Monday, March 3, 2014

When 17-Year-Old Neil deGrasse Tyson was Chauffeured by Carl Sagan

As you may have heard, Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and celebrity scientist, is hosting a re-boot of Carl Sagan's classic Cosmos series. The original aired on PBS in 1980; the re-boot begins airing Sunday (March 9) on Fox.

It's appropriate that Tyson is the man hosting the new Cosmos; in many ways, he's the current scientist closest to the spirit of Sagan. Tyson, like Sagan did, has a tremendous gift for making science sound both wondrous yet accessible, awe-inspiring yet unintimidating.

Like Sagan was in his era, Tyson is the go-to guy of this era for entertainment programs (not to mention news and science programs) seeking someone who can explain in an engaging way difficult concepts of astrophysics and astronomy.

There's a story that Tyson has told many times, but it's a good story and it's worth repeating with the new Cosmos about to launch. When Tyson was 17 years old and applying to colleges, he was accepted to Cornell, where Sagan was a professor. Sagan made the effort to personally reach out to Tyson, invite him to visit Cornell, and then acted as tour guide and chauffeur for the young, future scientist.

Listen as Tyson tells the story, and explains how Sagan's kindnesses that long-ago weekend inspired Tyson's own behavior toward the next generation:

(Unfortunately for Cornell, Sagan's kindnesses did not result in Tyson attending their university - he ultimately went to Harvard.)

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