Neil deGrasse Tyson Puts Things Into Perspective
By David G. McAfee
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson came to Santa Barbara, CA, for the first time on Thursday, where he discussed everything from the latest cosmic discoveries to the demotion of Pluto in 2006.
Tyson, currently the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, will be hosting an upcoming sequel to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage television series on Fox.
Tyson, who has 18 honorary PhDs, mixed humor and science as he told the crowd about the relative insignificance of humanity in comparison to the universe. He started by taking off his boots to get comfortable on the stage. He then showed a famous satellite photo of Saturn in which our planet appears just barely visible in the distant background, taking up about six pixels of the photograph.
“There are people in those six pixels who are sure that the universe was created just for them,” Tyson said, comparing the photo to the 1990 Voyager 1 photograph taken of earth called the Pale Blue Dot. “Everyone you’ve ever known is in those six pixels. It really puts things into perspective.”
Tyson largely covered material not previously discussed in his books, including the history of America’s search for a planet with extra-terrestrial life, the theory of panspermia, the Higgs Boson discovery and the recent 60-foot meteor that landed near the Russian city of Chelyabinsk last month, injuring more than 1,000 people.
Tyson also discussed a deadly asteroid on a potential collision course for earth. Near-earth asteroid 99943 Apophis, named aptly for an ancient Egyptian spirit of evil and darkness, flies past the earth every seven years and could potentially strike earth in 2036, according to Tyson.
Tyson also discussed the defunding of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and how to encourage further investments in the sciences. He said, in a capitalist system, realizing the great benefit science can have to our economy might be the key.
Tyson, originally scheduled for a 45-minute lecture, spoke for at least two hours before opening up the floor for questions and answers. He also signed copies of his books, including Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier and The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet.
UCSB Arts & Lectures presented the lecture at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara.