Facts About Neil deGrasse Tyson


Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist and the current director of Hayden Planetarium in New York City. He is also the host of the television series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, which is a sort of reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage from the 1980s. Because of his work in the media as what he calls a “science communicator,” Neil deGrasse Tyson is considered by many people to be the next Carl Sagan. But Neil deGrasse Tyson has a voluptuous mustache, which contradicts this hypothesis, as Carl Sagan was usually clean-shaven.

Neil deGrasse Tyson went to Harvard but is somehow still very likable. He enrolled at Harvard despite Carl Sagan’s intense efforts to woo him to Cornell. He chose Harvard over Cornell despite the fact that Sagan invited him to sleep over his house in what Neil deGrasse Tyson insists was a totally non-creepy gesture.

In graduate school, Neil deGrasse Tyson won a gold medal in a national dance competition in the category of International Latin Ballroom style.

On Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson holds the keys to the Ship of the Imagination, and it can go anywhere in space and time. I am not sure if this ship is real or just CGI, but if anyone has a ship that can do these things, it would be Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s original PhD committee voted to dissolve itself: that is the word they used—dissolve. I like to think of his committee as an Airborn tablet being dropped into a glass of water. The glass of water is being held by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s mother’s name is Sunchita. His father’s name is Cyril. Neil deGrasse Tyson seems young to me, but he is three years older than my mother: he is 56.

Because of Neil deGrasse Tyson, I bought a Toyota Prius. Neil deGrasse Tyson makes me want to make a difference, and the commercials during Cosmos suggest that I should own both a Prius and Samsung Galaxy tablet. These are steps One and Two to affecting real change, so I am halfway there.

tyson3I had a dream once where Neil deGrasse Tyson smashed my cellphone (which was not then a Samsung model, so maybe that’s why?). Then, with a wave of his hand, he put my cell phone back together. He pushed it into my outstretched palm and said, Don’t thank me, thank Quantum mechanics. He said, Call your mother. When I woke up, I did both things in that order, but my dad answered and said, Hey listen, we didn’t want to worry you, but your mom’s been shitting blood and so we’ve been at the hospital since yesterday. My mom did not die but she almost did and details of her illness aside, this proves that Neil deGrasse Tyson is watching out for me. It proves we are cosmically linked. He would laugh at my faith and remind me that we are all made of stars and isn’t that an even more powerful story?

Neil deGrasse Tyson is always asking for evidence and proof like he’s some kind of science lawyer.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is hot for a scientist. Especially for a physicist. I have known approximately thirty-five physicists in real life (I have not “known” them in the biblical sense—not all of them—most were just acquaintances, though one is now my husband and I do know him in the biblical sense somewhat regularly). Were I to rank these physicists by their hotness, Neil deGrasse Tyson would easily be in the top five overall and definitely in the top three men.

Whether or not Neil deGrasse Tyson’s PhD committee’s decision to dissolve itself was connected in some way to his ballroom dance championship remains unknown. In the long run it didn’t matter: Neil deGrasse Tyson leaned his head over the glass of fizzing water in his hand and the effervescence of his dissolving committee nuzzled his earlobe and he smiled.

Neil deGrasse Tyson believes our planet is heating up and that this is the fault of humans. In fact, Neil deGrasse Tyson says he doesn’t so much believe this as he knows it for a fact. Whenever Neil deGrasse Tyson goes off on these tangents during Cosmos, I want to shake him and say, Neil deGrasse Tyson! How can you choose to freak out over this when you have access to all those gorgeous pictures of galaxies and whatnot? I am sure Neil deGrasse Tyson has an iPad (or more likely a Samsung Galaxy Tablet, one because it’s called a Galaxy and two because they are the major sponsor of his space show and so he probably got one for free). I am sure Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Samsung Galaxy Tablet is fully loaded with images from the Hubble Telescope. I am sure he has enough interstellar photos on there to Instagram one every twenty minutes for the rest of his life if he wanted to. When Neil deGrasse Tyson starts talking about how our planet will outlast us—how it’s our own survival we’re jeopardizing—I want to send him a link via Twitter to that YouTube video of a pit bull saying “Mama,” the one with over two million views. That would help him relax about things. I know it helps me.

I once spent $200 before taxes on a dog bed for my rescue pit bull because I thought the dog deserved it after having had a rough start to life. Also, he kept eating the cheaper beds, and this expensive bed was well-made. On a shelf at Elliot Bay Book Company is a thick book that lists the carbon footprint of things, including owning a dog or a cat. I don’t want to tell you what I learned, as it is not good and I love my dog and we would all rather just not think about it. Despite the fancy bed, saying “Mama” is something that my pit bull cannot—or perhaps will not—do.tyson1

I acknowledge that this last fact was not technically about Neil deGrasse Tyson. I can fix this: Neil deGrasse Tyson owns a giant gray bunny named Ozzie. Ozzie has never emitted a sound.

According to simulations run on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Samsung Galaxy tablet, the city I grew up in and in which most of my family still lives—the city of Miami—will be more or less underwater, partly thanks to storm surges from hurricane after hurricane, in roughly fifty years. I recently mentioned this to my parents. They said: Good thing we’ll be dead!

