Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is, for me, something of a modern day folk hero. I have nothing but admiration and respect for his work and his commitment to education, both of which continue in the footsteps of his mentor, Dr. Carl Sagan, and both of which are sorely needed in our age of mind-blowing levels of willful ignorance.
But then, if you’re already familiar with Dr. Tyson, odds are I’m preaching to the converted. You already know that, like Dr. Sagan before him, Dr. Tyson’s gift to us is his ability to speak to us at our own level of understanding without “talking down” to us, aiding us to rise above our otherwise limited mental horizons. It’s not unlike a child getting to stand at a higher vantage point, allowing us to see the world (and so much more) from a different, more meaningful, and more mind-blowing perspective. In this way, science becomes the gateway to wonder.
I read a lot of history, and I’m always swept up in the grand tale of the rise and fall of human civilizations, of men and women who defined an age, of the great writers and artists, and so on. But periodically I like to revisit other topics, and there’s nothing quite like astronomy and astrophysics to really put everything else into perspective. Inevitably, I think about Dr. Sagan and his “pale blue dot.” I wish more people would, especially those in a position of power or authority.
That said, I have an absolutely mind-numbing day job, and I’m always thankful for the opportunity to escape the doldrums via Audible. The Great Courses offerings that I’m able to get through this service allows me to experience the wonder of Dr. Tyson’s insights straight from the man himself. One thing I have to credit him with, even above everything else, is presentation. The man’s got style. As I say, he comes across as talking to you rather than at you. It makes a world of difference, this notion of “teach, don’t preach.”
Perhaps the only downside to this particular lecture series is you can tell by listening that there’s a video component that’s missing (and I’m sure TGC offers that video version too). That might be frustrating for some, but hey, we live in the age of Google. Want to know what something looks like? Call it up while you’re listening and see for yourself. Isn’t modern science something? Suddenly something passive becomes interactive. Drawback becomes advantage.
The series itself goes into those topics that will invite imagination precisely because they are the things that fire Dr. Tyson’s imagination, and he says as much. Black holes, extinction-level meteor events, the wonder of the Hubble telescope… it’s all in here for the asking, with all the enthusiasm of a man who truly loves his work. Truly, what more need be said?