Once upon time, not too long ago, calling someone a geek, or a nerd would have been an insult, lucky for us, today we live in a time where geeks rule the world, and scientists and astrophysicists are recognised and revered like movie stars.
One of the world’s best known astrophysicists, who has also become a TV personality, celebrated author, and one of the people responsible for “killing” Pluto, Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, has returned Down Under, courtesy of Think Inc. — the team behind the 2014 Australian tours of Dr. Michio Kaku and The 'Amazing' James Randi — and yes he’s touring the country, like a rockstar, talking about space, black matter, aliens, consciousness and so much more.
Born in New York City, Dr Tyson was not always interested in the sky above. Due to the city’s light pollution, he was able to gaze only at a handful of stars, but his outlook on what lay beyond the Earth’s atmosphere changed drastically on his first visit to the Hayden Planetarium at age nine. Thanks to a high powered telescope, he was able to look at the moon, this sphere which he had taken for granted his whole life, and discover that it had valleys and mountains, that it was a world… a world which needed to be discovered. That fateful trip to the planetarium, quite literally enamoured him with astronomy, and carved out his future.
After graduating from The Bronx High School of Science, he earned degrees from both Harvard and Columbia Universities. Today, Dr Tyson is a Presidential Advisor, he has appeared on numerous TV shows such as The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and he has made guest appearances as himself on the SciFi series Stargate Atlantis, as well as on the popular sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Dr Tyson also hosts the documentary series, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey as well as StarTalks, but a little known role, that of Waddles the Pig, on the Disney children’s animated series, Gravity Falls, shines light on the fact that this extremely intelligent and well educated man, also has a wicked sense of humour, which he demonstrated during his talk, this past Friday in Melbourne.
What’s also refreshing about Dr Tyson is, his ability to discuss and present science to an audience, incorporating wit and delivering the information in a very down-to-earth manner, that even someone like myself (not scientifically inclined) is able to follow in its intricacy without ever feeling lost, or confused. This ability truly sets him apart from others in his field, and makes him popular not only among those who are already drawn to the sciences but appreciated by the laymen.
On a rainy night with unusually congested streets, the Melbourne Convention Centre auditorium was chock full of people from all walks of life, eagerly awaiting to hear the poster-boy of science speak. I was impressed by the diversity of the crowd; if I walked past them on the street, I would not have guessed them to be science aficionados, among them my daughter, who even after the two and a half hours talk, was as enthusiastic about the topic, if not more. Who knows, maybe 48 years from now, someone may claim that his/her path in the sciences was determined one fateful evening in Melbourne listening to Dr Tyson.
An evening with Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson
Venue: Plenary - MCEC | 1 Convention Centre Place, South Wharf, VIC
Date: August 7, 2015