Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

By Andrea Plaid

Neil deGrasse Tyson. Courtesy: thehumanist.org

When I announced at Wednesday night’s late night editorial meeting–I’m still recovering from it!–who this week’s Crush is, the Owner/Editor exclaimed, “That’s what I’m talking about!”

Anyone who can cause the otherwise unflappable La Editrix to flap…yeah, so this week’s Loved-Up.

But I’ll admit it: I’m late to this lovefest. Though he’s had an incredible 17-year career–if not controversial one, with his reclassifying Pluto from being the ninth planet in this solar system, as has been taught in US schools–I heard of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson in passing, like walking by a small crowd cheering about something-or-other but just not having the time to push through the crowd to see what’s going on. All I heard was “Black guy,” “scientist,” “astrophysicist,” and “YYYYYAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYY!” I promised myself I’d check out the commotion later.

Later–much later, like the other day–I saw (and reblogged) this on my Tumblr dashboard:

It took James Cameron 60 weeks to prepare Titanic for its rerelease, but apart from remastering the original at 4k resolution and converting it to stereoscopic 3D, nothing about the movie has really changed.

Well, almost nothing.

According to Cameron: “Neil deGrasse Tyson sent me quite a snarky email saying that, at that time of year [April 15, at 4:20 am], in that position in the Atlantic in 1912, when Rose is lying on the piece of driftwood and staring up at the stars, that is not the star field she would have seen.”

“And with my reputation as a perfectionist, I should have known that and I should have put the right star field in. So I said ‘All right, send me the right stars for that exact time and I’ll put it in the movie.’”

So Tyson did just that, and Cameron re-shot the scene. According to the Telegraph, it is the only major technical change in the film’s re-release.

A Black astrophysicist corrected a white director that brought us that cog in the White Savior Industrial Complex, Avatar? YYYYYAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYY! (Pssst–can you correct Cameron about that complex in Avatar, too, Dr. Tyson? Please?)

What I don’t get is snark–at least not the vicious kind–from Dr. Tyson. BAMF-brilliant? Yes. Can break it down as to why people need to become science-literate to help make their lives better on mulitmedia platforms, from books and columns, to PBS and podcasts, to Twitter? Absolutely. (In this sense, he’s like the Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry of astrophysics.) Doesn’t let bullshit fly–and gets a bit impatient when it happens–because he’s just that no-nonsense? Oh yeah. Doesn’t create false dichotomies between science and art? Doesn’t, won’t, and refuses. As he says in an interview:

“In my life experience, it’s not that bringing kids to the museum, taking kids to a museum, makes them interested in science…the goal here is not to make everybody a scientist. That’s not the goal. What a boring world that would be. You want artists; you want musicians; you want poets, novelists, comedians, actors. You want the rest of this. What matters is if they’re scientifically literate and maintain that literacy and curiosity throughout their lives, no matter what becomes their profession.

“Kids are born scientists. You don’t have to turn them on to investigating the world around them; they do that coming out of the womb. Kids turn over rock and poke at the millipede; they pick apart flowers; they bang on posts and pans. They will do things that are experiments in the world around them. So, the challenge isn’t getting kids interested in exploring the world around them. The challenge is staying out of their way. That is the challenge of the adult.”

And, in this closed-captioned video, Dr. Tyson explains how he got out of his own way regarding his “racial duty” of disseminating scientific knowledge in the media:

And, considering The Squee Heard ‘Round The R Virtual Office, I think quite a few of us are glad he did. Including me, his newest fan.

  • Dromeda

    It’s also worth noting that his podcast, Star Talk Radio, also has a ton of awesome geeks of color (Whoopi Goldberg, Nichelle Nichols, Morgan Freeman, etc) on and has interviews and just…oh man. My crush on NDGT knows no bounds. 

  • Ein SC

    Oh yes, been crushing on NdGT for a loong time!  My 5yo loves him!

  • Ein SC

    Oh yes, been crushing on NdGT for a loong time!  My 5yo loves him!

