The MasterClass “Neil deGrasse Tyson Teaches Scientific Thinking and Communication” was one of the courses on the platform that I was most excited to complete and review. Being a young scientist myself, I couldn’t wait to learn how one of the most recognizable living scientists thinks and communicates in such an incredible way.
Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t need much of an introduction, but I would like to give it a try. Neil is one of the most famous astrophysicists in the world. Best known as the director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium and an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History, he is very frequently seen on TV where he is brought in to help explain complex concepts. So you can see why I was so excited about this MasterClass and looking to improve my critical thinking skills and communicate in a simpler way to make science look easy and approachable.
Table of Contents
What is the Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass?
I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t hoping to hear Neil talking about the cosmos and all his incredible work, but this MasterClass it’s not about that – even though we get a lot of good scientific examples.
This is a course about how we can train our minds to see things differently in the world and question what others are saying. With the right training, we can use Neil’s tools and methods to turn data into information and information into knowledge.
In these 13 videos and a little more than 2 hours of lessons from Neil, we get a look into his way of thinking, the need to ask questions and be curious, and most importantly, knowing how to communicate with others what’s there.
Who is Neil deGrasse Tyson?
Neil deGrasse Tyson is a great storyteller and educator. The way Neil makes difficult scientific themes easy to understand it’s one of his qualities that made me a big fan of him.
He’s best known as an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History and the Director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium. Neil became a cultural icon, being a bestseller author, making many television and radio appearances, and for his famous podcast Startalk. All these things made him get the title of our Carl Sagan for the 21st century.
Neil and Carl’s connection came early in life as Sagan contacted a teenage Tyson still in high school to visit Cornell University, where he taught. As Neil said, “I already knew I wanted to become a scientist, but that afternoon, I learned from Carl the kind of person I wanted to become.”
Even though he is able to speak about a wide range of subjects, his greatest talent and gift is in thinking itself. As he said in video 1 of the MasterClass, “The most important moments of your life: how you think.” Neil does his thinking in a majestic way, and he can see why it’s our social duty to pass our knowledge to people, making him so good at what he does in any audience.
Who is the target audience of this course?
The course is suitable for all audiences who are looking to learn how to think in a scientific way, but I think it’s easier to follow it if you have an understanding of science. That does not mean you won’t understand what Neil is teaching us, as I said before, he’s best known for making science look easier, being the great storyteller he is.
As a young scientist, I recognized my daily challenges in many of his lessons. Working in science these days is not an easy task, so when you get help from the most recognizable astrophysicist in the world and he talks about the scientific method, tools, and the right way to do science, I couldn’t help but smile. It’s suitable for all audiences, but I think it’s more specifically for the scientific public as it’s our duty to pass our knowledge and do it in the right way.
What does the Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass cover?
The Neil deGrasse Tyson Masterclass includes 13 videos, totaling about 2 hours, and a coursebook on how to think and communicate in a scientific way like Neil does so you can reach out to your audience and share the importance of what you are doing. The 24-page coursebook summarizes the topics of the class and also includes materials not covered in the lessons.
The video lessons range from 5 to 16 minutes – I’ve summarized them below to make it easier for you to get an overview of what’s covered.
- Lesson 1 highlights that what you know is not as important as how you think. Neil teaches us that “the most important moments of our lives, it’s how we think.” You can know things, but if you don’t know how to communicate in the right way, what’s the point of it? Half the work is communication, so you need to know how to do it by thinking and then doing it.
- Lesson 2 looks at what it really means to be a scientist. What is science? In this lesson, Neil helps differentiate hypothesis and theory with good examples of what each term means.
- Lesson 3 covers the scientific method. this lesson is about the search for truth and how we should do whatever it takes to not fool ourselves, doing a lot of experimenting to find objective truth.
- Lesson 4 has Neil encouraging you to be a skeptic. That’s how we find objective truth, repeating experiments until similar results are found and aligned. We need to prove our truth with a lot of experimenting and questioning.
