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The Planet

Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains Why It's Ok To Be Insignificant 

by Kate Ryan

May 3, 2017

While stopping by “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” to plug his latest book, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Neil deGrasse Tyson did what he does best: break down the mysteries of the universe for us commoners. To start things off, Colbert pulled out this image of Earth taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft:

Image via NASA

If you squint your eyes, you can just barely spot it beneath Saturn’s massive rings. “Just a reminder, we are a speck in the middle of a cosmic void,” Tyson told Colbert. He added that if you were an alien traveling through space, you’d barely notice Earth because it’s so puny. Though Tyson was quick to note he isn’t the first to view our home planet this way; Carl Sagan first drew our attention to this sobering fact by referring to Earth as a “pale blue dot” in 1990.

“You should not be walking the streets without a baptism in cosmic perspective,” he said. When Colbert asked him what he meant by that, Tyson explained, “If you look up in the universe and feel small, it’s because you started out with an ego unjustifiably too high to begin with.” Based on that statement alone, it sounds as if everyone should indoctrinate themselves on matters of the universe. (Perhaps we could send a copy to the White House?)

Amid cheers from the audience, Tyson went on to explain how we’re active participants in the unfolding of the universe because we’re made of the same basic elements comprising everything from sand to solar systems. Then he delivered this kicker of a line: “People like to think, ‘I’m special because I’m different.’ But there’s a whole other way to look at it. Maybe you’re special because you’re the same.” Maybe Tyson should enter a beauty pageant, because he’s well on his way to orchestrating world peace.

If you’re looking to further blow your mind, his book opens with this first sentence:

“In the beginning, nearly fourteen billion years ago, all the space and all the matter and all the energy of the known universe was contained in a volume less than one-trillionth the size of the period that ends this sentence.”

No one can reignite a childlike sense of wonderment in even the most cynical of adults quite like Neil deGrasse Tyson. You can watch his interview with Colbert above and check out his book here

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains Why It's Ok To Be Insignificant