By Chandler Fong| 13-year-old aspiring physicist/astrophysicist/alternative energy engineer. Edited by Ron Sparkman| UpportunityU
This piece was written by an aspiring young scientist named Chandler Fong. Chandler has some incredible ideas that he wants to develop in the realm of plasma energy. His zest for science, space, and physics is inspiring and I’m glad to share his story here on UpportunityU!
Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016…the day the famous astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson would give a lecture to the people of Columbus, Ohio. I’ve been into physics since I was twelve; my interest took root when my friend was researching plasma physics. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time learning the basics of physics through to the complicated aspects of astrophysics. So when my Dad told me of Dr. Tyson’s future visit to Columbus, I didn’t hesitate to say “yes” when he asked me if I wanted to go. Just knowing that I would witness a presentation from arguably our generation’s greatest astrophysicist got me excited every single day leading up to his lecture.
As the 23rd rolled onto the calendar, I gathered a pencil, a pen, my two physics notebooks, and a firm intent to learn. We drove off at around 6:30, and after a small trek of trying to find a parking space, we finally arrived at Palace Theatre in downtown Columbus. We stepped in line to get our tickets, and though the line was long, the wait was short. As we entered the building, my excitement only grew. Once our tickets had been procured, we found our seats in the theatre where my Dad and I started conversations with the people next to us to kill some time. About thirty minutes had passed when the stage crew killed the lights and Dr. Tyson entered the stage.
He started out with a few jokes, and then he told us about his decision to go over current scientific events. He gave us multiple options, and the crowd overwhelmingly chose gravity waves. We discussed what technology it takes to detect light and gravity waves (LIGO), the collision of the two black holes 1.3 billion years ago, and why that matters. After that–and a few jokes about Pluto–he discussed the main topic of the night: Cosmic Perspective. Cosmic perspective started with why we aren’t such a unique species, the reasons being that we are carbon-based creatures and our bodies are made from four out of the five most common elements in the universe. He proved this by showing us the modern “tree” of life and how we are merely a branch out of billions of species.
Dr. Tyson also talked about a country’s pride of its scientists. To prove his point, he showed us currencies from other nations, which brought forth a joke about Canadians. He then went to the Middle East’s golden age of science during the 11th century. This topic then brought the conversation to “the city of tomorrow,” and why Dubai will be the city of which we all have dreamed. Due to these two previous topics, he showed us a map of the world, each country being either bloated or thinned. I looked to the U.S., which was weaker than Western Europe and Eastern Asia. As I saw this, he explained what the size of each country represented, which was the amount of scientific and technological research and discovery average. He explained why the U.S. was like this since we are the densest population of illiterate people of all the developed countries in the world, and we’ve had multiple disasters due to bad engineering (yet Rome’s aqueducts have lasted 2,000 years after its collapse). With only forty percent of all Americans believing in evolution, how do we bring about another scientific “Golden Age”?
Finally, he discussed with us why he thought Columbus coming over to the Americas was so important. To finish off the night, he said, “Let’s read a passage from the book of Carl.” He read a quote from Carl Sagan’s book Pale, Blue Dot. The screen showed a simulation of what the Earth looks like millions of miles away, and as he finished we left the theatre quietly contemplating this incredible experience. I learned so much and was inspired in multiple ways. I’m so glad I went!
Editor’s note: When I met Neil for the first time at the StarTalk AllStar’s premiere, I told him of Chandler’s excitement for space and science and he was more than happy to let me shoot a video inspiring Chandler and aspiring scientists like him. Thanks to Neil deGrasse Tyson for his time and willingness to share!