News

February 10, 2010

Is Pluto a Planet? Expert Neil deGrasse Tyson to Deliver Annual Landis Lecture Feb. 23

Renowned astrophysicist is host of NOVA ScienceNow on PBS
Neil deGrasse Tyson, a noted astrophysicist and host of the PBS series Nova ScienceNow, has been at the center of the controversy over whether Pluto is a planet for the last 10 years. As director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Tyson received hate mail when the museum stopped calling Pluto a planet. Nearly four years after the International Astronomical Union reclassified Pluto, the debate continues today.

Tyson will deliver Lafayette’s annual John and Muriel Landis Lecture at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23,  in Colton Chapel. The event is free and open to the public. He is also meeting with students and faculty for an open discussion prior to his talk.

Tyson’s new book, The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet, chronicles his experience at the center of the controversy over Pluto’s planetary status and his travels across the U.S. exploring the history of Pluto and the continuing debate about its status. He explores the controversy in a new PBS NOVA special, The Pluto Files, airing on PBS March 2 at 8 p.m.

During his talk, “Delusions of Space Enthusiasts,” Tyson will reflect on the dreams and realities of space exploration. He will address whether future engineering breakthroughs, policy agreements within the global community, and economic realities can bring mankind closer to the unknown.

The Landis Lecture is a major event for the Lafayette community. Established by Trustee Emeritus John Landis ’39, the lectureship focuses on issues of technology and international cooperation.

Tyson is the author or editor of nine books, including Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries (2007), which was a New York Times bestseller. He has appeared as a frequent television guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert.

He holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Columbia University and an M.A. in astronomy from the University of Texas. He did his undergraduate work at Harvard University, where he majored in physics.

In 2004, NASA honored Tyson with its highest award, the Distinguished Public Service Medal, and in 2007, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. His contributions to the public appreciation of the cosmos were recognized by the International Astronomical Union in its official naming of Asteroid 13123 Tyson.

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