Neil deGrasse Tyson does not preach to the choir. At least not anymore.
Not so long ago, the media-savvy astrophysicist with a penchant for star-spangled waistcoats was a regular on the space conference circuit. He’s delivered the keynote address at the annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at least three times in the past 10 years, headlined the International Space Development Conference in 2006 and 2008, and has been called upon by the U.S. Congress to testify on where NASA should be heading.
But all that was before Tyson was tapped to star in Fox Broadcasting’s 2014 primetime reboot of Carl Sagan’s seminal “Cosmos” television series, which was long the most widely watched PBS show of all time.
Tyson’s “Cosmos” — like the original — consisted of 13 episodes, each one exploring a different aspect of the past, present and future of the universe. The series received critical acclaim and, according to the Nielsen ratings, regularly attracted 3 million or more U.S. viewers on Sunday nights this past spring.
Tyson, who still has his day job as director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, continues to reach millions via social media. He currently has more than 2.3 million followers on Twitter — nearly as many as fellow nerd heroes Bill Nye the Science Guy and SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk combined.
Tyson’s sense of humor and down-to-Earth enthusiasm for all things science get nothing but love from millennials shaping the Internet today (in August, the popular Buzzfeed posted a list of “13 Reasons Neil deGrasse Tyson is the Funniest Scientist on Twitter”).
On a recent episode of “StarTalk Radio,” a weekly radio show Tyson has hosted for the past five years, Nye riffed about making a run for the White House with Tyson in 2016. “Oh, sure, so Neil deGrasse Tyson and I are working on our Cabinet,” Nye said in response to a listener question. It’s a safe bet Nye was just joking, but you never know.
With a running mate like Nye — a 2013 SpaceNews “Making a Difference” honoree — Tyson could soon be reaching billions and billions.