PM Narendra Modi met a number of American thought leaders in his US visit. This is the concluding part of a 4-­part short series explaining what makes these public thinkers so special
Why is Neil deGrasse Tyson important?
The astrophysicist has been a foremost populariser of science in America this century. Particularly through social media, he has been fast expanding this role in the global public sphere as well.
What is the big idea Tyson is known for?
The laws of physics are being applied to everyone’s life, whether one knows this or not. So, the more science becomes a political football, something Americans can choose to either believe in or not, the faster the country shall fade away. Better science education in schools is needed to avert this fate. But this can’t be about the smartest children in the class, the ones that get straight As, instead it has to be about exciting the rest of the students to love science and maths.
The people who battle against science ironically do this through pocket-sized smartphones, which merge state-of-the-art engineering, mathematics, information technology and space physics. They have to be countered with much better marketing of science – refined and persistent – so that no one takes its discoveries for granted.
And that’s what Tyson has done as director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York plus through his books, his TV appearances (Origins, Star Talk, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey), podcasts, newspaper columns and social media posts. He really appreciates Carl Sagan too for widely communicating how much the cosmic perspective can empower every individual to think differently about the world – for the better.
Humans are no doubt smarter than every other living creature that ever walked, crawled, or slithered on Earth. But imagine if we heeded scientists more: Covid would never have become a pandemic because societies grasped the risks of transmission fast.
His quotable quote:
“Black holes are so bizarre that you just have to be intrigued by them. I think adults are fascinated by black holes in the same ways that kids are fascinated by a T-Rex, which is that you respect anything that can eat you whole!”


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