When the Sky Is Not the Limit; Great Minds; Exclusive Online Issues; by Steve Mirsky; 3 Page(s)
The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda summed up his view of fate with the comment, "Every casual encounter is an appointment." Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has a similar attitude, whether he is considering galactic evolution or the path of his own life. The 41-year-old Tyson's personal encounters have led him to his current appointment, as Frederick P. Rose Director of the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium, which reopens this month. Tyson has been the scientific soul behind the renovation, or more accurately recreation, of the New York City institution that has brought the universe and the night sky to urbanites for generations.
A strictly deterministic outlook could lead to an overly simplistic telling of the Tyson tale: the kid from the Bronx grew up in the Skyview Apartments, and the rest was history. The rooftop of his building, built on one of the Bronx's highest points, did indeed afford a reasonably good look at the heavens in a light-polluted urban environment. More important, however, was his motivation to take advantage of that rooftop. He was in the fifth grade when the universe descended on him, a tale he tells in his soon-to-be-published memoir, The Sky Is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist. He also shares the story with this visitor to his office.