Neil deGrasse Tyson speaks to packed UCCS crowd

April 22, 2013

Samantha Morley
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Grey clouds blanketed the sky, the temperature held firm at below freezing and snow drifted about in thick flakes only to be blown in all directions by strong gusts of wind.

But the weather hardly deterred the persistence of attendees for Neil deGrasse Tyson’s speech April 17.

More than 1,300 people attended the event. Some, like Nathanael Magby, traveled from Denver with his family to hear the speech. He sat in the bleachers with a full view of the event.

The Communication Department held a competition earlier in the semester that allowed a UCCS student to open the event.

The winner, Jordan Townsend, began with a montage of audition videos from other contestants. Each demonstrated different methods to show their appreciation of deGrasse Tyson.

Doe Renee and J. Clancy produced a rap version where they acclaimed deGrasse Tyson to be “the sexist astrophysicist alive.” The video elicited many laughs from the audience.

Shortly thereafter, Chancellor Pamela Shockley-Zalabak took the stage to give her own introduction. After brief comments about how UCCS pursued only deGrasse Tyson to speak on campus and his journey to becoming an astrophysicist, she invited the main speaker to the stage.

deGrasse Tyson entered the stage, waving to the audience. The crowd cheered and most rose from their seats. Applause filled the venue as he approached the podium.

“Thank you for that warm,” deGrasse Tyson paused, “and extended introduction.”

His lecture, titled “America’s Past, Present and Future in Space,” spanned more than two hours. “The title of this talk is actually better as…Delusions of Space Enthusiasts.”

deGrasse Tyson covered topics such as Pluto, asteroids and how space has played a role in America’s societal and governmental development over the past decade.

deGrasse Tyson brought a casual tone to his lecture. He spent time on each slide, thoroughly explaining the detail of topics and engaged the audience whenever he could.

He even took the time to tweet a thought about ignorance: “There’s no crime in being ignorant. Problems arise when people who don’t know they’re ignorant rise to power.” One student suggested that he hashtag UCCS, evoking laughter.

During parts of his speech, deGrasse Tyson commented about the way war influenced motivations of Americans to get into space.

“It was 1968 when we first went to the moon. Apollo 8, 1968 – the bloodiest year of the bloodiest decade in America since the Civil War. We go to the moon, orbit around the other side [and] thus rises Earth in the most recognizable photo ever taken: Earthrise over the lunar landscape.”

Space exploration in the 1960s and 1970s increased Gross Domestic Product and scientific research all over the world, deGrasse Tyson pointed out.

“We went to the moon on the premise of exploring the moon, but what we did was see Earth for the first time,” he said.

Q-and-A followed his speech. Questions ranged from expectations of war at space to how people should encourage the spending of money for space programs.

One student asked if deGrasse Tyson had received a painting sent to him a year ago. A third-grade girl asked about the state of gravity individual objects possess.

deGrasse Tyson concluded the session with a proverb:

He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool – shun him.

He who knows but knows not that he knows is asleep – awaken him.

He who knows not and knows he knows not is hungry – feed him.

He who knows and knows he knows is wise – follow him.

deGrasse Tyson then moved to Dwire Hall for a book-signing event. The line curved along the entire atrium.

Event staff informed the line that deGrasse Tyson would only be signing books for thirty minutes and that everyone may not be seen.

deGrasse Tyson instead stayed an hour longer and allowed everyone to have their book signed and picture taken.

Pictures can be found at the Office of Student Activities’ website,