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Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist who has become one of the world’s most famous scientists in recent years. Since 1996, he has been the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City. His profile is now global, though, and he has a busy social media presence, commenting on political matters as well as science and philosophy.
The great scientist is now also teaching a Masterclass course in scientific thinking and communication. So if you want to learn how to speak knowledgeably about science from one of the world’s great thinkers, read this review to find out about the Neil deGrasse Tyson Masterclass course.
Who Is Neil deGrasse Tyson?
Neil deGrasse Tyson was born in the Bronx, New York City, in 1958. It could be argued that science was in his blood, as his father was a sociologist who worked for New York City mayor John Lindsay, and his mother was a gerontolgist. A trip to the Hayden Planetarium at the age of nine triggered the young Tyson’s lifetime enthusiasm for astronomy, and he would obsessively study the subject during his teenage years.
By the age of 15, the young Tyson was already giving lectures on astronomy. By the time he was 17, the great Carl Sagan tried to recruit the youngster to Cornell University. Tyson opted to attend Harvard College, though, and would receive his AB degree in Physics in 1980 from that institution. He would gain an MA in astronomy from the University of Texas in 1983. After lecturing at the University of Maryland between 1986 and 1987, Tyson would earn an MPhil degree in astrophysics in 1989 from Columbia University. Two years later, he earned his PhD from the same institution.
In 1994, he joined the Hayden Planetarium as a staff scientist while he was a research affiliate in Princeton University. He was appointed as director in 1996, and oversaw the planetarium’s $210 million reconstruction project, which was finished in 2000. Tyson would acquire some fame as a writer around the same time, writing the ‘Universe’ column for Natural History Magazone from 1995 onwards.
In 2001, Tyson was appointed to serve on the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry. In 2004, he was invited to serve on the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. He also received the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal.
Since then, Tyson has become a fixture on TV and the internet. He hosted the four-part miniseries ‘Origins’ in 2004, and co-authored the series’ accompanying book. He has also co-hosted a radio show called StarTalk, and has appeared on numerous other shows on TV, radio and online. He has appeared regularly on The Colbert Report, as well as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and The Rachel Maddow Show.
Tyson has also collected a host of awards for his work and career in science. These range from being named as the Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive by People magazine in 2000, to receiving the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication from Starmus in 2017.
So now you have a clearer idea about just who Neil deGrasse Tyson is, what does his Masterclass course contain? We will take a closer look at the Neil deGrasse Tyson Masterclass course in scientific thinking and communication here. Read on to find out all you need to know about this detailed and challenging course.
How Long Is The Neil deGrasse Tyson Masterclass Course?
The Neil deGrasse Masterclass course consists of 13 lessons, each lasting around 12 minutes. The course’s stated intention is to teach you how to wire your brain for inquiry, to rid yourself of any biases that you may have, and to connect with any audience. Learning how to communicate effectively is a big part of the course. There are no practical skills to refine as such, as there is with Gordon Ramsey’s cookery course or Stephen Curry’s Masterclass course in basketball. But time commitments do run beyond simply watching the videos.
Of course, the time commitments run beyond just sitting and watching Tyson’s lessons. There are course materials for you to work through in your own time. This is a very intellectual course, and you will need to spend some time simply thinking through many of the concepts and topics that are covered in it. All course materials can be accessed on your mobile device, making learning at your own pace much simpler.
Neil deGrasse Tyson Masterclass: Course Content
So what does Neil deGrasse Tyson cover in his Masterclass course? He starts with a lesson that introduces him and his career, before taking you through what life is like at the ‘frontier of science’ and how to use scientific method in your enquiries. There is also plenty of material on being sceptical, and using your rational scepticism to shape your enquiries. Cultural biases and belief systems are covered, as well as cognitive biases.
The course also deals with the concept of scientific measurement, one of his favourite topics, apparently. The difference between precision and accuracy is discussed, and Tyson also discusses the approximations that are inherent in any kind of scientific measurement.
The last third of the course is devoted to effective communication of scientific ideas, rather than understanding science itself. A central idea in Tyson’s philosophy is that it is not enough to just be right – you also need to communicate your ideas in the right way, using the right tools. Preparing for your audience and tailoring your material to them is also covered in this section of the course. Stoking curiosity in an audience is a central pillar of Tyson’s philosophy, and it is no surprise to see a lesson covering this topic.
The course ends with a lesson on Tyson’s vision of the future of the world. He believes that scientific thinking and effective communication are essential for humanity, and explains why in this last lesson. Overall, the course is heavy on ideas rather than practical skills, and it also requires a fair degree of scientific knowledge – something to bear in mind before signing up for it.
Summary & Conclusion
If you’re any way scientifically inclined then the Neil deGrasse Tyson Masterclass course is sure to appeal to you. Although not as long as some of the other Masterclass courses we have covered, it is packed with sharp insight and valuable detail. It is also broad enough in scope to cater for those with a more general intellectual interest in what Tyson has to say, as well as specialist scientists.
You can sign up for the course as an individual package for £85, or you can access it as part of the £14.17 a month subscription package. While this course does not perhaps carry as many practical lessons as some of the other Masterclass packages, we still recommend that you take a look at it. The opportunity to learn from one of the 21st century’s great minds should not be spurned! If you’re in any way interested in science and its role in society, sign up for this the Neil deGrasse Tyson Masterclass course.