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9 questions for Neil deGrasse Tyson

The astrophysicist on curiosity, bad intellectual habits, and reading National Review.

Javier Zarracina

This week, Neil deGrasse Tyson — astrophysicist, author, host of “Star Talk” on National Geographic, and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City — answers our questions.

What’s the first piece of media you consume every day?

The weather on my smartphone. Next, New York Times articles forwarded to me by my wife.

Name a writer or publication you disagree with but still read.

The National Review, on occasion. An attempt to understand the brain wiring of as many points of view as I can.

Who is the person who has most influenced the way you think?

Isaac Newton.

When was the last time you changed your mind about something?

Ten days ago. In conversation with my college-aged daughter, regarding the gender spectrum.

What’s your worst intellectual habit?

There are no bad intellectual habits.

What inspires you to learn?

Learning requires no inspiration. Active scientists are adults, but with souls of curiosity that never left us from childhood.

What do you need to believe in order to get through the day?

Assuming you mean belief without evidence, there is no such thing in my life. My knowledge of what is and is not true in this world is what gets me through the day. The more informed I am at any moment on all that is relevant to the task at hand, the more enlightening the day becomes.

What’s a view that you hold but can’t defend?

None. If you can't defend a view then why hold that view in the first place?

What book have you recommended the most?

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726). Most people know the story of Gulliver in Lilliput. But the real satire and insights into human nature come from Gulliver’s other voyages.

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