Neil deGrasse Tyson

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One of two talks Tyson will give this week, it was titled "The Cosmic Perspective: Scientific, cultural, political, and sociological observations." 

The host of the new Cosmos took the stage to a standing ovation and a few wolf-whistles from the audience, and opened by remarking on Walla Walla's superlative friendliness.

The evening's observations ran the gamut from selfies he had taken at a Walla Walla winemaker's dinner (Tyson is a wine enthusiast) to hate mail he'd received from third-graders disappointed in the de-planetization of Pluto. In a three-hour history of science lesson peppered with charming digressions, he also explored culture's power to shape scientific progress. Whatever is valued by a particular culture, Tyson suggested, shows up in the volume and quality of the science being done by that culture. 

The special quality - and comic timing -- that Tyson brings to science education attracted listeners from far and wide to Cordiner Hall. 

"He makes science accessible to the general public," said Naomi Alhadeff, a wildlife biologist and environmental educator who drove from Prosser, Wash. "He encourages me to be a life-long learner."

Adam Fyall, a self-described "space junkie" who drove from Richland, Wash., agreed, adding that "[Tyson]'s not phony, and he really digs this stuff - he's got the credibility, but you'd also want to have dinner with him."

The Director of the Hayden Planetarium will speak again tonight at 7pm. Tickets can be purchased through Main Street Studios.