‘Cosmos’ scientist speaks at UIndy

Astrophysicist, author and educator Neil deGrasse Tyson visited the University of Indianapolis on Oct. 22. Tyson came to speak as a part of his “This Just In: Latest Discoveries in the Universe” lecture series as well as the UIndy Blanche E. Penrod Lecture Series in the Nicoson Hall arena.

More than 4,000 people greeted Tyson with a standing ovation, while another 400 students and community members viewed a live stream of the presentation in Ransburg Auditorium.

Tyson presented in a manner that almost anyone in the crowd could understand. Rather than clouding his lecture with indecipherable banter, he covered complex topics in layman’s terms. Using a slide show to guide the presentation, Tyson shared his feelings on “supermoons,” Pluto’s status as a “planet,” about which he also has written a book about, and the lack of development in the U.S. advances in space exploration.

Audience members also were treated to a guest phone call from Tyson’s colleague Bill Nye, also known as “the Science Guy.” Mid lecture, Tyson’s phone rang, and Nye offered a few words of wisdom to the crowd.

Photos by Ben Zefeng Zhang
Photos by Ben Zefeng Zhang

“You can change the world,”  Nye said. “I want everyone to know our place in space and to know and appreciate that Dr. Tyson and I work together to advance space exploration so that we can have an optimistic view of the future and, dare I say it, change the world.”

Sophomore political science and nursing major Trace Plaugher appreciated Tyson’s style of presentation.

“Dr. Tyson presents his information in a way that even the simplest minds can understand. He presented himself in a professional yet humorous fashion,” Plaugher said. “I believe that very few scientists have the great presentation and social skills that Dr. Tyson has. It would be cool if more scientists presented in Tyson’s fashion.”

Tyson was born in the Bronx in New York City, where he attended public school until his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science.

He later received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard and his doctorate of astrophysics from Columbia. He also has served on two commissions for President George W. Bush as well as NASA’s advisory council.

In addition to these achievements, he has had 10 books published, including a memoir and a number of books covering a range of topics in astrophysics. What he may be known for most recently is his 2014 “Cosmos” series that ran 13 episodes on Fox. The show aired in 181 countries in 45 languages and was nominated for 13 Emmy Awards. Tyson has been praised for his efforts to popularize science.

“You could tell from the audience reaction that they were completely enthralled,” said department chair of Physics and Earth-Space Science Stephen Spicklemire. “It was amazing to see how captivated they were by a conversation about science.”

Spicklemire viewed many of the topics Tyson touched on, including climate change, disease and meteor strikes, as important points. He viewed other topics as more simplistic, but nonetheless, topics that make their way into the news periodically (e.g. the blood moon, super moon, etc.)

One of the points Tyson touched on was America’s shrinking status in the science world. He emphasized the correlation of countries with thriving economies to their excellence in science. Spicklemire agreed with Tyson on this matter.

“It seems to me that the U.S. needs to invest in science again,” Spicklemire said. “Dr. Tyson is focused on educating the general public. My personal focus is educating our student-citizens and others through courses we offer and community outreach events we organize. My hope is that a scientifically literate and aware public will be motivated to elect representatives who share an appreciation of the importance of investment in scientific research and discovery.”

Tyson’s next lecture is his “This Just In” series is at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.