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Edward Snowden and Neil deGrasse Tyson Discuss Water on Mars

Edward Snowden engages with the host of Startalk on his first day of Twitter

With the simple tweet “Can you hear me now?” infamous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden joined the ranks of Twitter today. Rather hilariously, Snowden is following just one other account—the National Security Agency. Almost immediately Snowden was welcomed by prolific Twitter user and popularizer of science, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Any cultural mashup like this was bound to send shockwaves across the internet. But what’s really remarkable here is how ordinary, how truly geeky (and complimentary) the back-and-forth was.

DeGrasse Tyson, who recently interviewed Snowden for his Star Talk Radio, queried Snowden about whether he sees himself as a geek, a traitor, or a hero. Snowden thanked deGrasse Tyson for the warm welcome, but quickly changed the subject to NASA’s discovery of flowing water on Mars.

“And now we've got water on Mars!” Snowden tweeted. “Do you think they check passports at the border? Asking for a friend.” To which deGrasse Tyson replied: “If you visit Mars, I'd bet any life forms there will greet you with a sip of that water—and a tourist visa.”

The two then discussed how Snowden is keeping busy, which includes Snowden’s “secret projects” as director at the Freedom of the Press Foundation and “finding time for cat pictures.” But, before saying their goodbyes, Snowden finally responded to deGrasse Tyson’s original query.

Apart from the conversation’s ordinariness, what else are we to make of this online collision of a popular astrophysicist and the most famous and controversial whistleblower of all time? Perhaps Snowden, who is either vilified as a traitor or hailed as a hero and icon, will now be able to show a bit more of his real self, geek and all. And if the NSA wasn’t already surveilling Neil deGrasse Tyson, then they probably are now. Welcome to the machine, Neil.

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