Interview with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Here’s an excerpt from an exclusive interview I did with Dr. Tyson for AALBC.com, The #1 Site for African American Literature.

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Dr. Tyson is the first African American to head the Planetarium, or any major scientific department at the Museum.  Neil Tyson grew up in Riverdale and graduated from the Bronx High School of Science.  He received his PhD from Columbia, and did a three year post doc at Princeton where he is still on the faculty.  He is a  teacher in astronomy and astrophysics at Princeton, the author of ten books, and a frequent guest on late night TV. It was announced on August 5, 2011, that Tyson will be hosting a new sequel to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage television series.

Dr. Tyson is also very vocal about science education and the need for students to seriously consider STEM field professions (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) so that America can move into the future prepared for the challenges and possibilities. In 2001, US President George W. Bush appointed Tyson to serve on the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry and in 2004 to serve on the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, the latter better known as the “Moon, Mars, and Beyond” commission. Soon afterward he was awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by NASA.

Sandra Kitt: When did you first begin to realize that you also enjoyed writing?

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson:  I wrote a column for Star Date magazine. Which was published out of the University of Texas. It started out as a newsletter. It was a question and answer column for them. This is where I decided, sure, I can answer any question you have about the universe, but that’s no fun. I could send you to page 12 of the encyclopedia. Today I’d just send you to Wikipedia if it’s just an answer. So, I just wanted to have more fun with it. So someone might ask, how hot is the sun? Rather than just give a temperature I might say something like, well if you visited the sun in flameproof underwear (laughing) and pulled out your thermometer, you’d get this reading. In a book or an essay that I might write for a magazine if you lose someone along the way they put it down. And you don’t know if they’ll ever pick it up again. So I try to write in a way where you care deeply what the next paragraph will be. I hear the rhythm of prose and that, to me, distinguishes great writing from ordinary writing. By the way, I don’t even claim that I’m good. I claim that I value it. So I’m not writing for myself. I’m writing as an educator, I’m writing to stimulate others.

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