The following interview of Neil deGrasse Tyson by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission). Produced by Marlena Bond.
Biographical Information—Neil deGrasse Tyson
Neil deGrasse Tyson was born and raised in New York City where he was educated in the public schools clear through his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. Tyson went on to earn his BA in Physics from Harvard and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia.
Tyson’s professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of our Milky Way.
In 2001, Tyson was appointed by President Bush to serve on a 12-member commission that studied the Future of the US Aerospace Industry. The final report was published in 2002 and contained recommendations (for Congress and for the major agencies of the government) that would promote a thriving future of transportation, space exploration, and national security.
In 2004, Tyson was once again appointed by President Bush to serve on a 9-member commission on the Implementation of the United States Space Exploration Policy, dubbed the Moon, Mars, and Beyond commission. This group navigated a path by which the new space vision can become a successful part of the American agenda. And in 2006, the head of NASA appointed Tyson to serve on its prestigious Advisory Council, which will help guide NASA through its perennial need to fit its ambitious vision into its restricted budget.
In addition to dozens of professional publications, Dr. Tyson has written, and continues to write for the public. From 1995 to 2005, Tyson was a monthly essayist for Natural History magazine under the title Universe. And among Tyson’s ten books is his memoir The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist; and Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution, co-written with Donald Goldsmith. Origins is the companion book to the PBS-NOVA 4-part mini-series Origins, in which Tyson served as on-camera host. The program premiered on September 28 and 29, 2004.
Two of Tyson’s recent books are the playful and informative Death By Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries, which was a New York Times bestseller, and The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet, chronicling his experience at the center of the controversy over Pluto’s planetary status. The PBS/NOVA documentary “The Pluto Files”, based on the book, premiered in March 2010.
For five seasons, beginning in the fall of 2006, Tyson appeared as the on-camera host of PBS-NOVA’s spinoff program NOVA ScienceNOW, which is an accessible look at the frontier of all the science that shapes the understanding of our place in the universe.
During the summer of 2009 Tyson identified a stable of professional standup comedians to assist his effort in bringing science to commercial radio with the NSF-funded pilot program StarTalk. Now also a podcast, StarTalk Radio combines celebrity guests with informative yet playful banter. The target audience is all those people who never thought they would, or could, like science.
Tyson is the recipient of fourteen honorary doctorates and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest award given by NASA to a non-government citizen. His contributions to the public appreciation of the cosmos have been recognized by the International Astronomical Union in their official naming of asteroid 13123 Tyson. On the lighter side, Tyson was voted Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive by People Magazine in 2000.
In February 2012, Tyson releases his tenth book, this one exclusive devoted to space exploration: Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier, and he is currently working on a 21st century reboot of Carl Sagan’s landmark television series COSMOS, to air in 13 episodes on the FOX network in 2013.
Tyson is the first occupant of the Frederick P. Rose Directorship of the Hayden Planetarium. Tyson lives in New York City with his wife and two children.
ON CANVAS WITH PAINT
On canvas with paint
In the Artist’s school
It’s red that is hot
And blue that is cool.
But in science we show
As the heat gets higher
That a star will glow red
Like the coals of a fire.
Raise the heat some more
And what is in sight?
It’s no longer red
It has turned bright white.
Yet the hottest of all,
I say unto you,
Is neither white nor red
When the star has turned blue.