Let Out Your Inner Geek [video]

What were you interested in when you were 12? And do you incorporate it into your work today?

Maybe you should.

Our newest favorite scientist, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, loved looking through telescopes at the age of 12. Now age 53, he hasn’t stopped yet.

Spotlighted by Carl Zimmer recently in Playboy magazine, the director of the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History started out with a 2.4-inch refractor with three eyepieces and a solar projection screen. Writes Zimmer:

Tyson would run an extension cord across [his Bronx apartment building]’s two-acre roof into a friend’s apartment window. Fairly often, someone would call the police. He charmed the cops with the rings of Saturn.

His shenanigans were not without purpose. Three years later he would give his first hour-long lecture to fifty adults, fulfilling his wish to talk to people about the beauty of the universe.

We can really feel his passion for studying the cosmos. In fact he once said, “For me, talking about the universe was like breathing.”

And when Congress tried to cut the budget of the James Webb Space Telescope, he appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher and warned, “You are removing the only thing that gives people something to dream about.” Watch the clip at the bottom of the post, and hear the audience cheer as Dr. Tyson admonishes Congress.

Ever the philosopher, Tyson has also reflected, “The universe is in us.” Which is to say striving to reveal your whole self at work amounts to revealing the universe(!).

Part of that universe includes the geek inside you. As Tyson continues to connect with his internal world, the honors keep piling on. Consider:

  • He graduated from Bronx High School of Science, went to Harvard, earned his PhD in astrophysics from Columbia, then held a faculty position at Princeton.

Then it gets interesting. He starred in CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, and has hosted Stephen Colbert and Joan Rivers on his radio show StarTalk. There’s more, from the Playboy article:

  • He appears on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, on the New York Times bestseller list, on Twitter (@neiltyson, with 242,400 followers as I write this). He is now shooting a remake of Carl Sagan’s classic Cosmos series, which will air on Fox in 2013.
  • [Tyson] has served on the Committee on the Decadal Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey 2010… assembled by the National Academies of Sciences from American astronomy’s top ranks.
  • Tyson’s decision to kick Pluto out of the league of planets may be the most famous thing he’s done so far… In 2006, the International Astronomical Union decided to classify it as a dwarf planet.

Yes, Dr. Tyson is so hardcore, he banished Pluto from the planets of our solar system because it’s too puny. The world listened, naturally.

So even if your pre-teen interests are of the geeky variety, it may behoove you to integrate them somehow into your 9 to 5 experience today.

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