Thursday on StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson explained what prompted him to pursue a career in astrophysics and implored others to “give math a chance.”
“I was fortunate because my parents… took us around, we grew up in New York City, to all of the cultural institutions that showed adults doing things that were not your standard professions,” he explained in video uploaded to YouTube. “You get to see just all the things you can be when you grow up. And one of those trips, when I was 9-years-old, we went to the Hayden Planetarium. I am pretty sure the universe called me, that I had no say in the matter, because after that first visit I was hooked.”
Tyson is now the director of the very planetarium that inspired his career — a story he said played well in small towns.
He also encouraged people, especially those interested in science, to not be intimidated by math. Tyson compared math to a foreign language, observing that most English-speaking people wouldn’t assume they were stupid because they didn’t understand Chinese. Like learning a foreign language, learning math took time and was not something that should be quickly given up on, he explained.
“Once you are fluent in math then the universe becomes transparent to you,” he added, “and then the physics becomes that much more empowering for you to know, because when you look up at the night sky you don’t say to yourself, ‘I wonder what is up there.’ You say, ‘Oh, that’s a star, it is burning this bright and it is at that distance and it is turning this fast, it has got these chemicals in it.’ All of a sudden, the world around you becomes your intellectual backyard.”
Watch video, uploaded to YouTube, below: