The morning after, I’m still in a state of awe. Last night I got to see Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson on stage, doing what he does best: education for the people. The topic was Adventures in Science Literacy. Or as he called it, “Adventures in Science Illiteracy.” You see, the entire talk was geared about what science is and what it isn’t, how to move past beliefs (political, societal, religious, personal, etc.) to objective measurement, and other ideas along these lines.
We were sitting in the nosebleeds at the very top of the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas, aka the Winspear Opera House, because these were the best seats we could get by the time we scraped our money together. Say what you will, it says something when an astrophysicist can talk to a sold out opera house. It’s interesting to think this is also where I’ve seen “Weird Al” Yankovic and got a hug from Sarah McLachlan backstage. Let it not be said that Dallas can’t bring in diverse talent. Anyway, even at the top, six levels up, Dr. Tyson’s charisma hits you full force. The entire talk was everything I’d come to expect and hoped for: informative, informal, funny, inspiring…
Some of the topics he hit upon ranged on everything from the unreliability of eyewitness testimony (including some stories of jury duty) to UFOs and aliens to Flat Earthers, Supermoons, and all around bad science. The way he did it, as much as he pointed out the stupid without saying it was stupid, he discussed why the arguments for such things don’t stand up, what the science says and why, and how we can discuss it amongst ourselves in an educated manner. The talk lasted two hours with no intermission. It honestly didn’t feel anywhere close to that long for me. The guy next to me, however… he fidgeted the entire time like he was bored. I’m guessing he was dragged there by his obviously smarter significant other who was clearly enjoying herself. Good on her.
The evening wrapped with a tribute to the Cassini spacecraft, which became one with the planet Saturn after a long and successful mission.
Dr. Tyson stressed that he didn’t want to leave us angry at the world and suggested the hope that Cassini and missions like it engender. He also called out the sheer number of movies, television shows, podcasts, and other forms of pop culture where science and science-themed entertainment reigned supreme, all of which served to inspire more science.
I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. I’m a little bummed I couldn’t afford a backstage meet and greet as well, but I’ll take what I can get. Next time. And there will be a next time. For now, I’m just glad I could be there to soak it all in.