It’s the birthday of American astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson (1958) (books by this author), who once said, “The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.” Tyson is the host of the popular shows Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and Star Talk. He grew up in the Bronx and remembers visiting the Hayden Planetarium’s Sky Theatre on a school field trip, which inspired his interest in astronomy and science. He said, “So strong was that imprint [of the night sky] that I’m certain that I had no choice in the matter, that in fact, the universe called me.” He’s now the director of the Planetarium. Tyson’s television shows, podcasts, and books have inspired millions of people to see the universe with new eyes.
He’s so popular that he has appeared as himself in television shows and movies like The Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons, and Zoolander 2. He’s also been featured as himself in comic books like Action Comics #14, in which he discusses Superman’s home planet of Krypton.
On the importance of explaining complex science to the layman, Tyson once said: “Humans want to think that they’re the center of the world. Children think this way. Then you come into adulthood and it’s a little disappointing to learn that’s not the case. We still think of events happening locally, in our lifetimes, as significant in a way that is out of proportion with reality. This can be depressing to some people, if you come into it with a high ego. If you go into it with no ego at all, you realize that you can be special not for being different, but for being a participant in life on Earth. That participation, if you’re open to it, can be quite illuminating, even sort of spiritually uplifting. You’re a part of all of life on Earth. Earth is part of all the planets that exist in the galaxy. The galaxy is part of an entire system of the universe.”
Tyson’s books include Death by Black Hole (2007) and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (2017).