I was schooled by Neil deGrasse Tyson — and it made me sick

Okay, I’ve been lax (understatement of the year) about writing any new posts.

Why? Well, first of all, I’m a procrastinator. Second, I am a very lucky person: as a reporter covering weather and science, I get to write about the things I love for a living.

I also get distracted by bright, shiny things.

Me...at work. (Vinnie Garcia/Vine)

Me…at work.
(Vinnie Garcia/Vine)

But it’s time to write about this.

Sure, it happened more than a month ago, but in my defence I became violently ill…well, you’ll see.

Point one: I love Pluto.

Pluto and its moon Charon, with newly discovered moons, Hydra and Nix. (NASA, ESA, H. Weaver (JHU/APL), A. Stern (SwRI), and the HST Pluto Companion Search Team)

Pluto and its moon Charon, with newly discovered moons, Hydra and Nix. (NASA, ESA, H. Weaver (JHU/APL), A. Stern (SwRI), and the HST Pluto Companion Search Team)

Point two: I love Neil deGrasse Tyson. Not in a weird way, just in a oh-my-god-he’s-the-coolest-thing-EVAH way.

Back to Pluto.

My love for Pluto isn’t a logical thing. I know that. I know all the reasons astronomers feel that it shouldn’t be considered a planet. But, what can I say? I’m an extremely loyal person. Pluto deserves better.

Now, about Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Tyson is an incredible voice of scientific literacy. I have followed him with almost religious fervour since a friend introduced him to me.

So it was with great excitement that I found out he was going to be awarded the University of Toronto’s inaugural Dunlap Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics on March 21. I waited six months for the day. Tickets sold out in seconds. Seconds. But I was fortunate enough to get a press pass.

Neil deGrasse Tyson at the University of Toronto's Convocation Hall, March 21, 2014.

Neil deGrasse Tyson at the University of Toronto’s Convocation Hall, March 21, 2014.

If you don’t know, Tyson is an accomplice in the murder of Pluto (the actual killer is astronomer Mike Brown, though he claims that Pluto was merely a casualty of his discovery of Eris, a dwarf planet that lies beyond Pluto; I’ve had words with him).

So, of course Tyson started off his lecture with Pluto. He pulled up a slide that said “Pluto (it’s still not a planet).”

Turning to the audience, he asked: “Now, does anyone have issues with that?”

I did.

In fact, I had purposefully worn a very special shirt.

So I stood up and said that I did, pointing at my shirt.

“Oh, look at her,” Tyson said. “She’s like ‘Look at this t-shirt.'” He stood, chest puffed out, spreading his jacket and moving from side to side. You can watch it below at 1:45.

(Neils Walkau)

A few minutes later, Tyson went on to list to me (yes, to me personally! Though he called me “Ma’am” which made me feel very old) the reasons why Pluto was demoted (you can watch that at 6:40 of the video). All through his lesson, I kept arguing, but it was pointless.

Finally, Tyson ended with, “Pluto is among other frozen bodies in the outer solar system. Now it’s one of the biggest among them rather than the puniest planet. I think Pluto’s happier.”

And, as though Tyson held some otherworldly power bestowed to him by the universe, I fell violently, violently ill in the middle of his lecture (fortunately for everyone, not actually IN Convocation Hall, which was also fortunate for the gentleman in the row in front of me).

I was crushed. Because all through the rest of his lecture, all I wanted was for Tyson to shut up. I was struggling not to revisit my dinner. Really struggling. I was dizzy, sweating. At one point I almost passed out. How could this be happening this day of all days? I asked myself. I had wanted to introduce myself to him…maybe sneak a “Hello.” Instead, what I got was a run to the bathroom and an experience I should not ever like to relive.

So…yeah. I got schooled by Neil deGrasse Tyson. And he made me sick.

Okay, not really. But it was SO cool. (He’s still wrong.)

Long live, Pluto!

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