The slide said “PLUTO.” Followed by “(It’s still not a planet).” And then a shot at any Pluto mourners:
Tyson also touched on environmentalism. He joked that he pictured himself explaining to an alien that we use coal and oil as energy sources – non-renewable resources that cause political turmoil and pollute our breathing air? Silly humans.
He mused that it took going to the moon to start caring about our Earth. He pointed out that the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association were founded in the years following this iconic “Earthrise” photo taken by William Anders of the Apollo 8 mission in 1968.
Between his serious points, NdGT made us howl in laughter. As I mentioned above, he FaceTimed Bill Nye the Science Guy during his presentation. Two of the world’s most famous science communicators, together, talking directly to us! Geek heads were exploding left and right. Someone kindly put the call on YouTube here, though it is a little hard to make out everything Bill Nye says (the Fox Theater better step up its wifi game if they want more science talks).
NdGT nearly brought tears to my eyes more than once. He reminded us of the infinitesimal scale of Homo sapiens - both on the level of Earth’s many species, and, of course, on the level of the universe. He showed us pretty pictures of Saturn from the point of view of the Cassini spacecraft, including this “Pale Blue Dot” photo of the Earth from under Saturn’s rings.
Perhaps the most touching moment of the evening was Tyson’s final Q&A response. An astrophysics student asked him why she should continue to study the stars when she can apply her intellectual capital to solving problems here on Earth.
Don’t ever assume that studying the unknown is a waste of time, and don’t ever study anything other than what you love.
Having seen him in action, I’m more convinced than ever. If there’s anyone who might be able to lead our generation in changing the world for the better, it’s Neil deGrasse Tyson.