Neil deGrasse Tyson brings ‘Astronomy Bizarre’ to Dallas

Posted Friday, May. 16, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Astronomy Bizarre’

• 8 p.m. Monday

• Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St., Dallas

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One million seven hundred thousand Twitter followers can’t be wrong.

Astrophysicist and Cosmos host Neil deGrasse Tyson, who will be at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas on Monday, isn’t just a pop-culture superstar when it comes to science. He’s a supernova.

But Tyson is frankly a little mystified why so many people make a fuss over him. After all, it’s not like he’s a pop star.

“I don’t even understand why I have 1.7 million Twitter followers,” he says. “Every day I want to remind them, ‘Do you realize I’m an astrophysicist?’ 

At the same time, Tyson is encouraged that so many people evidently have a passion for scientific knowledge in an age when America is sorely lagging in this field of study.

“You can read signs that there is an unserved hunger, an unserved curiosity,” he says.

Like the late Carl Sagan, an early mentor and host of the original Cosmos in 1980, Tyson has taken it upon himself to reignite the flame that is America’s love of science.

“I think it’s quite a fertile time to make a difference in the world,” he says.

Mind you, Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, won’t be satisfied merely with creating a new generation of scientifically literate young people.

“I think it’s important for everybody, especially since the adults run the world,” he says. “I’m a little fatigued of adults saying, ‘We’ve got to worry about the kids.’ These are the same adults that don’t know science and are running things and wielding resources and legislation.

“It’s important for all ages, because in the 21st century, there are just so many issues involving energy, health, security and transportation that will confront us that require a literacy, not only in science, but in technology, which is science’s close cousin.

“If you don’t have access to that because of some illiteracy that you carry, you are not a participant in the future of the world.”

Those who don’t recognize the value of science in the 21st century, he says, “might as well start packing and moving back to the cave right now.”

Tyson’s research interests include such high-minded specialties as star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies and the structure of the Milky Way. But like Sagan, his curiosity is far-reaching and his ability to make science accessible to everyone is exceptionally rare.

His live “Astronomy Bizarre” show, beginning at 8 p.m. Monday at the Winspear, is sold out. But his TV series, Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, airing at 8 p.m. Sundays on Fox, is available to all.

It boggles Tyson’s mind that this science-based show wound up in prime time on a major broadcast network (and is available on 220 channels in 181 countries, reaching more than half a billion homes).

“When I first had the conversation with Seth MacFarlane [an executive producer better known for Family Guy and other animated comedies], we were shopping around Cosmos to various possible producing stations, PBS among them,” Tyson says. “I thought, ‘This guy’s not without money. Maybe he could put in some money to help us make a pilot.

“But that wasn’t his first thought. His first thought was, ‘Why don’t I take it to Fox?’ That’s when I remember thinking, ‘Oh, he doesn’t get it. This is a wasted lunch.’ Then, 10 seconds later, I realized that if Cosmos appeared on Fox, it would have the greatest possible distribution of any science programming there ever was right out of the box.”

But Tyson wants more than just a society that knows scientific facts and principles. He wants a society of critical thinkers.

“It’s your capacity to ask questions, your capacity to interpret, your capacity to sift the wheat from the chaff,” he says. “It’s not simply, do you know what DNA is or what the Big Bang is?

“That’s an aspect of science literacy. But the biggest part of it is, do you know how to think about information that’s presented in front of you? I think that’s the great challenge.”

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