Neil DeGrasse Tyson On Wine, Stargazing And Internet Memes

Following his appearance at the “First Comes The Dream” event at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, American Museum of Natural History, BuzzFeed sat down with the famed astrophysicist for a short Q&A.

You’re quite the wine enthusiast. What wine do you recommend while stargazing?

Here’s the problem, when you’re stargazing on a mountain top you are partially oxygen-deprived and you’re in command of million dollars worth of hardware. So as much as I would like to sip wine under the stars, it’s contraindicated in the instructions on operating telescopes.

But if I’m just having a sort of romantic night under the stars, I’d probably have — it depends on if it’s cold or if it’s warm, not the wine but the air temperature — I’d probably look for a pleasant burgundy, perhaps a Volnay. A nice vintage Volnay under the stars.

When’s the last time you looked up at the stars?

Any time I walk out of a building, I look up at the stars. In the old days, I would risk stepping in things but now that humans clean up after their dogs that’s not a problem so I can look up with abandon. Any time I exit a building, I look up. In New York it’s cloudy, overcast maybe a third of the time so that’s a disappointment for me. That’s how I sign off my radio show, “Keep looking up.”

Do you have the same experience each time as the very first?

Every time. That’s my greatest source of spiritual fulfillment is the act of looking up at the night sky.

Neil deGrasse Tyson with io9’s Annalee Newitz discussing what inspired him to study the universe.

Neil Rasmus/BFA

On The Verge you mentioned that you were creeped out by GIFs of yourself on Internet. Have you come to fully embrace it?

I don’t know if I used the phrase “creeped out.” Maybe I just said it’s a “little creepy.” So I said it was a “little creepy” but none of it is malicious. It’s all, I think, quite loving and so I’ve come to embrace it. Sure, all of it. And it’s not just the memes, the cut-out dolls of me where you switch the vests. There’s really weird stuff. I think there’s no end to the creativity of artists with too much time on their hands.

Neil deGrasse Tyson reaction meme.

KnowYourMeme

Is there a meme outside of your own that you wish you were a part of?

No, I don’t go longing for these things. I think one of the more clever and I would add flattering memes, I guess we can call it a meme, was the picture arithmetic where it had a picture of Carl Sagan and a picture of Lando Calrissian. And Sagan plus him equals me. Although, I would never rat on my friend like Lando did. But that was real geeky creativity. You had to know Lando, plus he has a mustache and I have a mustache. I don’t carry a gun. Okay there are some differences. But nonetheless these images — they catch on and they spread that’s why we call them memes. I’m honored to be the subject of so many. Like I said they’re not malicious and they’re all fun and in good spirit.

Let’s talk about your Twitter.

I think a lot about what I tweet. I don’t tweet about what I had for breakfast. I don’t tweet where I am. I don’t tweet my walk across the park. I tweet random thoughts about the universe that I’ve had everyday in my life. What the twitterverse has done for me is enable to share those random thoughts I was having anyway with the twitterverse. I’m impressed by the extent to which those have been embraced.

Will you apply astrophysics to the Olympics?

I don’t see why not. I try to focus the tweets. All-Star game’s on - some fraction of people are watching. So I try to keep the tweets nonetheless enlightening even if you don’t care about baseball. Like how much baseball players spit on the field. Right. So that one, you don’t have to know anything about baseball to be completely grossed out by that.

During the Olympics, I’ll probably tweet during the track & field. That’s the second week. The first week is all the other stuff that probably shouldn’t have been in the Olympics in the first place.

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