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‘I Am The One With The Telescope’: 5 Questions With Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson has made it his mission to educate and excite the public about the wonders and mysteries of science. We asked the renowned cosmologist five questions about his incredible life and work. His answers will astound you.

1. When did you first become interested in science?

When I was a child, I was walking through the streets with my father, and we saw a man’s head fall off. I asked my dad why the man’s head fell off, and he said to me, “It fell off because of science.” That’s when I knew I wanted to become a scientist and watch people’s heads fall off all day long.

2. Why did you decide to become an astrophysicist?

I didn’t find out about the moon until I was 28 years old, but when I did, it had a pretty profound effect on me. I remember the first time I ever noticed that big goddamn rock in the sky. I hated it. I must have screamed for two days straight. I enrolled in astrophysics classes that night and have spent every day since making sure the moon stays up there and doesn’t come any closer to Earth. So far, so good.

3. Are aliens real?

Let me answer that question by asking something else: Is god real? Is Santa real? Are elk real? Is the Eiffel Tower real? We may never know the answer to some of life’s greatest mysteries.

4. What would you say to a young person hoping to pursue a scientific career?

If a small child told me that they wanted to grow up to become a scientist, I would tell them to not even try to become a scientist because I am the only scientist. Me. I am the one with the telescope.

5. What do you do in your free time?

Whenever I’m not in the lab or giving a talk somewhere, I usually find myself at the mall, sitting in one of those massage chairs that you have to keep putting money into, wondering if I will ever die. I never come away with any concrete answers, but just pondering the subject is fascinating enough to me.