Courtesy of Neil deGrasse Tyson
Neil deGrasse Tyson is a blast of fresh and crisp air in the fetid stagnation of our historical/cultural moment. Tyson, who is a decorated, world-renowned astrophysicist, a prolific author (academic and general interest), the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, a research associate with the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, and a low-key pop-culture phenomenon, has, like some convivial, Socratic gadfly, seemingly taken on the dizzyingly tall task of talking some sense into the American public.
In addition to cool scientist shit, Tyson hosts TV shows like Fox’s Cosmos reboot and Nat Geo’s first late-night foray StarTalk, tours behind lectures geared for a general audience, does tons of podcasts and zany interviews with people like Tyler, the Creator, gets crunk with the willfully ignorant on Twitter, and generally puts himself and his large if disarmingly warm personality out there.
His motivation is, at least in large part, to bring advanced science to the less-advanced masses, to encourage people to see themselves as a part of the great and sublime mysteries of the universe, to educate, to provoke, to rouse — all with the goal of inspiring general audiences to take science seriously and to see it as approachable and worthwhile, which in turn could have a variety of positive, progressive effects on society. The scientific worldview, Tyson reminds us, can be a gateway to not only a more efficient world, but a more just world as well.
This week, Tyson will bring his latest talk, Cosmic Collision, to the Tobin Center. Like The Cosmic Perspective, the talk he delivered last year around this time, Cosmic Collision seeks to inject perspective into our thinking by reminding us of our insignificance in the universe and the particularly precarious position (in the cosmic sense) of life on Earth. The name Cosmic Collision, of course, is a literal reference to all the intergalactic miscellany that’s just bound to bump into us at some point.
Sounds cheery, no?
While he will address logistics and creative innovations in the realm of preparedness for collision-based calamity, Tyson will also speak to his belief that seeing ourselves, our planet, our future in these terms can have a unifying and pragmatizing effect on us. After all, the petty things we find to hate each other over don’t seem worth investing much energy into in the face of being suddenly, and all as one, delivered into oblivion.
Neil deGrasse Tyson: Cosmic Collision
Sold out ($246-$604 at vividseats.com)
7:30pm Wed, Jan. 17, Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, 100 Auditorium Circle, (210) 223-8624, tobincenter.org.