I am in love with Neil deGrasse Tyson. I am in love with his mustache—unironic and thick and cozy as a well-woven scarf. I watch Cosmos even though the show scares me, even though whenever Neil deGrasse Tyson describes how our planet formed or the way time may or may not work, I get the strong but ultimately false urge to use the bathroom. I wait all week to hear him talk to me—he is talking only to me. I know this. As a science communicator, Neil deGrasse Tyson has a way of making every viewer think he’s talking to them, but he really is only talking to me. In this way and others, Neil deGrasse Tyson is like a 3D movie.

Neil deGrasse Tyson seems to be friends with the guy who created Family Guy, but this has not lessened my love for him.

Neil deGrasse Tyson combs his mustache every morning after sipping a cup of tea with milk while on his back porch and then staring directly at the sun through a telescope. This action does not hurt his eyes because his mustache emits protective microwaves that block otherwise harmful radiation. This is partly why he was chosen to host Cosmos.

Please note that that last fact is more of a speculation on my part. Like my original Neil deGrasse Tyson dream where he broke and then healed my phone, this image of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s morning routine also came to me in a dream and is likely true because I once dreamed the winning lottery numbers even though I never play the lottery, and they ended up being right. My mother believes that God sometimes brings me visions and often asks me whether or not I’ve dreamed her death. I lie to her and say no. My mother is a smart person, but she also believes the world is much younger than Neil deGrasse Tyson says it is. It is getting harder for me to believe both of them at the same time.

Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t know that when I was in middle school, I was forced by my mom to participate in an after-school club that went around to Miami nursing homes and sang songs about the importance of recycling to dying old people. He would be sad to know that even though we sang both a ballad and a rap about how to sort “your trash and your tin cans, a-loo-mi-num too,” none of us kids in the group actually recycled because we couldn’t: recycling had been optional in Miami-Dade County then, and so once the county realized no one was participating, they collected all the bins and recycled them.

Because of Neil deGrasse Tyson, I tried to get my parents to lease a Prius when the agreement was up on their 2010 Escalade. We went to a Toyota dealer and I got my mother to sit inside the largest Prius model. I wanted her to feel excited, so I said, “Isn’t it like sitting in a spaceship?” I imagined Neil deGrasse Tyson at the helm of his Ship of the Imagination, me there as his co-pilot, perhaps even holding hands, the two of us zipping together to the edge of a black hole. “Close the door,” I said, but my mom shook her head, left it open. “I just like being up high,” she said, and through the windshield I heard my dad say, “What, she likes being up high, ok?” They ended up just buying the Escalade outright, as that made the most financial sense.

Neil deGrasse Tyson was not there the first time I watched my physicist husband pull the plastic rings that hold together a six-pack of soda cans out of the trash where I’d just tossed them. We’d been married a few weeks maybe—me and my husband, not me and Neil deGrasse Tyson. (Not yet.) My husband grabbed a pair of scissors from a drawer and began snipping the circles open.

I asked, “Why are you doing that?”

My husband is from Northern California and so sometimes does weird things like this—or like looking up where it’s okay to dispose of those curly light bulbs that no one in Miami uses, or like freaking out when he catches my father pouring out used motor oil onto that one spot in the backyard he reserves for pouring out used motor oil. It sometimes feels like my husband and I were raised on different planets.

He kept snipping and said, “Birds get their heads stuck in these rings and can strangle themselves or choke.”

I almost brought up Neil deGrasse Tyson. I almost said, What if all this is just a new kind of natural selection? Maybe the smarter birds won’t stick their heads through strange holes. The smarter ones will avoid our piles of trash and instead fly north and stay there, because soon they won’t have to waste energy flying south for the winter. Or they will learn to strategically shit on the windshields of our various Prius models and cause us to crash and turn the system back on us.

tyson2I want to use Neil deGrasse Tyson against Neil deGrasse Tyson. I want to think the smarter ones will beat the rings. That the smart ones will find a way out.

In at least one version of the infinite realities brought to us by quantum mechanics and the generous support of Samsung, can’t we depend on the smart ones to figure it out and survive? I want to ask Neil deGrasse Tyson what to do—if there’s anything we can really do short of creating an legion of Neil deGrasse Tysons all armed with very advanced Samsung Galaxies not yet available to the general public. I want to say to Neil deGrasse Tyson: You’re Neil deGrasse Fucking Tyson! Can’t you fix this? You of all people know how short fifty years is: you said so while standing on your Calendar of the Cosmos! It is not even one one-hundredth of one one-hundredth of something. I can’t even understand that, but you can. And if you can’t keep my parents’ house above sea level for much longer, who can? Regardless of whether or not we want to admit it, we are depending on the Neil deGrasse Tysons. We are waiting for them to materialize, to reconstitute themselves like Airborn Tablets in reverse.

Every day, I tweet my love to Neil deGrasse Tyson via our Galaxies. But as of my last check he has 1.91 million followers and so I think he doesn’t hear me. I can’t let this worry me. I wait, I snip rings and sort garbage—the only things I can do, in the absence of a reply. I am waiting for him to direct message me with some good news, but I think Neil deGrasse Tyson already knows what’s coming. He just doesn’t want to tell us what he’s already seen from the helm of his Ship of the Imagination: that there is only one Neil deGrasse Tyson, and so we are all doomed.


Rumpus original art by Peter Manges.

Jennine Capó Crucet is the author of the forthcoming novel Make Your Home Among Strangers and the story collection How to Leave Hialeah, which was named a Best Book of the Year by the Miami Herald, the Latinidad List, and the Miami New Times. She's the winner of a PEN/O. Henry Prize and a recent Picador Fellow. You can find her online at www.jcapocrucet.com and @crucet. More from this author →