“Follow me only if you seek hodgepodge brain droppings of an intellectually restless astrophysicist.” – Neil Degrasse Tyson via Twitter.
A knowledgeable giant in the world of astrophysics, Neil de Grasse Tyson may be classed in the category of ‘annoying and condescending’ when it comes to the world of social media. Having recently been involved in the flat Earth debate and having sparked controversy over his tweet regarding painful sexual intercourse, it may be time to look at other instances where Tyson’s comments have turned out to be rather unpopular.
For those who may not know, Neil de Grasse Tyson is a popular TV scientist. Having studied at both Harvard and Columbia, Tyson serves as the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York (yes, the one from the Night at the Museum movie), has hosted the NOVA ScienceNow programme and has amassed over 12 million Twitter followers. But, speaking more broadly, Tyson’s main aim is to bring science to the general public by making it fun, interactive and simple. In doing that, he has been the centre of quite a few controversies.
In some ways similar to Donald Trump, Tyson cannot seem to resist his Twitter impulse. With remarks ranging from the ridiculous, “Had to wait in line to renew a passport allowing me to visit members of my own species across artificially conceived borders” to the downright condescending, “Sometimes I wonder if common sense is actually uncommon in the land. Maybe it’s a rare commodity to be cultivated and cherished,” Tyson sure knows how to enrage the internet.
In 2016, Tyson’s controversial comments on Twitter yielded responses not only from non-scientists but also from professionals in several scientific fields. In March of 2016, Tyson stated, “If there were ever a species for whom sex hurt, it surely went extinct long ago.” Discussions have ranged from cat penises which have “claws down there” to duck “mallards”. In other words, many have flocked to the internet to give their own nugget of knowledge about painful sex among other species. Even though Tyson, in an interview with Andy Fitzpatrick on March 25 2016, cleared up the meaning of his Tweet, saying that he was looking for “a case where both parties to a sexual encounter experience pain,” there is still reason to wonder whether Tyson should have been more specific in his post.
In any case, Tyson has been the source of much dispute on Twitter. It must be said that before anyone, whether a normal contributor to social media or a well-respected astrophysicist, posts anything, one must do their research and expose their findings in a clear manner. This is science after all.
Image Credit: Nasa/Bill Ingalis via Wikimedia Commons