Who Is Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Since When Is He a Literary Rock Star?

A tipster writes: "Okay WTF. This is upstairs at Barnes and Noble Union Square, before the [Neil deGrasse] Tyson reading. It is MOBBED. Who the hell is this dude? What gives????" Good questions!

There are some inquires Wikipedia simply can't help you with. In this case, it informs us that Tyson is an astrophysicist, director of Hayden Planetarium and repeat Colbert Report guest at the Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side.

And he's been on Colbert Report several times. But still: What gives? A Colbert appearance hardly guarantees a packed house at a book reading; just ask Jennifer 8. Lee. Is there a cult of Tyson? Or are people just desperate for free ways to kill time these days?

This sudden popular interest in both science and books, simultaneously, is disturbing and we're determined to get to the bottom of it.

UPDATE: To rephrase Network, because he's on television, dummy. We're reliably informed by an actual science geek that Tyson appears regularly on Discovery Channel and the channel Science as a talking head and that he hosts Science Now (a Nova spinoff) on PBS.

In other words, Tyson might as well be an alien as far as much of the New York literati are concerned. But you should study the man, if only to learn how to set off a chain reaction at B&N, dear poets.

UPDATE 2: Andrew Krucoff blogged a video of Tyson describing how we might all be sucked into the sky toward our death, and tells us Tyson is coming to the 92nd street Y next month.