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Neil deGrasse Tyson Spends an Evening in Atlanta

Posted on Wednesday, March 25, 2015

On March 24, 2015, over 4,000 people including more than 60 ARCS Foundation Atlanta Chapter members and guests spent “An Evening with Neil deGrasse Tyson” at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Tyson began the evening by welcoming ARCS Foundation members and explaining to the crowd that ARCS Foundation had provided support to him while he was working on his PhD studying Intergalactic Supernovae at Columbia University in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Dr. Tyson’s lecture was entitled, "Adventures in Science Literacy (scientific, cultural, political, sociological observations)." He spent a fair amount of time presenting examples of currency from other countries honoring scientists and in some cases even including mathematical expressions on the notes. The one “scientist” that appears on US currency is Benjamin Franklin but you won’t find any references to his experiments in the artwork – he is there due to his role as a founding father. He also presented maps of the world where the size of the countries represented the amount of scientific research taking place. The trend for the United States, especially as compared to Japan and South Korea, was troubling. When discussing the interaction of religious beliefs and science, Dr. Tyson employed his often repeated quote: "The good thing about science is that it is true whether or not you believe in it."

A highlight of the evening occurred when Dr. Tyson phoned his friend, Bill Nye, so that he could talk to the crowd via FaceTime projected on the screen. At the end of the evening, Dr. Tyson answered questions posed by members of the audience, advising a UGA student: Do not choose a research area based on current needs. It is better to explore where your curiosity takes you. People not involved in the original research but with complementary strengths may find totally unexpected applications of your discoveries further down the road.