Talking with the stars: Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson returns to BAM

Talking with the stars: Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson returns to BAM
©2013 AMNH, Photo by Roderick Mickens

It will be a stellar conversation!

The famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson will visit the Brooklyn Academy of Music on March 9 to discuss outer space, neuroscience, and the science of ice skating, among other topics. Recording the latest edition of his “StarTalk” podcast in front of an audience at the Academy allows him to combine science with pop culture, and to spread his knowledge to a wider audience in the borough and beyond, said Tyson.

“This is science brought to the public in a way they’re comfortable thinking about, and won’t say afterwards ‘Ow, my brain hurts,’ ” he said. “When science becomes one thing people do on a Friday night, then we’ve succeeded in merging it with pop culture.”

The event is part of the Academy’s annual RadioLoveFest, a live celebration of notable radio programs and podcasts. This year’s festival also includes a discussion with “This American Life” host Ira Glass, storytelling from “The Moth,” and a chat with “American Gods” author Neil Gaiman.

During his live performance, Tyson will record material for two of his podcasts. The first is “StarTalk All-Stars,” which features talks with renowned scientists. For that, he will chat with neuroscientist Heather Berlin about the science of creativity, and whether it can be detected in brain scans. Tyson said he will learn along with the audience as he guides that discussion.

“What helps is I’m not a neuroscientist,” he said. “In the conversation I’ll actually learn.”

His other podcast, “Playing with Science,” discusses the role of science in sports. His guest for that show will be Olympic figure skater Sasha Cohen. Ice skating involves much more science than people realize, said Tyson.

“There’s a special, unique property of frozen water that allows skating,” said the astrophysicist, who enjoys figure skating. “You can’t skate on other frozen substances.”

A third guest will add a musical interlude to the night: rapper Baba Brinkman, who spits rhymes about scientific topics, will make a brief appearance.

Bringing the show to the Borough of Kings is especially appropriate, said Tyson, because Brooklyn has a history of mixing scientific learning with its nightlife, at events like Littlefield’s “Nerd Nite” and Astronomy on Tap.

“I call it a culture of rational thinking. There’s a lot of underground science in Brooklyn. There are science gatherings at bars, science cafes, this sort of thing,” he said.

And the cavernous Howard Gilman Opera House, where Tyson will hold his show, is just another example of that trend.

“This is the largest of such venues,” he said.

“StarTalk at BAM: Science is Everywhere” at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House [30 Lafayette Ave. at Ashland Place in Fort Greene, (718) 636–4100, www.bam.org]. March 9 at 7:30 pm. $35–$65.

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at aluce[email protected]nglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
Talking with the stars: Those who miss Tyson’s live talk on March 9 will be able to hear them later, on his podcasts “StarTalk All-Stars” and “Playing with Science.”
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