Celebrated author, lecturer, TV personality, podcaster and … oh yeah, astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson is coming to the Smith Center to deliver a multimedia presentation about the wonder and glory of the universe. His show will include a Q&A session, in which he will take questions from adults and children about “everything from television appearances and space elevators to parenting advice,” according to a press release. The event sold out early, but even if you aren’t lucky enough to score a ticket to see him in person, there’s a lot to be learned from the affable astrophysicist.
1. Science outlasts politics. Amid climate change denial and perpetual talk of cutting education budgets, it’s easy to feel that our country is anti-science. But Tyson offers some perspective. Science, with its strict adherence to inconvenient truths, has always clashed with those in power. In his Fox docu-series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey—a descendent of mentor Carl Sagan’s 1980 PBS series—Tyson takes viewers through the history of scientific discovery. If you think Al Gore had it tough, look to Galileo, who faced the Roman Inquisition for daring to promote the idea that the Earth moves around the sun.
2. Reading can be fun. Tyson is the author of 10 bestselling books. If you’d like to read one but don’t know where to start, try 2017’s friendly space primer, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. As director of New York City’s Hayden Planetarium and the five-season host of PBS’s Nova ScienceNow, Tyson excels at revealing the mysteries of space-time to us mere mortals in a way that’s both clear and entertaining.
3. Knowledge is a weapon. This month, Tyson published a new book titled Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military. Publishers Weekly describes it as “well-paced and skillfully written, the narrative seamlessly integrates science lessons, military strategy and world history.” Believe it or not, Tyson is cool with Donald Trump’s plan for a new military branch called the Space Force. Tyson told Fresh Air’s Dave Davies, “Just because something is uttered by Donald Trump does not require that it be a crazy idea.”
4. Anyone can talk science. Tyson is all about bringing the stars down to Earth. His StarTalk podcast translates the lofty topics of the cosmos into a fun talk show you can enjoy while doing the laundry. Making him even more relatable, Tyson concedes he didn’t always study as much as he should have. He even had to drop out of a doctoral program at the University of Texas at Austin. Today he holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates and a NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal. Stay in school, kids.
5. Embrace a sense of wonder. Tyson helps us foster a childlike sense of awe about the known (and unknown) universe. Tyson is even developing a Space Odyssey video game. The Kickstarter campaign raised more than $350,000 from more than 7,000 backers. According to the description, “Empowered by the laws of physics … you’ll set out on real science-based missions to explore space, colonize planets, create and mod in real time.” It’s set to debut in December.
September 27, 7:30 p.m., $39-$250. Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall, 702-749-2000.