Neil deGrasse Tyson informs, entertains Sarasota audience

The science superstar addressed a near-capacity crowd at Van Wezel

SARASOTA — He had about an hour to tell people all about the entire universe.

And that’s what superstar astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson did as he delivered a entertaining and energetic lecture Tuesday to a near-capacity crowd at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota. In what he called a “headline news” approach to covering the cosmos, Tyson touched on evidence of parallel universes in other dimensions, to the death of a comet and even to the file drawers full of hate mail he received after he was blamed for demoting Pluto from its status as a planet.

He touched, at several points during his talk, on America’s diminishing role in space exploration and physics. Europe has spacecraft on several planets and the moon of another planet. Canada recently put one of its astronauts on its $5 bill. Scientists at CERN in Switzerland discovered the Higgs boson, an elementary particle in the standard model of particle physics.

The name CERN is derived from the acronym for the French “Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire,” or European Council for Nuclear Research, a provisional body founded in 1952 with the mandate of establishing a world-class fundamental physics research organization in Europe.

“As a scientist, I’m excited, he said. “As an American, it’s a little awkward for me to admit that we’re trailing the world, not leading it.” He did note recent American contributions to space exploration such as the New Horizons spacecraft, which will reach Pluto in June after a nine-year trip, and the recent test of the Orion craft that should return people to the moon. “We’re still in the game,” he said. “Just not with the same kind of intensity we had in the ’60s.”

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