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Mylan Phelps_with Neil Oct 8

Mylan Phelps and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson (seated)

Wayne County Community College District’s 2014 Chancellor’s Banquet was a life-changing event that I will never forget. I learned a tremendous amount, including the role that science plays in shaping culture.

Two weeks prior to the event, I became aware that the world renowned astrophysicist, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, would deliver the keynote address. I immediately expressed my desire to attend the event to my mother. As the event drew near, it became difficult to control my excitement. I had an opportunity listen to and meet one of my role models.

From the beginning of the presentation, Dr. Tyson was captivating and electrifying. I watched “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” but I never realized how groundbreaking the documentary was until Dr. Tyson spoke. “Cosmos” was a 13-part documentary that broadcast in 44 different languages and aired in 180 countries during prime time on Fox. As he elaborated, each of the items was significant in its own right but together shows the magnitude of its influence and its reach to many cultures.

In school I learned the scientific method. Dr. Tyson, however, presented it in a different way that continues to resonate with me. He defined the scientific method as, “Whatever it takes not to fool yourself into thinking something is true that is not, or something that is not true to be true.” This definition allowed me to see the practical, everyday use of the scientific method.

Another point of interest was when Dr. Tyson pointed out that in other countries, scientists and other public figures are included on currency. He spoke on the lack of such items on U.S. currency.

I wonder how much more interest society might take in math and science if our currency depicted such images. Dr. Tyson also talked about about the fall of the golden age of Islam. He told a story of how the theologian Al-Ghazali expressed to the Islamic community that the manipulation of numbers was not spiritual. After Al-Ghazali made the statement, the Islamic emphasis on science plummeted. Dr. Tyson shared that of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, only three Nobel Peace Prize recipients have been Muslim. I was amazed. One man influenced an entire religion that significantly reduced their contribution to math and science.

Dr. Tyson presented a map of the progression of science over the past ten years. The map revealed that South Korea, Western Europe, and East Asia have all made significant strides in the sciences while America has made very little. The image gave me great concern, yet energized me to pursue my dream of becoming an aerospace engineer. I have a contribution to make to support scientific truth.

Moreover, the “Pale Blue Dot” left a lasting impression on me. An image taken of Earth from the edge of the solar system revealed its insignificance in size in comparison to the rest of the universe. Despite all of the great works that have occurred on Earth (i.e. the “Pale Blue Dot”), one must not be closed-minded and ignore the rest of the universe.

Overall, I learned a tremendous amount about the history of science and grasped a new outlook on our world. More than that, I learned that we can become so accustomed to our everyday lives that we forget just how much is still yet to be discovered.

Not only is Dr. Tyson a world renowned astrophysicist, he is my inspiration.

My learning experience at WCCCD’s Chancellor’s Banquet was nothing short of amazing.

Editor’s note: Mylan Phelps, a promising Detroiter, is an 11th grade student at Detroit Edison Public School Academy. He was assigned by Michigan Chronicle editor Bankole Thompson to write about his experience meeting and listening to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson who keynoted Wayne County Community College District Chancellor’s Banquet held Sept. 30 at the Marriott Hotel-Renaissance Center

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