The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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January 31, 2014

Astrophysicist denies blame for death of Pluto

LEWISBURG — The sexiest astrophysicist alive, Neil deGrasse Tyson, told a capacity crowd of 1,200 at Bucknell University on Thursday night that he is not to blame for the death of Pluto.

Tyson argued before those assembled inside the Weis Center for the Performing Arts that he’s been unfairly singled out for Pluto’s demotion to a dwarf planet in 2006.

But ...

Video by Amanda August/The Daily Item

“I was an accessory to the fact,” he said. “All I did was drive the getaway car.”

Pluto’s arch-nemesis was actually astronomer Mike Brown, author of “How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming,” Tyson said.

In defending Brown’s decision, Tyson said Pluto was smaller than Earth’s moon — “so it would be a pretty pathetic planet.”

To those upset about Pluto, he said: “Get over it. Pluto is still not a planet. And why does it really matter to you?”

A cross-generational crowd filled every seat in the building — students, seniors, children — who came early to see the man whom “Time” magazine named one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2007, and “People” magazine selected as “the sexiest astrophysicist alive.”

Tyson is a clever, engaging speaker, and offers commentaries while spinning around the stage, microphone in hand and joking as he keeps on topic — the latest discoveries in the universe, which was hugely entertaining and informative.

He talked about the so-called Super Moon of 2012.

“It wasn’t that much bigger than other full moons,” he said.

Of comet Ison: It “went too close to the sun and melted.”

“There is so much we still don’t know and can’t explain,” he said, while talking about the end of the universe. “We’re expanding rapidly and so what will happen, eventually, is that this universe of ours will end, not with a bang, but with a whimper.”

Before his lecture, Tyson spoke about his upcoming projects — an updating of the old Carl Sagan series, “Cosmos,” which he will host on Fox TV.

“It’s pretty exciting,” he said. “I have editorial control, which is the only way I’d have committed to the project.”

As a student, he met Sagan, “who was very gracious to me. He didn’t have to be. I was just a young man trying to decide which school to go to. And he was teaching at Cornell University.”

He also spoke about the popularity of “The Big Bang Theory,” the No. 1-rated comedy on television, “and it’s about geeks, which is pretty cool if you think about it.”

Tyson hesitated to add that he’s appeared on the show as a guest star.

Tyson’s ability to speak to the masses about science in an understandable way is what has made him such a unique public speaker.

“I can speak one on one to other scientists using a jargon that is very familiar to scientists,” he said. “And then I can switch to being able to explain concepts in a way that everyone can understand. I think that’s important.”

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