The other day I was driving around doing errands at lunch and listening to NPR on the radio. They were interviewing Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist who will be hosting Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey this Sunday.
I have always been fascinated with space and stars and far away planets, so I listed closely to the interview. I only caught the last few minutes, but I was immediately drawn to Dr. Tyson. He was clearly passionate about the subject of space, very intelligent, but in a way you could relate to and funny. I wanted to know about this funny scientist, so I did a little digging.
Neil Tyson is a very interesting man with diverse interests. I can only fathom this man’s intelligence. I can’t even spell half the things he has either studied, discovered or written about. Yet, in the snippet of the interview I caught he clearly can communicate these ideas to several levels of intelligence, including my own. I was very impressed in his enthusiasm for his chosen profession. Oh, if only the rest of us could have such a thing. Perhaps I was a bit jealous.
You see, when I was very young, I loved the stars. Some of you out there might remember when you could buy books and posters through school very cheap. I remember ordering one of the star charts that you could turn to align with the time of year and north to south and be able to identify the constellations. I remember telling my father one day that I wanted to grow up to be an astronomer. My father told me being an astronomer was very hard. So I quickly gave up that idea. I wish he had encouraged me a little more or realized how serious I was at the time. To this day I can still find Orion, the big and little dipper and Pegasus, among other constellations, in the night sky. But that’s where my knowledge ends.
I still love the stars and will perk up when I hear conversations about space and planets. I look for articles about NASA’s Mars adventures and love to see the amazing pictures of planets in space. I listened intently to the news when scientists were discussing Voyager’s trip beyond our solar system. What would it find out in open space? Would any intelligent species ever find it and wonder about the people who created it? Would the human race be long gone by then?
Learning about space can be a bit depressing. Yes, we are truly alone out here, at least as far as we can tell. Our planets resources are quickly being consumed by a race of people who consider themselves intelligent, but refuse take the necessary steps to prevent them from being depleted. Our sun cannot last forever and once it goes, we go. Asteroids and meteoroids swoosh by in some cases barely missing us.
I once heard an interview with a scientist whose name I cannot recall. But I remember distinctly that he said the human race is doomed to become extinct. It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of how and when. Most scientists seem to agree on this point.
I am looking forward to Dr. Tyson’s Cosmos show this Sunday. In my research I found that beyond being an amazing physicist and philosopher, he also loves to dance and is a fine wine connoisseur. (Does this man have any flaws?) Someday I would love to meet him.
Despite some of the depressing thoughts on human kind and our place in this vast void of space, on a cold clear night I will stand outside and gaze up at the multitude of stars that fill our skies and wonder. In the words of Pink Floyd, “Is there anybody out there?”