There was not an empty seat in the house at the crowded Hammerstein Ballroom Thursday afternoon in New York City. And why would there be with the king of all nerds taking the stage?
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who has become the face of popular science in America over the last decade thanks to his contagious passion and accessible approach, hosted a panel to promote his talk show "StarTalk" at New York Comic Con on Thursday. Tyson, also a bit of cult celebrity in "geek" circles thanks to Twitter rants fact checking science fiction movies and his 2014 reboot of "Cosmos," was a treat for the many costume-clad fans just a few hours into the massive convention's opening day.
Tyson explained the concept behind his radio show-turned-National Geographic series "StarTalk," currently airing Mondays at 11 p.m. EST. He hopes to lure in new science fans and people who did not realize they loved science by flipping the traditional TV show script and making the scientist the host, instead of the guest. Tyson interviews A-list movie stars and celebrities who his audience might not realize have a "geek" side in the hopes that viewers will come for the stars and "stay for the science.
As is always the case, Tyson made science fun Thursday, especially while taking audience questions. He also had a little help from "StarTalk" co-host Chuck Nice, former astronaut Mike Massimino and a couple exclusive clips from the show.
Here are 9 highlights from Tyson's Comic Con panel:
- Tyson celebrated his 58th birthday Wednesday — Tyson would not reveal his age, but joked he was born the same year that NASA was founded (1958). At the direction of Nice, the raucous Comic Con crowd serenaded Tyson with a rendition of "Happy Birthday."
- Tyson revealed that in an upcoming "StarTalk" interview with "The Martian" writer Andy Weir, Weir paid the astrophysicist a big compliment. Weir apparently told Tyson that when he was writing the 2015 Golden Globe-winning movie, "he imagined Neil over his shoulder." Knowing Tyson's penchant for fact checking films, Weir hoped to make the science in the story as accurate as possible. That did not stop Tyson from calling Weir out for the film's unrealistic dust storm.
- Fans got the chance to see a few exclusive clips during Tyson's panel, including one featuring "Game of Thrones" star Isaac Hempstead Wright. In the clip, which did not make it to the upcoming episode with Wright, Tyson asks the actor to show off his "geek" side and Wright responded by reciting Pi to over 40 decimal places.
- After Tyson spotted a cosplayer (a person dressed in a costume) dressed up as Jason from the "Friday the 13th" franchise, the scientist noted that the killer would never be able to survive in New York City. He challenged the iconic slasher to go "into the hood."
- Tyson revealed that when he was growing up the superhero he most wanted to be was none other than Mighty Mouse. Why? The astrophysicist loved that he was small and could also sing.
- Who would Tyson cosplay as if he could pick any character? Indiana Jones, of course. "[Jones] is eternally curious and he is an explorer," Tyson said. "We need more of that in the world."
- Tyson gave Massimino a very hard time over a story about a NASA training toilet that featured a camera. Massimino explained the camera was used to help astronauts "aim" and get used to handling their business on a space station without missing and causing a possible contamination issue. Apparently, not everything about being an astronaut is glamorous.
- Tyson sparked controversy in the Hammerstein Ballroom after declaring that Marvel superhero Iron Man could beat DC superhero Batman in a fight. Almost immediately, dozens of fans launched into arguments amongst themselves over who they thought would win. "You started a civil war," Nice joked, trying to get the crowd to settle down.
- One audience member alluded to a Hayden Planetarium staff party in which Tyson apparently dropped down and did "the worm." Tyson admitted to grooving out at the 2012 party but explained he did not like to dance in public. "There was a day when the only time someone would have put me on TV was if I was dancing," Tyson said, alluding to his race. "As an astrophysicist I said to myself, 'I will never dance.'" That is fair, but Tyson's fans can still enjoy the video.