Tyson provides “the latest in the Universe”

Madeline Diamond, Assistant News Editor

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Astrophysicist, cosmologist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson gave a lecture entitled “This Just In: Latest Discoveries of the Universe” on Jan. 30 as an installment of the University’s “tech/no” series.

In a packed auditorium, Tyson, director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium, lectured about several topics regarding recent cosmic discoveries. Tyson began his talk on a light note by removing his shoes and emptying his pockets. Clad in one of his signature cosmic-patterned ties, Tyson explained several misconceptions about space.

“Here’s the latest on the universe,” Tyson said.

His talk covered various topics, ranging from Pluto’s status as a planet to the effects of black holes on humans.

“Pluto is still not a planet. Get over it,” Tyson said.

Tyson himself was involved in Pluto’s “demotion” from planethood, as it lacks commonalities with other planets.

According to the University, the “tech/no” forum series “embraces the perils and promises of technology.” In a press interview prior to his lecture, Tyson explained how technology and the media have occasionally misrepresented the cosmos.

“I am home minding my own business playing with my kids, and the universe flinches and I get a phone call,” Tyson said. “The scientists are not influencing the media; the media is being touched by the cosmos.”

For example, the media has exaggerated the difference between a full moon and a supermoon, creating a media phenomenon, Tyson said.

“People are getting excited over nothing,” Tyson said.

Due to the general public’s fascination with and limited knowledge of space, Tyson noted how people are drawn to the universe because they believe it is uplifting.

Tyson also engaged with technology during his lecture. He tweeted onstage about “Generation Exoplanet,” made up of people born after 1995, and received hundreds of retweets within seconds, many from attendees of the lecture. Similarly, he interrupted his own speech to show the audience a YouTube video featuring a rap about the European Organization for Nuclear Research’s (CERN) particle accelerator, or Large Hadron Collider.

After his YouTube interruption, Tyson confronted a widely debated topic: the possibility of life on Mars. Tyson himself is not in favor of trying to make Mars suitable for human life. More practically, Tyson explained, geo-engineering used to alter the environment on Mars could be used to solve problems on Earth.

Tyson ended his lecture with a powerful anecdote about the late astrophysicist Carl Sagan. With dimmed lights and a large image of a distant Earth, Tyson quoted Sagan in a poignant moment regarding Earth’s status as merely a “pale blue dot.”

“I found the whole lecture engaging and I was surprised by the number of students who came; I had to sit on the stairs,” Margaret Ekblom ’17 said. “Tyson was a great speaker that added a humorous aspect to the universe and made the subject interesting to learn about.”

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