Mayor Nirenberg hosts astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson on his weekly #AskRon Facebook live stream.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg talks with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on his weekly "Ask Ron" Facebook livestream. Credit: Courtesy / Mayor Nirenberg via Facebook

San Antonio might want to adopt a new tourism slogan after Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s conversation with celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson: Best City in the Multiverse.

Tyson, a well-known champion of all things scientific, sat down with the mayor for a brief Q&A session Wednesday ahead of his talk at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. Their conversation was livestreamed as part of Nirenberg’s weekly “Ask Ron” session on Facebook live.

Nirenberg’s questions ranged from the local to the cosmic. At one point, the mayor asked Tyson to explain in 20 seconds or less the simultaneous existence of many different universes. And Nirenberg himself coined the “multiverse” superlative.

Most of the conversation focused on how local leaders can implement science in public policy, promote civic engagement, and support museums and other civic institutions.

“Do you want to stop learning when you get out of high school, when you get out of college?” Tyson asked. “Rather than think of learning as a chore, you think of learning as the fulfillment of your curiosity.”

Asked by Nirenberg asked how to spur a conversation at all levels about the threat of climate change, Tyson said its effects are becoming more obvious all over the country, including Texas, which faced historic flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

“I bet the people in Houston who got 50 inches of rain are having that conversation right now,” Tyson said.

“They are,” Nirenberg replied. “We’re having that conversation here, too.”

During the interview, Tyson, who runs the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, emphasized the importance of learning outside the classroom and suggested more “cross-pollinations” between local institutions, such as museums, and K-12 education.

“Everyone remembers the school trips you went on all the way back to elementary school,” he said. “You remember leaving school and going on a class trip, visiting the fire department or the post office.”

He also suggested that museums should have adult and child programming at the same times on to draw in whole families.

“On weekends, you can do other things in institutions that bring parents in, and then you can have something for the kids to do,” he said.

Unlike some other celebrities – ahem, Charles Barkley – Tyson had nothing but praise for San Antonio.

“I love your city; I go down to the River Walk, I don’t ever want to come back out,” he said.

Tyson added that he received his master’s degree from the University of Texas, where he met his wife. Wednesday was his third time speaking at the Tobin Center, he said.

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.