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Neil DeGrasse Tyson: a Public Voice for Scientific Knowledge

elizabetheckhart

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson, best known for his work in astrophysics and Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, has kept environmental concern in the public eye. Through his public appearances and social media presence, he has done much to enrich public discourse — he has even helped to boost scientific literacy. This is of great importance in the modern age, especially with the environmental hazards at hand.

Tyson is frequently compared to Carl Sagan, the well-known astronomer and television personality. Sagan taught at Cornell University, wrote more than twelve books, worked with NASA, edited a scientific journal, and served as the house astronomer on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. He co-created and hosted Cosmos: A Personal Voyage in the 1980’s and was the most famous scientist in America.

More recently, Tyson has been in the public sphere with his radio talk show, Star Talk; a reboot of Carl Sagan’s show, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey; and will host a late-night talk show starting April of this year on National Geographic. His shows broadcast the most up to date information about astral bodies, and other scientific tidbits relating to outer space. Each episode explores the laws of nature, and attempts to create an emotional and spiritual experience through scientific exploration.

Tyson, like Sagan before him, embraces modern media as a means of engaging the general public. Both men explain complex methods in layman’s terms, helping households not only understand certain principles, but also engage in conversation with one another. Political and civil discussions about global warming and the value of NASA’s space exploration would have been completely different without these men.

Looking toward the future, Tyson sees the ability to harness the power of natural disasters and utilize them as a direct energy source. Such technology would be adapted for tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanoes, allowing us to tap into that energy source like tapping into a keg of beer. In an interview on renewable energy’s future, he states that he is “looking forward to the day when a hurricane is building in the gulf, and then just before it hits land, we capture its energy to drive the city that would otherwise have been destroyed if the hurricane’s power had been left untapped.”

By encouraging scientists to share their knowledge with the public, Tyson believes the public’s excitement and education will expand. While public interest in science is growing and evident, it is a challenge to convince scientists to break convention and use modern information channels to share their findings with the general public. Tyson urges scientists to share fun and interesting information that they learn everyday. His personal Twitter account, which has over 1.5 million followers, does just that. One of his recent posts reminds the public that education is more than just in the books: “Good education is not what fills your head with facts but what stimulates curiosity. You then learn for the rest of your life.” From quips to scientific “fun facts,” Neil keeps his followers on their toes.


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