I was snatched out of my bubble yesterday by an encounter with an astrophysicist named Neil deGrasse Tyson, when he took the Chattanooga State gymnasium by storm.
If you don’t know who he is, you’re in good company, because until yesterday, I didn’t either. I tell myself it’s not because I’m dumb; it’s because of well, my bubble. I’m a bit worn out from five years of hurricanes, tornados, oil spills, and now the unbridled optimism I feel in the face of tens of thousands of people standing up to our ever more commercially compromised politicians.
A friend of mine asked me to go, and I summoned up enough enthusiasm to put the battery in my camera and we went to the little college by the river.
The gym was freezing when we arrived, and serious faced people in suits with ear pieces stood stolidly in every corner, keeping watch over a roundly diverse group of people who first trickled, then poured into the building. We arrived an hour early and within 20 minutes almost every seat in the place was taken.
An estimated 1,800 people filled the gymnasium from wall to wall and front to back.
I’m a dyed in the wool science fiction fan. My father put the novel Dune in my hand when I was nine years old and it changed everything about the way I view everything. Star Trek was my primer, and later it became Isaac Asimov, Orson Scott Card, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke. The books these authors wrote, opened my eyes to a new world, a world of thought and imagination, which I hadn’t perceived before.
As Dr. Tyson began to talk, I realized that he was talking about my own imaginary worlds, but in his way of seeing things, they aren’t imaginary at all, they’re just undiscovered country.
What I found most interesting about Dr. Tyson was not so much what he said, but what he made evident can’t yet be said at all and his enthusiasm for all that we’ve yet to understand.
Dr. Tyson has an affable manner and an ability to connect with laypeople in a way that’s friendly and easy to understand. He talked for about an hour about the universe, the multi-verse, the big bang theory, black holes, and asteroid Apophis which may or may not strike the earth in 2036 (buy those lottery tickets now). After his talk, Dr. Tyson spent a half hour taking questions from the audience.
Dr. Tyson is currently producing and will be hosting a new sequel to Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.
Kudos, Chattanooga State, for lightening the gravity, just a little.