Photo by unknown author, Wikipedia
By Colleen Mertes
Neil deGrasse Tyson made Monday a little brighter for Stony Brook University students by speaking at the 35th Anniversary Graduate Student Organization event. The astrophysicist, photography lover, former wrestler, rower and dancer embodies a deep curiosity for life and the universe. His words and wisdom had something to offer many university students, from engineering majors to english majors to doctoral candidates.
Two freshman mechanical engineering majors, Derrick Soleo and Alex Peoaltn, were both excited to hear Tyson speak. Soleo attributes his interest and exposure to Tyson to the well-known series “Cosmos,” which he watched in Chemistry class his senior year of high school. Peoaltn also watched Cosmos and said the way he Tyson presents science is interesting.
“He shows the galaxy in proportion to lives on Earth.” Peoaltn said. He added he appreciates the way Tyson exposes the curiosity and detail of science.
The floor seats were nearly filled and the stands bustled on either side with eager students snug against each other, wide-eyed. The crowd was overjoyed when Tyson took the stage, even cheering raucously as he caught a water bottle he accidentally knocked over. Tyson was relaxed and spoke with a natural sense of humor. He said that usually he has presentation slides and it is rare that he gets to simply talk to a crowd.
“The Sky is Not The Limit is the name of the night,” Tyson said, “So, let’s do this.”
Tyson took the crowd on a journey, with many side stops. He explained how he got to be the now-famous astrophysicist.
When he was nine, Tyson first visited the Hayden Planetarium, where he now works. For over two hours, the crowd was enraptured by tales of his life as a young boy and how he achieved his dream as well as his views on how we give too much weight to grade point averages and test scores.
The overarching theme of Tyson’s words was science literacy. He explained that the most important part of science was not for us to understand it, but to ensure that the public understands it and why it works. He warned that when a democracy does not know or understand “emergent scientific truth” then it is the “beginning of the end.” He stressed that “science is true whether or not you believe in it,” which was received with an affirming roar from the crowd.
The night was jam packed with information, tales and wisdom. Tyson said he encouraged students to be privy to science literacy: make science accessible, available and understandable to everyone.