  • http://molecularshyness.wordpress.com jen*

    I love NdGT for SO many reasons. I recently discovered his podcast (after he guested on the Nerdist) and I just love to hear him talk about science. It makes me super happy. I don’t even have super intelligent things to say about him other than to profess my love.

  • http://molecularshyness.wordpress.com jen*

    I love NdGT for SO many reasons. I recently discovered his podcast (after he guested on the Nerdist) and I just love to hear him talk about science. It makes me super happy. I don’t even have super intelligent things to say about him other than to profess my love.

  • Rob1990mos

    I met the man a year ago. He is a wonderful individual. Loved everything he had to say.

  • Rob1990mos

    I met the man a year ago. He is a wonderful individual. Loved everything he had to say.

  • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

    I once got to attend a science lecture he gave to high school students at the NY Academy of Science. Dr. Tyson was one of the best lecturers I got to listen to at that time. One of his wittiest remarks that I remember had to do with distinguishing blue dwarf stars from red giants. He joked that next time you come across water faucets marked red for hot and blue for cold, remember that the colors should really be the other way around, since in reality the blue stars are hotter than the red ones!

  • Lyonside

    Since I am now trolling YouTube for videos I haven’t seen yet of NdT’s interviews and such, here’s a really good one: NdT answers 10 Questions from TIME readers (I know, I know…): So far it’s awesome. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiOwqDmacJo

  • Grace

    So, I just read that he’s a self identified agnostic. As a Black agnostic theist (Christian agnostic), I love reading about Black non-Christians, and the Black irreligious in particular. So the amount of squeeing that went on in my head is probably unimaginable, lol. He’s officially a #cooldude in my book.

    • dersk

      Wouldn’t an agnostic theist be someone who thinks it’s impossible to know for sure (the a-gnostic part) but does believe (theist) – doesn’t that just make you a Christian with doubts? To be honest, I’ve always found the gnostic / agnostic split a bit of a distraction (since basically nobody says you can ever prove it either way with absolute certainty).

      By the way, he didn’t ‘kill’ Pluto. The problem was there was never a definition of what a ‘planet’ is in terms of size or regularity of orbit. I think he was presiding at the meeting where the definition was chosen.

  • moonrose4me

    So glad you added 
    Dr. Tyson as crush of the week!

    I love this man!!!

  • http://freshspectrum.com/ Chris Lysy

    Thanks for sharing that video, it was fantastic. What a great storyteller.

  • Eloise Daniel

    Staylor in Austin: Thanks for that link! Made my Saturday!

  • Eloise Daniel

    Staylor in Austin: Thanks for that link! Made my Saturday!

  • Anonymous

    Forget crush of the week, this man is the crush of a LIFETIME. 

  • Anonymous

    Forget crush of the week, this man is the crush of a LIFETIME. 

  • Notebook

    That video was great. Really spoke out to me.

  • Notebook

    That video was great. Really spoke out to me.

  • Anonymous

    I adore this man! I’m convinced his brain has its own gravitational pull. Great choice Racialicious! :)

  • Anonymous

    I adore this man! I’m convinced his brain has its own gravitational pull. Great choice Racialicious! :)

  • Lyonside

    I ADORE this man, to a somewhat ridiculous degree… to the point where every time I FB some article he’s in, I introduce him as “my astrophysicist boyfriend” and at least 2 friends will always contest my place in line…  to the point where I wonder how and when I will introduce him into my science curriculum (one day, when I’m a full science teacher and not an aide) as an example of STEM career success… to the extent where that extended interview with Steven Colbert (out of character) was the highlight of my YEAR, YouTube-wise… yeah. Bit of a crush.

    To the point where this has a prominent place on my iPod, because he’s heavily featured in it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGK84Poeynk

  • Ladyguerita

    I love you guys :)
     

  • STAYLOR in AUSTIN

    Andrea, this picture of a young N d T proves he’s been laid the foundations for your crush a long time ago

    http://chzscience.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/funny-science-news-experiments-memes-wait-thats-neil-degrasse-tyson-damn.jpg

  • http://www.facebook.com/rogerowengreen Roger Green

    I SO relate to the story in the video.