SXSW Interactive Review: Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Keynote

Tyson’s educational show, “Cosmos,” premiered March 9.

Tyson’s educational show, “Cosmos,” premiered March 9.

SXSW Interactive’s Saturday afternoon keynote speaker was astrophysicist Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson.

His show “Cosmos,” a remake of Carl Sagan’s 1980 version, premiered on FOX March 9 to 170 countries around the world, which is the largest roll-out of a television show in television history.

Tyson hopes that his show will allow his viewers to think, “Now I know and understand my place in the universe.”

During his keynote, Tyson addressed a range of topics, from dinosaurs to the best way to lie to your children in a passionate manner. He is not impossible to relate to like your typical genius; Tyson was personable and charismatic and, actually, hilarious.

Throughout his talk, Tyson emphasized the importance of allowing people, particularly children, to experiment with the world. Even if this results in a few broken eggs, like when a child learns that just because an egg is hard, it doesn’t mean it’s strong. Or when water gets spilled because the child is discovering how condensation can form on a water glass.

The astrophysicist who researches star formation and dwarf galaxies, among other advanced topics, ensures that viewers do not need traditional scientific literacy to watch his show. Instead he believes curiousity, reflection and exploration are the essence of scientific literacy.

“I think a scientist is just a kid that never really grew up,” he said.

Tyson feels that you do not need to know a bunch of scientific facts to be able to identify false scientific claims, you just need to know how science generally works.

Among the most frustratingly incorrect scientific facts that Tyson hears are the idea that we experience summer because we’re closest to the sun (we don’t) and that it’s darkest just before dawn (actually, midnight is darkest).

Tyson’s perspective of the world is a cosmic one that “reorders what is important in this world” and is based on the belief that “all of earth is one.”