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"If you are scientifically literate, the world looks very different to you. There's a lot we understand out there, and that understanding empowers you."
Carl Sagan's direct successor as "Coolest Scientist in America", which is appropriate, as Sagan was Tyson's mentor, and was to a degree responsible for Tyson becoming an astrophysicist in the first place.
Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Doctor Tyson is one of the scientists (along with Brian Cox, Phil Plait, Michio Kaku, Stephen Hawking and several others) who have taken up the task, largely pioneered by Sagan, of bringing easy-to-understand science to the general public. He's the host of PBS's science series Nova, has written multiple books (all easily understood by laymen) about astrophysical phenomena, and is a frequent guest on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Jeopardy!. He also runs the Star Talk radio show, in which he and guest speakers discuss astronomy, science and science-fiction (often Lampshading Physics Goofs).
Dr. Tyson was the primary driving force behind the demotion of Pluto from "planet" status to "dwarf planet" status, based on his view that Pluto is only one of thousands of Kuiper Belt objects that have been discovered (an action he has admitted has brought him "a lot of hate mail... mostly from children").
In addition to his scientific endeavors, Tyson is a dancer (he won a gold medal in an International Latin Ballroom competition), a wrestler, a collector of fine wines, and a model rocketeer. In collaboration with Richard Dawkins, he's also opposed the Intelligent Design Movement and their attempts to include religion as part of school science curricula.
He has argued more than once that a society that isn't scientifically literate is a society without a future. To that effect, he has personally funded scholarships for students who seem especially bright and science-minded out of his own pocket.
To illustrate, during a question-and-answer period at one lecture, a fourth grader asked Dr. Tyson, "What would happen if a black hole collided with another black hole". Tyson was astounded by the question, and the boy now has a full scholarship to the university of his choice waiting for him. Dr. Tyson has said he does this because he has a duty to "pay Carl Sagan back" for the care and attention Dr. Sagan gave him while he, Tyson, was "just a high school student who wanted to be an astronomer".
Even more important than all of that, he is One of Us. His lectures frequently reference science fiction movies (he's especially a Star Trek fan) and comic book characters (he collects Superman, Green Lantern, and the Justice League of America). He provided the title for the Symphony of Science song We Are All Connected, and appears in the video. He appeared in season 4 episode 7 of The Big Bang Theory as well as in season 5 episode 16 of Stargate Atlantis.