Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History and Director of the Hayden Planetarium.  He is also the host of the hit radio and Emmy-nominated TV show StarTalk, and the New York Times best-selling author of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry and the author of a number of other notable books, the latest of which is titled Letters from an Astrophysicist.  He earned his BA in physics from Harvard and his PhD in astrophysics from Columbia.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He knew he wanted to become an astrophysicist since the age of nine when he visited his first planetarium.
  • His passion for discovering the universe enabled him to push past the racism and all the societal pressures holding him back. He would not allow anything to interfere with his ambitions.
  • He finished middle of his class in high school because he was valuing the joy of learning while others were valuing high grades. He had lots of interests outside of school and was never driven by grades.
  • “When I wonder what I am capable of as a human being, I don’t look to relatives, I look to all human beings. The genius of Isaac Newton, the courage of Joan of Arc and Gandhi, the athletic feats of Michael Jordan, the oratorical skills of Sir Winston Churchill, the compassion of Mother Teresa. I look to the entire human race for inspiration for what I can be – because I am human. My life is what I make of it.”
  • It’s highly likely that there is extra-terrestrial life. The top four ingredients of life on earth are the top four chemically active ingredients in the universe. In addition, the speed at which life formed on Earth, the age of the universe, and the number of planets and galaxies all suggest that there are life forms outside of the Earth.
  • He does not believe in a God. If there were such a divine force, it would manifest.  If there is something we don’t understand and can’t explain, his first thought if not whether it might be divine but rather, how can he experiment on it further to better understand it.
  • He has 14 million Twitter followers. He views his role on social media as enlightening the public to what is objectively true so people can have informed opinions.
  • Physicists recently detected gravitational waves originally predicted by Einstein over a century ago. These waves were produced in a collision between two black holes 1.3 billion light years away.
  • “Excellence is whether you’ve done the best you can given whatever the talents available to you.”

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