JEDDAH: Science fans in Saudi Arabia and the region tuned in to a talk about exploring the wonders of the world with one of TV’s favorite scientists on Saturday.
The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) held the second installment of its digital speaker series, “Ithra Talks” live on its YouTube channel with Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, planetary scientist and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City.
It was hosted by Ali Al-Bahrani of the Eureka Show podcast.
Topics in the session ranged from extraterrestrials, black holes, multiverses, COVID-19, education and curiosity. It included a debate on Star Trek vs Star Wars — Tyson is a true Trekkie who believes that the show made a real attempt to portray real physics — and the talk provided a glimpse into his world as a scientist and fan of pop culture.
His journey into the world of astrophysics began at the age of 9; he visited the sky theater at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and couldn’t believe that the sky could hold billions of stars. He thought it was a hoax at the time but grew curious and has been “hooked ever since.”
“I realized the immensity of that (space) and I realized we didn’t know what came before the universe and what comes after. All these questions started coursing in my head and then I realized that we don’t have the answers to many of those questions. I wanted to be on the frontier anticipating the art of discovery,” he said.
A regular on talk shows as well as guest appearances on programs such as “The Universe,” “Hubble’s Cosmic Journey” and cameos on the CBS hit show, “The Big Bang Theory,” he also hosts a weekly show, “Star Talk.” During the science, pop culture and comedy show, he chats with celebrities and scientists on topics ranging from neuroscience to the DNA of world’s top athletes. The show is a way for Tyson to delve into the world of physics with a wider audience.
Co-hosted by comedian Chuck Nice, the show’s Q&A episode, “Cosmic Queries,” has received wide acclaim since its launch in 2009.
As part of the discussion, Tyson and Al-Bahrani spoke about education and current teaching approaches and how this differed from a decade ago. They touched on ways to keep a child interested and how to feed a curious mind: “Keep jumping in puddles,” have fun exploring the world and always keep in mind that today’s methods of communication have a more far-reaching effect than ever before.
Tyson spoke about the importance of allowing scientists to provide useful and life-saving recommendations as the COVID-19 pandemic affected the globe on an unprecedented scale. He weighed in by lightly mentioning that it was important to trust the facts and the people behind them as they have done extensive research in their fields.
The astrophysicist explained scientific happenings with wit, good humor and charisma while throwing comic jabs at conspiracy theorists. Tyson has helped science to regain its prominence at a time where many young minds have turned away from the beauty that is science.
Influenced by Carl Sagan and Isaac Newton, and as host of the hit series “Cosmos,” Tyson ended the talk answering viewer’s Q&A session on pop culture, adding science to the mix.
“You encounter a combination of needs that you haven’t before. This “out of balance” forces me to be more inventive about how to use my time,” he said.
Tyson concluded by saying that one of the keys to progress is to experiment, stay inquisitive and continue asking questions. “A scientist is a child who has never lost his curiosity into adulthood,” he said.
The talk can be found on Ithra’s YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHMf2WSOAag