A Field Guide to Neil deGrasse Tyson

Here at HelloGiggles, nerdy tendencies are celebrated, and one of the greatest brains around today is Cosmos star Neil deGrasse Tyson, who wears more hats than I can count. The astrophysicist and author reminds us that science is cool the same way Bill Nye did during middle school science class, and he forces us to come to terms with facts over beliefs about the world. Here’s what you need to know about one of the best minds around right now.

Who he is

A New Yorker, Neil deGrasse Tyson was raised in the Bronx, where he attended public schools. In high school, he served as captain of the wrestling team and editor-in-chief of the Physical Science Journal. His love for astronomy started at the age of nine, when he visited Pennsylvania and fell in love with the stars. He studied them for years, and at 15 was asked by Carl Sagan to lecture at Cornell University. After a life-changing opportunity like this, one might assume deGrasse Tyson would choose Cornell University for college, but he wound up at Harvard for undergrad.

Even though he’d turn down Sagan’s suggestion to attend Cornell, deGrasse Tyson says he owes a lot to the late astronomer, “I learned from Carl the kind of person I wanted to be.”

After earning his BA, he attended the University of Texas at Austin and Columbia, coming out with a Ph.D. in astrophysics, and for nearly 20 years, he has been director of the Hayden Planetarium. Not too shabby!

His views

“I believe in science. I believe in evolution. I believe in Nate Silver and Neil deGrasse Tyson and Christopher Hitchens. Although I do admit he could be a kind of an [expletive]. I cannot get behind some supreme being who weighs in on the Tony Awards while a million people get whacked with machetes.”

You know who said that? Piper in season one of Orange is the New Blackbecause deGrasse Tyson is just that cool. Though he doesn’t shame anyone’s views on religion, deGrasse Tyson always looks at the facts, which led him to conclude, “Every account of a higher power that I’ve seen described, of all religions that I’ve seen, include many statements with regard to the benevolence of that power. When I look at the universe and all the ways the universe wants to kill us, I find it hard to reconcile that with statements of beneficence.” Unsettling as it may be, it’s the truth, and luckily deGrasse Tyson is around to keep us informed.

As for creationism, he kind of took that to town in a recent episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey:

“If the universe were only 6,500 years old, how could we see the light from anything more distant than the Crab Nebula? We couldn’t. There wouldn’t have been enough time for the light to get to Earth from anywhere farther away than 6,500 light-years in any direction. That’s just enough time for light to travel through a tiny portion of our Milky Way galaxy. To believe in a universe as young as 6 or 7,000 years old is to extinguish the light from most of the galaxy. Not to mention the light from all the hundred billion other galaxies in the observable universe.”

As Mediaite nicely points out as well, we’ve also got million-year-old fossils to prove the earth isn’t exactly young and fresh anymore.

deGrasse Tyson made a similar remark during his media tour appearance on Seth Meyers’s show, telling the comedian, “At [my show’s] best, it’s showing you how and why science matters to us as a civilization and as a species. If you don’t know science in the 21st century, just move back to the cave, because that’s where we’re going to leave you as we move forward.” I’m not made for the caves, so I’ll stick with you!

What he’s done and what he’s up to now

In addition to penning numerous books on astronomy, deGrasse Tyson came up with the phrase “Manhattanhenge,” a phenomenon that takes place twice a year in which the setting sun aligns with the east–west streets of the main street grid in New York City. He made the call to remove Pluto of its planet status nearly a decade ago, earning himself some serious hate mail but only speaking the truth about the “dwarf planet.” He’s won awards and received Presidential appointments on the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry and Presidential Commission on Implementation of U.S. Exploration Policy, and he’s appeared on a slew of talk shows to spread his wealth of knowledge on the earth and universe. He also earned himself the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, NASA’s highest civilian honor. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, he’s been making us all look bad since before he was old enough to get his driver’s license.

When he’s not popping up on Fox’s Cosmos Sundays at 9 pm, he’s hanging out with these cool guys:

Though Bill Nye assumed this seriously awesome photo would “break the internet,” it only received about 17,000 Instagram likes, so Ellen’s viral Oscar selfie fared better online but this is a real start for academic heroes like Nye and of course deGrasse Tyson.

Featured image via, via and via.

What else do you love about this incredible mover and shaker of science? Share in the comments section.