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We were there when Neil Degrasse Tyson came to MCEC

Whether trash-talking Pluto’s claim to planethood, pointing out exactly why Flat Earthers are full of it or ripping climate change deniers a new one, the world’s most famous astrophysicist was all about getting to the bottom of how things are, not how they appear to be. As he explained at a key moment during his presentation, there’s only one percent genetic difference between us and chimpanzees, so what would a sentient being with one percent more intelligence than us look like? It’s at once a sobering thought and an inspiring one.

The first chunk of Tyson’s show was a presentation about cosmology – particularly our place in the universe in the context of just how damn big it is – how the elements came to be, what it means to be both made of and capable of observing cosmos.
 
Tyson broke down how the earliest elements (Hydrogen and Helium) led to heavier elements being forged in the crucible of early stars, which then exploded and spurted their innards out to merge with each other and create yet more elements, and on and on, until we arrive here at this point. He must have given this speech a million times, yet he was still excited and awed by this revelation. This segment concluded with a reading of Carl Sagan’s famous Pale Blue Dot reflection.
 
The next segment was a discussion with Melbourne astrophysicist Allan Duffy, about a variety of topics including Tyson’s background, the role of artificial intelligence in future space exploration, and the ever-present threat of the ill-informed being put in a position to make public policy. Duffy seemed a little star-struck (he admitted as much in his intro) and missed a few cool talking-points but Tyson steered the conversation back around to certain personal touchstones like his time at the Bronx High School of Science, a key formative experience. The session concluded with an audience Q&A with some really great questions (although my 10-year-old science-obsessed son was heartbroken after the line was cut off and he had to go back to his seat, only to have Tyson call for kids with questions to come up the front, and then to miss his chance again).
 
Highlight: The reading of Carl Sagain’s famous Pale Blue Dot reflection is a real chill-giver.
Lowlight: Bad Q&A organisation. Had to do some serious parenting afterwards, man.
Crowd Favourite: Putting flat-earther rapper B.O.B. in his place.