On December 11, 2014, astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson presented his Science lecture to a sold out house at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. The crowd was composed of all age groups, a variety of ethnicities, and lovers of knowledge.
Tyson, who is also the Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, proved that humor, story-telling, and science can be astutely combined for a though-provoking lecture filled with wonder. Lauded for his role in Cosmos (2014) and his ease with the audience, on several occasions the crowd burst in applause, especially when Tyson remarked that people who deny science should not be making political decisions about science-related matters.
He prefaced the lecture by saying he is not a performer/artist/musician, but the astrophysicist indeed knows the art of bringing knowledge from different subject areas together in order to convey the message. From linguistic references to Arabic, to economic contexts, to personal anecdotes, and to expositions of scientific breakthroughs, the evening was like a semester-long seminar in Arts and Sciences condensed into a couple of inspiring hours.
Perhaps the most poignant aspect brought forth by Tyson was the contextual presentation of a great civilization with a myriad of mathematical, scientific, and technological breakthroughs–the Arabic world that gave name to numerous stars–and the impact of fundamentalistic interpretations of religious texts. While Tyson did not refer to it as such, he was driving the point across that today, that the United States–and any other country and/or culture, for that matter–should not devalue science. Proper regard for scientific truths is not only prestigious for a civilization, but also, global/planetary survival may very well depend on it.
Toward the end of the lecture, Tyson quoted Carl Sagan’s engaging words about our only home in the universe: planet Earth.
And now U2’s “Beautiful Day” is playing in my head: “…see the world in green and blue/ see China right in front of you/ see the canyons broken by clouds…”.