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Is Texas the Center of the Universe? Neil deGrasse Tyson Says Yes, In a Way


Neil deGrasse Tyson may be the biggest celebrity astrophysicist working today. In addition to hosting the reboot of the TV series “Cosmos,” he is also active on Twitter, where he makes science jokes, ruminates on the universe, and offers up physics-related facts. Now, Tyson is taking his ideas on the road. He'll be appearing across Texas this month, and today, he spoke with Nathan Bernier about the upcoming tour.

Tyson often takes time to point out scientific inaccuracies in Hollywood movies.

Or, like how explosions wouldn’t make noise in outer space, for instance. In the movie Gravity, he says that Sandra Bullock’s hair should have been floating in every direction. But his biggest qualm with that movie dealt not with a physics error, but with a plot point: “Why is Sandra Bullock, a medical doctor, trying to fix my Hubble Space Telescope?” Tyson says. “Get her the hell off that telescope! She’s a medical doctor! I don’t bust into her operating room and say, ‘I got this. Open heart surgery? The astrophysicist is here!’”

However, Tyson says he’s not trying to be insufferable. While he may cringe at physics inaccuracies in movies, he also appreciates the many times films get science right. “If you do it right, I’m there for you,” he says. “I’m there for you. I still want you to watch a movie with me.”

Tyson received his master’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin. When asked whether Texas is the center of the universe — as many state residents may believe — Tyson gave a thorough reply. Texas is indeed at the center, he said, “just as a ship at sea looking in every direction will conclude that it is at the exact center of its own horizon.” He also affirmed this from personal experience after living in the state for six years.

“Something I took to heart is, when you’re driving from Texas to anywhere else, when you reach the border of Texas, you’re halfway there. No matter where else you’re going.”

Neil Tyson will be making several appearances in Texas this month. For more information, check out his website, and for tweets, his twitter.

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.