America’s Favorite Astrophysicist

Posted: November 7, 2014 in Assignments
Tags: , , , , ,

Critical thinking and Pop Culture don’t exactly seem to go hand-in-hand. Enter Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Director of Hayden Planetarium, Research Associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, named in Time Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential Persons in the World” and “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive” in People Magazine. Tyson has a knack for taking complex concepts and presenting them in a way that those of us who aren’t rocket scientists can understand. He seems to enjoy spreading knowledge and is a champion for critical thinking. He has published books, hosted award-winning shows, taken away Pluto and can be found on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and hosts his own podcast called StarTalk.

StarTalk targets those who never thought science could be interesting or entertaining, it connects Pop Culture and science. The introduction of each show states, “Our universe is filled with secrets and mysteries which leaves us with many questions to be answered. We find ourselves searching for those answers as the very fabric of space, science and society are converging. Here for the first time, these worlds collide.” Neil partners up with celebrity guests and comedians to talk about many different scientific topics, he says they explore “everything under the sun, or rather the universe!” He approaches subjects ranging from scientific discoveries to pseudoscience, from the possible benefits of video games to the physics of superheroes. Listeners can submit questions to the show on Twitter. Mr. Tyson approaches the topics and questions with rational (albeit, humorous) discussions backed by scientific evidence and facts. He explains that scientific literacy serves to protect us against pseudoscience. These shows are amusing, entertaining and incredibly informative. The way he explains why things happen or why they couldn’t possibly happen is fascinating and easy to understand. This was one of my favorite episodes in which he answers questions about superheroes…

He explains how a super soldier serum, as in Captain America, could not actually increase the strength of a person’s muscles beyond a certain point if the tissue remains the same size due to the physics of strength. Also, now I know that Magneto could not tear apart the universe but could theoretically “tear a new one” in a star. Superman would be torn apart by a black hole because he is made of matter from this universe. These are very interesting answers to questions I’ve personally had about superheroes.

I also found this great quote encouraging critical thinking (he’s full of them) from an interview on The Science Network. [A] most important feature is the analysis of the information that comes your way. And that’s what I don’t see enough of in this world. There’s a level of gullibility that leaves people susceptible to being taken advantage of. I see science literacy as kind of a vaccine against charlatans who would try to exploit your ignorance.”

Neil DeGrasse Tyson promotes and encourages critical thinking. He is able to do so using popular culture, through social media, television and his podcast. He makes science inviting and exciting. There is no question he is the most popular astrophysicist in America today.

  1. ihaiva says:

    real critical thinking will also question the paradigm within which ‘science’ operates


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