Celebrity astrophysicist headlines Boe Forum day after spring break

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson to speak at Augustana



The return from spring break will mark an out-of-this-world experience for many star-struck Augustana students, staff, faculty and the surrounding Sioux Falls community.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson will speak at the Boe Forum on Public Affairs 7:30 p.m. March 20 at the Elmen Center.

Faculty and students reacted excitedly to the announcement, and tickets sold out in two days.

“He has a reputation for being one of the best science communicators in the country today, if not the best,” physics professor Eric Wells said.

“This is an exceptional year for science and discovery at Augustana, and we are honored to host a scientist of such caliber as Neil deGrasse Tyson on our campus,” said President Rob Oliver in a press release after news broke.

Senior Emily Kaufman said Tyson simplifies complex science for the uninitiated.

“Tyson is one of the best, and he does a really great job of relating science to the layman and acquiring interest,” Kaufman said.

For freshman Elizabeth Petersen, Tyson’s Augustana appearance is bittersweet.

“When they announced that he was the Boe Forum speaker I was pretty pumped,” Petersen said.

However, Petersen will not return from a spring break program in Scotland in time to attend the event.

Drew AltonPhysics professor Drew Alton said he doesn’t regret missing Tyson’s trip to South Dakota a few years ago now that he’ll be in closer proximity.

“A couple of years ago, [Tyson] came to the South Dakota School of Mines, and I thought about driving five hours to hear him talk,” Alton said. “It’s a good thing I didn’t, but Neil is a great person to give a talk.”

Tyson will be the first scientist to speak at the Boe Forum since its 1995 inception. Many past speakers were government officials, including former President George H. W. Bush, Prime Minister of Great Britain John Major and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

More recently, Director of Google Ideas Jared Cohen and Microsoft Executive Robbie Bach presented on technology.

“Augustana has not had a bigger science-related name [than Tyson],” Wells said. “The closest we’ve had to a speaker like Tyson is when Al Gore spoke about the environment in 2007.”

Freshman Trey Waldrop said that science’s omnipresence in society makes Tyson’s appearance intriguing.

“Whatever your major is, science is everywhere, and it will impact you every day,” Waldrop said.

Tyson earned his B.A. in physics from Harvard and his Ph.D in astrophysics from Columbia.

According to his website, his “professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies and the structure of our Milky Way.”

He is the author of numerous essays, articles and novels. His 2007 book, “Death By Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries,” was a New York Times bestseller. In 2016, he co-authored with Michael A. Strauss and J. Richard Gott “Welcome to the Universe: An Astrophysical Tour.”

He has a new book set for publication in May of this year, “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.”

He has 6.9 million Twitter followers. Earlier this week he tweeted, “If one evening you feel sad enough to cry, look up. Your tears will not fall and the starry night may bring joy to your soul.”

Tyson was appointed by former President George W. Bush in the early 2000s to research topics such as Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry and Implementation of the United States Space Exploration Policy.

He is known for his role as executive editor, host and narrator of the TV series “Cosmos,” a documentary on scientific discovery in outer space. The show aired in 181 countries in 45 languages and won four Emmy Awards.

He is also known for his peculiar fashion sense: The New Yorker in February 2014 described his wardrobe as “bright patterned vests, suede shirts, broad-brimmed felt hats in the style of Indiana Jones.”

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