11 Reasons Why Neil deGrasse Tyson is Our Favorite Scientist
LOS ANGELES - Jan 13: Neil deGrasse Tyson at the FOX TCA Winter 2014 Party at The Langham Huntington Hotel onJanuary 13, 2014 in Pasadena, CA
Photo Credit: Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
“Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” is coming to an end on Sunday. The beautiful — and often mind-blowing — science program will certainly be missed. We’ll especially miss its host, the inimitable Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Beyond being a captivating educator, Tyson has an impressive list of accomplishments. He received a B.A. in physics from Harvard, where he wrote his thesis on X-ray telescopes and worked in the research organization of Professor Riccardo Giacconi, who won a Nobel Prize in physics in 2002. Tyson earned an M.A. in astronomy at the University of Texas and then later a Ph.D. in astrophysics at Columbia. His research focused mainly on cosmology and astrophysics. Tyson is also currently the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History (where he had a role in the demotion of Pluto out of planetary categorization).
Tyson’s contributions to the scientific community — and beyond — are all the more profound because of his herculean efforts to generate interest among the wider public. Education and communication are the hallmarks of his career. He’s a prolific author, hosted Nova ScienceNOW, has appeared many times on “The Daily Show” and has made 10 appearances on “The Colbert Report.” And that’s just the beginning.
Here is a (by no means exhaustive) list of reasons why Neil deGrasse Tyson is so spectacular:
1. His interviews on climate change
Not only has “ Cosmos” dedicated some serious airtime to the most pressing issue of our time; Tyson is using any platform he can to speak out about the dangers of global warning. Here, for example, is a clip of him in discussion with Chris Hayes:
2. His unwavering support of women in science
In a 2005 speech, then-Harvard president Larry Summers suggested there were fewer women in science due to ”different availability of aptitude at the high end.” In a panel appearance in 2009, Tyson was asked about Summers’ much-criticized claims. Here’s what he said. (Watch below starting at 1:01:31.)
3. Coining the term “Manhattanhenge”
In an article written in 2002, Neil deGrasse Tyson coined the word “ Manhattanhenge.” According to his own writings for the American Museum of Natural History, Manhattanhenge is:
“When the setting Sun aligns precisely with the Manhattan street grid, creating a radiant glow of light across Manhattan’s brick and steel canyons, simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough’s grid. A rare and beautiful sight.”
It is called Manhattanhenge, because it is possible that future generations and civilizations will think the Manhattan grid has “astronomical significance,” the way we speculate about Stonehenge in the Salisbury Plain of England.
4. StarTalk radio
When “Cosmos” is through, fans can still get their Neil deGrasse Tyson fix from StarTalk radio. The program is partially funded by the National Science Foundation, and in 2013 it won a Stitcher Award for Best Science and Medicine podcast. It’s obvious why. The show is a stimulating and entertaining discussion of science featuring Tyson and other luminaries. A sampling of the program is below:
5. When he calls out creationists
Though he’s not taking the Bill Nye debate approach to scientifically refuting creationism, Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t shy away from the topic. In “Cosmos” he consistently calls out the pseudo-science, and when asked in interviews he also (eloquently) debunks it. Take an interview with WNYC host Brian Lehrer. There he states: “The issue there is not religion versus non-religion, or religion versus science. The issue is ideas that are different versus dogma.”