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Along for the Ride, with Neil de Grasse Tyson

Here in San Francisco, Neil deGrasse Tyson was "interviewed" at the Herbst Theatre tonight. I just got back from the theatre, and I'm completely jazzed! The man is a major inspiration to me, and an incomparable science communicator.

Some highlights:

--Sound Bites...after his first and unfortunate experience with news media, he studied and conquered the sound bite. And yes, he has conquered it! If you ask me, all scientists should learn this skill. It's as important as writing a good abstract, which is really an academic sound bite. I'm guessing that better public communication of current science would lead to more funding for science research.

--How to raise science literate children ...don't get in the way. During the evening he mentioned a book he's planning to write; on raising science literate children. Yeah! That would be fantastic! He talked about how, as parents, we need to stop interfering with our children's curiosity and intuitive experimentation. When the toddler bangs on the pots and pans, they're studying sound.

--Funding the Hubble ...the Hubble telescope recently was funded for repairs, not because of scientists but because the American people rallied for it. So many of us have images from the Hubble telescope, we love them. We want more. Tyson used this story to show how powerful a people can be, to make sure that science is funded.

--On a depressing note, he talked about the recently de-funded super conductive super collider (not sure if I got that name right). The project was shut down because it's value wasn't appreciated by congress. It wasn't directly related to national security....so, the US is no longer leading particle physics. As a side note, we really don't need to worry about a project like this creating a black whole that will destroy the earth.

-- John Stewart and Stephen Colbert ... he described his experiences on these shows as challenging, and unpredictable. But he keeps going back. I think this reflects well on Dr. Tyson.

--Apophis -- scary, but manageable. We just have to approach the problem thoughtfully. There are very smart people doing this, let's just be sure we don't let the "shoot it out of the sky" folks take charge of the problem. Cool phrase: gravitational tether. And warning: don't let Dr Tyson near the batteries of a clock you need to tell time with.