GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Neil deGrasse Tyson’s own public relations team refers to him as “an all-around nerd legend.” It’s a title he embraces.
“Ever since the film from the 1980s ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ I think the stock value, the currency value of the word ‘nerd,’ which at one point was an accusation … We’ve entered a realm where … the wealthiest people in the world are geek, nerds, right?” Tyson said. “You look at the late Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and just look at industries that rose up from the intellectual capital of those who used to be shoved into the lockers by the prized athletes in high school and college … I’ve said nerdy things on social media, and someone accuses by saying, ‘Nerd!’ And then I my reply is, ‘Thanks for the compliment.'”
Tyson is probably the most famous astrophysicist since Carl Sagan who began the now famous “Cosmos” TV series. Tyson hosted the latest versions of it on Fox.
Sagan sent a hand-written note to Tyson when Tyson was still in high school, trying to convince him to join him at Cornell where Sagan taught. Tyson opted for Harvard, but they became close over time.
“Carl Sagan is famous for saying, ‘If you’re in love with something, you want to tell the world.’ So if you’re in love with your profession, and it excites you, you want other people to be excited right alongside,” Tyson said.
It’s why he is now touring the country with a theater show on the universe.
“I’m a servant of the public curiosity in addition to whatever science I can eke out in my calendar,” he said.
That tour comes to the Stephen Tanger Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 16.
We asked Tyson if he’s worried that not enough young people are opting to study science and technology.
“That might be true. I haven’t checked on it, but let’s assume it’s true,” he said.“It doesn’t concern me because as long as enough people do it, it doesn’t have to be everybody … That would be a boring world if everybody majored in science and became a scientist. I like artists. I like musicians. I like engineers who do other fun things with advancing civilization. I like poets, journalists. This is the portfolio of who we are as humans. So I don’t need to boost numbers if the numbers are satisfactory for what we need and want. There’s no shortage of people who want to work for NASA, who want to go into space with the private enterprise … Look at the popularity of the ‘Cosmos series,’ which I hosted twice. You know a billion people around the world have seen it. I have nearly 15,000,000 Twitter or X followers. That doesn’t happen unless people are actually interested.”
There is interest in studying it and interest in consuming information about the universe from the general public. Tyson isn’t worried that they’ll have enough people out there spreading the gospel of astrophysics.
“I’m happy to report that if you look at the internet, especially in social media platforms, there are many other people doing this. Maybe not with quite the size of the platform that I currently have, but they’re out there, and I have this fantasy where they’re enough such people rise up that I step backwards, exit the rear door in a way that no one notices because there’s so many other people on the landscape. And then I go to the Bahamas. Find me there!” he said.
Until then, you can see Tyson in Greensboro. It will be his only appearance in North Carolina this year.