Campus & Community

Science is trending says deGrasse Tyson

STEAM_NDgT2515-12Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson kicked off the third year of the STEAM initiative on Feb. 5 as he spoke to a sold out crowd of more than 700 at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts during the Palm Beach State College Foundation’s STEAM luncheon.

Palm Beach State’s STEAM initiative was launched in early 2013 to impact the projected shortage of local, skilled professionals in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) fields. The goal of the initiative is to prepare students for the high-paying, high-demand positions immediately available in these industries.

According to Tyson, there is a scientific fact that still seems to get people upset today. “Pluto is still not a planet,” said Tyson. “I got tons of letters from children who were mad when I said Pluto wasn’t a planet.”

Pluto, Tyson explained, is smaller than six moons in our solar system and is half made of ice. And, we are going to get our best look at it ever this year as NASA sends a spacecraft to photograph it through its “New Horizons” mission. Its closest approach will be on July 14.

Another unpopular scientific fact Tyson outlined concerned the place where we all live. “The Earth wants to kill you,” said Tyson. “Don’t lie to yourself and say Earth likes life because the record states otherwise.”

Tyson noted the number of deaths that have occurred through earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts and floods. And, he said, it’s not just the Earth that wants people dead but the universe as well. It does its destruction through gamma ray bursts, supernova explosions, black holes, solar storms and particularly comet and asteroids impacts.

One asteroid encounter occurred in 2013 when Tyson says the population in Siberia really “lucked out.” It was headed for a town called Chelyabinsk traveling 40,000 miles an hour and weighing 10,000 tons. Fortunately, said Tyson, it exploded 20 miles above the ground and the 1,600 people who got injured only suffered glass lacerations to their faces and bodies.

“I have a seven-page list of other bad asteroids,” said Tyson. “These also orbit the Earth.”

Despite the scary concerns, Tyson says that science is gaining in popularity. He noted three major films that came out last year on the subject: “The Theory of Everything,” “The Imitation Game” and “Interstellar.”

“Interstellar was great because all five lead actors who have all been lead actors in their own movies were scientists in the film,” said Tyson.
Science documentaries, such as his show “Cosmos, A Spacetime Odyssey,” also have more notoriety on TV.

Tyson meets twin boys Shawn and Patrick Ryan of Vero Beach, Fla.

“Comos was a 13-part documentary on the universe and it aired in primetime during Sunday night on network TV,” said Tyson. “It also aired in 181 countries and in 47 languages.”

Tyson also noted what the United States is doing along with other countries in the last couple years to advance science. He congratulated America for its Orion test launch on Dec. 14, 2014.

The Orion, Tyson explained, traveled further than any spacecraft designed for astronauts had done in more than 40 years.

The science guru also shared some of his favorite tweets and also talked about the technology being used to explore the universe such as NASA’s Kepler Telescope and the Curiosity Mars Rover, among others.


In addition to Tyson’s speech, Rick Vymlatil, president of the South Florida Fair, announced during the event that the organization would give $25,000 toward student scholarships in STEAM fields. The PBSC Foundation Board and the College’s District Board of Trustees also congratulated Dr. Dennis Gallon for his 18 years of service as president of the College and presented him a gift of a seal of the College. Gallon will retire in June 2015.

The event’s presenting sponsor was Bank of America. Other top sponsors were Yvonne Boice, Modernizing Medicine, FP&L, Balfour Beatty, Palm Beach  Neuroscience Institute, George Elmore, WXEL, Palm Beach Broadcasting, Palm Beach Post and WFLX.

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