:

    Fan of tyson but did he realize that it’s a metaphor for lost your mind and is a concept album? Plus dark side of the moon is not a song off the album :)

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