- Lesson 5 is the first on bias, focusing on cognitive bias: things we think it’s true but it’s not. This lesson it’s more about the statistical facts and how probabilities and statistics contain access to the truth we – as persons or young scientists – are seeking.
- Lesson 6 moves on to the risks of cultural bias. Assumptions need to be tested to know the truth, and that’s the difference between personal truth (for example, religious belief). Science is true whether or not we believe in it.
- Lesson 7 discusses how our systems of belief prevent us from seeing, recognizing, and absorbing an objective reality that conflicts with our truth (whether political or religious).
- Lesson 8 covers scientific measurement, the difference between precision and accuracy, and how your measurement must be refined so you can know all that is going on and don’t miss anything.
- Lesson 9 puts the focus on communication. It’s not enough to be right – how do you also communicate the knowledge?
- Lesson 10 is about preparing your audience. You have to understand your audience; otherwise, you will be lecturing and not communicating!
- Lesson 11 continues with the use of humor in communication. Use it! Get to know what drives your audience!
- Lesson 12 tries to get you thinking about how to inspire curiosity in your audience.
- Lesson 13 wraps up the course with a discussion about why what you are communicating is important. Tell the consequences of not doing the work you’re doing and show some examples that will drive your audience’s attention and make them understand the importance of what you are doing.
My favorite lessons
My favorite lessons from this course are shaped by my experience as a biologist and young scientist – so I believe my scientific colleagues will understand me in this.
- Lesson 1: Neil made us all feel like participants in this unfolding of cosmic events and as part of the universe. And great news: we are! We just need to know how to think so we can know how to communicate and participate in this great unfolding.
- Lesson 3: Learning from Neil that we must be humble is a good thing for a young scientist. We don’t have a guide to teach us how to do our search for truth, so we need to do a lot of experimenting!
- Lesson 9: Scientists need to know how to communicate with the audience – it’s our social duty and the point of this whole course. So this was one of my favorite lessons in the videos: know in advance your audience!
- Lesson 10: If we need to communicate with an audience, we may as well be ready to speak the same language as they do. In this lesson, Neil teaches us the importance of comparing what we are doing or communicating with what everybody takes for granted.
- Lesson 11: I’ve been a bookaholic my whole life, and that made me someone who loves to write everything as a way of thinking and communicating, so when Neil deGrasse Tysons says “Read more! Write more” I can only repeat “YES”!
- Lesson 12: Humor matters! And we need to use it more. If we can make someone laugh, then we can make them relate and pay attention. Now I just need to learn how to make better jokes!
How much does the Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass cost?
The annual membership on MasterClass is $120 and provides unlimited access to all classes in the platform. It only offers the full subscription on the platform so you can’t pay for only Neil’s class, you will pay for your subscription to their service.
What I liked about the Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass?
I can honestly say I liked all of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s course. I was very excited to do the course, and having completed it, I did not regret it. I’m a fan of Neil, and the chance to learn with a great scientist and storyteller made my day.
The coursebook was a huge plus for me. I love to read, and it made it easier for me to review and understand things Neil mentioned in his lessons.
Neil gave some cosmos examples, and that was what we all were waiting for. Okay, I thought it could be longer, but even with lessons being short, we got the chance to hear Neil narrating the formation of a meteor storm. That is something, right?
What I didn’t like about the Neil deGrasse Tyson MaterClass?
Even though the classes are great and Neil conducts it in a wonderful way, it could be longer and more practical, with more examples and maybe some exercises to build our confidence in how to communicate in a scientific way.
Conclusion: Is the Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass worth it?
Neil is a great educator, and sometimes I felt like the notes I made while I was watching the course could be used as some guide for the scientific side of my life. It’s worth it! It’s just expensive if you are paying only for this one course. The good news is that with a subscription to the platform, you get access to a lot of other courses, so it ends up being worth the payment.