Neil deGrasse Tyson is Awesome!

‘Not enough people in this world, I think, carry a cosmic perspective with them. It could be life-changing.’
—Neil deGrasse Tyson

When I was in high school, I watched the television series Cosmos with Dr. Carl Sagan and fell in love with science. Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have followed a path that led to my career in medicine if it wasn’t for the inspiration I got from watching that program and reading Dr. Sagan’s books. In fact, the epilogue in my book quotes Dr. Sagan’s words referring to Earth as the Pale Blue Dot. I was very appreciative that Dr. Sagan’s wife Ann Druyan gave me permission to repeat his important words.

But it’s been 35 years since Cosmos was on, and almost years since Dr. Sagan passed away. But the torch has definitely been passed on to another great scientist: Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and science educator cut from the very same cloth as Dr. Sagan. (The two actually met in 1975, but that’s another story. Google it!) Two years ago NDT hosted the reboot of Sagan’s original inspiring series: Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. It provided a new generation with the opportunity to experience the awe and wonder that people like me did back in the ’80s.

Neil deGrasse Tyson has also had strong comments for the media regarding the way they provide false balance in their coverage of scientific subjects like climate change. In his words:

[Y]ou don’t talk about the spherical Earth with NASA, and then say “now let’s give equal time to the flat Earthers.” Plus, science is not there for you to cherry pick…You can decide whether or not to believe in it but that doesn’t change the reality of an emergent scientific truth.

Politics and the interests of big business have always played a big part in the misrepresentation of the facts, and of the consensus among the scientific community, and Tyson recognizes that point as well. Back in 2011, he stated that those who deny climate change need “to be mature enough to recognize something can be true even if you don’t like the consequences of it. That’s what it means to be a mature adult.”

We’ve been waiting a long time for another Carl Sagan. Thank goodness we’ve found one with Neil deGrasse Tyson. He was in Toronto last week and I got the opportunity to see meet him in a VIP ceremony afterward. He was warm, gracious, and very funny. His talk went on for two and a half hours and covered the latest in scientific news (gravity waves!) as well as what it will take for our species to thrive during the next millennium (some major changes in attitude, it turns out).

There will never be another Carl Sagan. But thank goodness we have Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Is the Climate Change Discussion Reaching a Tipping Point?

Are we approaching a climate change tipping point? Depends on who you ask. In this three-minute video, Bill Nye talks with Neil deGrasse Tyson (my science hero) and Chuck Nice about the convergence between climate change deniers and young Earth creationists. Clearly Neil and Bill are both rooting for an increasingly scientifically literate population to triumph, but Chuck helps provide some comic relief and intermittently provides the climate change denier’s point of view.

See what you think.

Climate and Weather: What's the Difference?

“Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.”
Mark Twain

Weather vs. climate. It’s the age-old debate. “That was a cold winter!” “That was a huge snowstorm!” “The temperature in my part of the world last year was even colder than the year before!” These are the kinds of points used to try to argue that global warming isn’t happening.

Neil deGrasse Tyson has done a good job of promoting science as the tool, the crucible we should use to remove the impurities and be left with the truth. In this clip from his reboot of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos,” he uses a good analogy to consider when thinking about weather vs. climate.

Neil deGrasse Tyson's New Talk Show Starts Tonight!

“We are trying to reach people who don’t know they like science, and people who know that they don’t like science. We are doing this through the use of three pillars: science, pop culture, and comedy.”
—Neil deGrasse Tyson

What will you be doing tonight at 11 p.m.? I suggest you watch my hero Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new show StarTalk. For astronomy geeks like me, Tyson has been well-known for many years, but he came into more mainstream prominence last year with his amazing reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series. Tonight marks the first episode of a new weekly science talk show on the National Geographic Channel. But it’s not just science: pop culture manages to make a significant presence in the show. You can expect a number of comedians to help keep things light.

Tyson is adapting his popular podcast into a talk show format but promises that by bringing pop culture into it, the science part will be easy to take for non-science viewers. For example, tonight’s episode has George Takei as his guest, and everybody loves the original helmsman of the Enterprise. Others you can look forward to later in the season include former President Jimmy Carter, director Christopher Nolan (the Batman trilogy), evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (sometimes referred to as “Darwin’s Rottweiler”), and my favourite astronaut Chris Hadfield (thanks again for recommending my book, Chris!).

I strongly recommend you watch this series, whether you’re scientifically minded or not. It will promise to be both enlightening and entertaining. And if one responsibility of a scientist is to help educate the masses about the current understanding of science in a way they can appreciate, then no one today is doing a better job of this than Neil deGrasse Tyson.

And just maybe this will help achieve our goal of tackling the problems our planet faces today, because without understanding there can be no real action.