Beacon News

Lessons from an Astrophysicist

| Student Work

The students here at Beacon know that I’m pretty nerdy, so it was no surprise to them that I went to the University of Florida a few weeks ago to listen to a lecture given by astrophysicist, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. Dr. Tyson is the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, and is best known for his appearances on the PBS series, NOVA ScienceNow.

Dr. Tyson opened his lecture by explaining that he planned to discuss something not mentioned in his many books or thoroughly discussed on ScienceNow. He wanted to talk to us about “killer asteroids” and the threat they pose to our country in the near future.
There is one specific asteroid, called Apophis, which has the potential to create an impact crater nearly 3 miles wide. Apophis, named after the Egyptian god of darkness, will make a close approach to our earth, dipping below the level of communications satellites, on Friday the 13, 2029. Should Apophis land in the Pacific Ocean, it could potentially create tsunami waves powerful enough to wash away a good part of Los Angeles. This disaster, according to Dr. Tyson, is both unlikely and preventable.  Teams from China, Russia, and the European Union are in discussions on possible techniques to deflect the asteroid to a different (and less dangerous) course.
Dr. Tyson’s remarks for the evening spanned a variety of topics, from asteroids to jury duty to the importance of letting children explore.

His style of lecture isn’t what one would expect from an astrophysicist; he’s affable, comedic, and blunt. During the question and answer session after his planned lecture, Dr. Tyson referenced one of his most famous quotes, “the great part about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

~ Hannah Walk


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