American astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson has popularized science since the early 1990s.
Over the years, however, the way Tyson communicates the ideas of science and the truths of the universe has evolved. He says the “system has broken in recent years, where people are cherry-picking their own truths.”
He’ll share his thoughts about this and “cosmic collisions” during a stop at the Arizona Financial Theatre on Thursday, March 9.
“The stuff that goes bump in the night — the galaxies, stars and black holes that collide in space — knows no end,” Tyson says.
“There might even be intersecting universes, parallel universes, for example, and then there are particles that collide, asteroids that collide.”
Although the idea of gargantuan objects striking each other at unfathomable speeds can seem dark, some of these cosmological events resulted in the reality in which we live, he says.
“The asteroid that took out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago pried open an ecological niche enabling the newly shaped mammals of the day to evolve into something more ambitious than just a tree rodent, scurrying, trying to avoid getting eaten by T-Rex,” he says.
His presentations are fully illustrated with videos, slides and simulations. The information changes from date to date, as there are around a dozen topics from which event coordinators can choose.
Tyson has devoted his life to the study of science, spending time leading institutions such as Hayden Planetarium in New York City. Meanwhile, he brings complex knowledge to people across the globe.
New research allows Tyson to reference findings that give him and those he presents to “a deeper, more sensitive awareness of what’s going on,” he says. One of the more recent breakthroughs in astrophysics was the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in December 2021.
“Now the James Webb telescope, it’s truly transcended the Hubble telescope, not only in how far away it can see but the level of detail it provides and the new windows it was opening to phenomena in the universe,” he says.
The James Webb telescope has been so valuable because it has much greater light-gathering power than the Hubble telescope. Because of this, the longer, dimmer wavelengths of light are studied in more detail. It allows researchers to see further back into the timeline of the universe.
Tyson recognizes that most people don’t spend a night out listening to an astrophysicist’s lecture. However, space has increasingly become a topic of interest in recent years. He said there is certainly an “appetite” for this information, and he sees it as his job to provide that information to the public.
Aside from the lecture series, Tyson released the book “Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization” late last year. The book is a departure for Tyson as it offers scientific perspectives to social and political issues.
Tyson is active on social media, reflecting on his followers’ comments. He adjusts the way he presents the information to make sure the objective truth, “brought to you by the methods and tools of science,” can land on the most ears possible, he said.
“It’s helped to sharpen my communication tactics.”
He said that we need to teach “science as a possibly unique method of approach to establishing what is and is not objectively true in the world.” This would help us to better consider our biases and unseen influences on measurements, according to Tyson.
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Cosmic Collisions”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 9
WHERE: Arizona Financial Theatre, 400 W. Washington Street, Phoenix
COST: Tickets start at $59.50