As the area of our knowledge grows, so too does the perimeter of our ignorance.
Neil is, best known as the director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium and an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History. Between his decade writing a column for Natural History magazine, bestselling books (including 2017’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry), his podcast and TV show StarTalk, his many television and radio appearances, and his nearly 14 million Twitter followers, he’s become perhaps the world’s most recognizable living scientist. He’s a Carl Sagan for the 21st century but with an even wider reach.
Neil has said repeatedly that more important than the general public recognizing the names of individual scientists—his included—is a basic level of science literacy. These cultural appearances are part of his effort to spread that literacy and infectious curiosity to a wider audience.
While Neil is dedicated to facts, rigor, and objective truth, he’s not divorced from other aspects of the human experience; he recognizes that not everything about our lives is purely rational. (For example, he notes that art is a vital and fundamental expression of what it is to be human but it doesn’t need to be anchored in scientific truths.)
Science literacy is not so much about what you know, but about how your brain is wired for thought, how your brain is wired to ask questions.
Here are my favorite takeaways from viewing Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Masterclass Session on Scientific Thinking and Communication: