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Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass review (2021): Is it worth it? My verdict

For both scientists and the general public alike, there might not be a more recognizable face in the world of science than Neil deGrasse Tyson.

His soothing voice, calm demeanor, and uncanny ability to explain the most complex scientific concepts to any audience has helped define the way the modern world sees and understands science.

This is why when I first saw that MasterClass had made a new online class with Neil deGrasse Tyson on the topic of Scientific Thinking and Communication, I knew this would be one to dive into right away.

Here’s my complete and honest review of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s MasterClass, and what it’s really all about.

Before we start, you’re probably wondering: What is MasterClass?

If you’re a novice to online education, you may not have heard of MasterClass.

Well, there’s an easy way to understand them: They’re the Netflix of online education.

Why?

Because they’ve literally got the world’s most famous instructors teaching their expertise.

For example, Timbaland teaches producing and beat making, Alicia Keys teaches songwriting, Garry Kasparov teaches chess, Tony Hawk teaches skateboarding, Matthew Walker teaches the science of better sleep, deadmau5 teaches electronic music and so much more (really, there are nearly 50 courses all together).

What separates Masterclass from other online education courses isn’t just the famous names. It’s the quality of the videos. They’re incredible.

You can easily binge-watch them all day. They’re easy-to-watch and you can actually learn valuable skills while you’re watching them.

Read my complete MasterClass review here.

In my opinion, I’ve found MasterClass more engaging and useful for my brain than binge-watching Netflix all day.

Before we get stuck into the Gordon Ramsay MasterClass review, I’m sure you’re wondering:

How much does MasterClass cost?

If you want to consume just one class, it will set you back $90.

But MasterClass also offers an All-Access Pass that gives you unlimited access to every class for $180 per year.

That’s what I have.

They’ve also got a money-back guarantee. If you’re not satisfied within 30 days, you can get a full refund.

I have the All-Acess Pass option as I originally signed up for the writing courses. It’s completely up to you though, obviously.

Alright so enough about what MasterClass is. Let’s talk about the course you’re interested in:

Why I Decided to Check Out the Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass

I’m not shy to admit that I’ve always been a huge nerd, and I grew up watching old episodes of Cosmos with Carl Sagan.

I was exposed early to the idea that the universe is infinitely huge, and the Earth is just a tiny, tiny speck floating in the vast emptiness of space.

So it’s safe to say that science has always played a role in my life and the way I think.

And as a writer and content creator, a huge part of what I do is communication.

The best content is the content that speaks most clearly to the widest audience because there’s nothing more important than spreading your message efficiently.

If people don’t understand what you’re trying to say, then there’s no point in the content you write in the first place.

And these two reasons are exactly why I was so pumped when I discovered the Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass on Scientific Thinking and Communication.

Firstly, how can you not love Neil deGrasse Tyson?

He’s the modern-day Carl Sagan, making current scientific discoveries and advancements accessible to anyone who can read his Tweets.

In a world that is slowly and frighteningly becoming anti-science, pop science icons like Neil are more important than ever before.

They show the world that science is never the enemy, and there’s nothing more important than understanding and furthering all scientific fields.

With countless bestselling books, TV shows, podcasts, and media appearances everywhere you look, there is perhaps no living scientist more recognizable than Neil.

He makes the idea of learning science fun.

Unlike so many other scientists, Neil has the charm and talent necessary to properly breakdown even the most confusing scientific concepts.

And this skill is so important because it makes scientific ideas that might feel impossible to so many people to be simple and understandable.

This is why I decided I needed to check out his MasterClass on Scientific Thinking and Communication.

After reading several reviews on this class, I confirmed that it wasn’t exactly made for physicists or physics students.

This MasterClass is aimed at anyone who wants to learn all about persuasive communication, which, in a world where people no longer trust the facts, but the people saying the facts, might be the most important skill you can develop.

What Neil deGrasse Tyson’s MasterClass Is All About

What makes Neil deGrasse Tyson’s MasterClass on Scientific Thinking and Communication so interesting is that it’s structured exactly the same way his books and shows are.

It is as if you’re actually listening to a private lecture by Neil himself.

However, if you’re coming into this hoping to learn the in-depth facts and cutting edge discoveries about the universe and the cosmos, then you’ll definitely be disappointed here.

But if you’re coming into the program with the hope of learning how to think like a scientist and how to communicate efficiently, then you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised.

To best understand what this MasterClass is all about, here are three persuasive communication strategies Neil teaches throughout the class:

1. Generate Curiosity:

Neil explains how too many scientists make the mistake of thinking that just because they have something interesting to say, they automatically deserve the complete attention of their audience.

But you have to realize that your audience might only be slightly interested or might not even be interested at all, so it’s your job not only to explain your information but to generate sufficient curiosity beforehand.

And this means sometimes giving your audience less information, not more.

In one example, Neil discusses the question, “What is the shape of the earth?” in which he prefers to give the simple answer — it’s a sphere — rather than the longer answer, which is a several-minute discussion on how the Earth is a slightly pear-shaped oblate spheroi.

But when your audience knows little about a topic, the last thing you want to do is bog them with nuanced details, because that’ll end up boring and turning them away.

2. Understand Your Audience:

This might be my favorite part of the course, where Neil talks about just how much preparation he does before every single event.

You wouldn’t think it, because he comes off so calmly and naturally in every appearance, but Neil heavily prepares notes and ideas specifically catered to the demographic of every event.

And the reason for this is because every audience has their own ideas and points of reference.

Connecting with an audience means hitting them with ideas they can understand, and this is something you should think of every time you speak in front of an audience, whether you’re discussing the cosmos, marketing, or education.

For children, Neil keeps his vocabulary and syntax as simple as possible.

For hip audiences, Neil heavily relies on current pop culture.

And for mature adults, Neil discusses historical references and ideas from their relevant time periods.

3. Prepare a “Utility Belt”:

Neil’s extensive preparation before every talk involves understanding his audience so he can best connect with them, and that means having a mental “utility belt” loaded up with a dozen thoughts and ideas that would best resonate with this specific audience.

One example he shares is how he went on the Today Show back in 2004 to talk about the $3 billion project for the Cassini orbiter probe, which was tasked with the mission of studying Saturn and its various moons.

He was asked the question that anyone would ask — is it worth spending $3 billion for a project like this?

And Neil came prepared.

Instead of explaining the deep scientific purposes of studying Saturn and its moons — a topic that would take far more time and would lose his audience, he broke down the cost, explaining how it was actually just a few hundred million dollars over 12 years.

He mentioned that Americans actually spend more on lip balm every year than the cost of this mission.

According to Neil, to this day people still talk to him about that lip balm example, and how it helped them better understand the Cassini orbiter probe.

Who Is Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Scientific Thinking and Communication MasterClass for?

If you’re thinking about diving into Neil deGrasse Tyson’s MasterClass but you’re not sure if it’s exactly what you want it to be, here’s what you should know:

If you’re an expert in the field, you’re not going to learn much more than you already know.

This course isn’t meant for people to learn cutting edge science, and if you’re familiar with Neil’s material at all, you would know that’s not what he usually focuses on.

If you want to learn how to think like a scientist, this is a perfect class. 

Neil spends a good amount of time discussing his thought process: the mindset of a scientist and a skeptic, what it means to have a hypothesis and a theory, and how to keep your mind consistently sharp and active.

If you want to learn how to communicate, this course is surprisingly on-point.

As I expected, a lot of what makes Neil’s course so valuable is that he explains the processes behind his most important skill: the ability to breakdown complex ideas and communicate them to anyone.

I would go as far as to say that this is the main value of this course, and it’s what makes it so worth the price for absolutely anyone who wants to learn how to connect with people, communicate ideas efficiently, and persuade audiences.

What Makes Neil deGrasse Tyson the Perfect Mentor?

Who better to learn Scientific Thinking and Communication from than from the astrophysicist that helped get Pluto kicked out of its planetary status?

Astrophysicist and planetary scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most impactful voices in the field of astrophysics and science, and one of his most significant contributions to science is telling of his passion as an educator and as a scientist.

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) demoted Pluto from its planethood, and we partly have Neil deGrasse Tyson to thank.

Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto’s position as a planet has always been questioned for the reason that it appears to be one of the many celestial bodies in the Kuiper belt, which is a region in space that contains many similar bodies made of ice.

There has always been some contention on Pluto’s status as a planet but most people chucked it up in the air without really finding a definitive answer on the topic.

Under Neil deGrasse Tyson’s guidance as director, the Hayden Planetarium opened an exhibit featuring the solar system.

Visitors quickly pointed out that the solar system exhibit only featured eight planets, with Pluto missing in the picture.

This rekindled the debate on whether Pluto is to be considered a planet or not.

At this point, it’s important to note that the astrophysics community did have polarized opinions on Pluto and that Neil deGrasse Tyson’s position wasn’t entirely separate from his colleagues.

Although his position wasn’t entirely alien, the bold gesture did seem like a resounding statement and rocked the waves of the scientific community.

With the discovery of a larger body by NASA in 2005, Pluto was definitively demoted to dwarf planet status in the following year.

Naturally, this shocked the world but inevitably put the astrophysicist on the map.

This fun little anecdote offers no better proof of his expertise in the scientific community. But he’s not just a private scientist.

Neil has since hosted podcasts and appeared on TV shows to impart all knowledge revolving astrophysics.

If you’ve seen his episodes on The Daily Show or Real Time with Bill Maher, you’ll quickly realize Neil’s amazing capability to break down scientific concepts and explain them in a way even a toddler would understand.

You don’t have to be a fan of science to enjoy this MasterClass, you just have to like learning.

This skill of “bringing things to earth”, per se, is what makes Neil deGrasse Tyson such a magnetic personality.

Going through his MasterClass didn’t feel like a lecture; it felt like I was talking to a friend far wiser than I am, teaching me how to be a more critical human being.

Everything You Get With Neil deGrasse Tyson’s MasterClass

As with every MasterClass, Neil’s is accessible for $90, or if you have an All-Access Pass like I do, $180 a year.

I highly recommend getting an All-Access Pass because you save tons of money in the process and spend a lot less time stressing about finding the perfect lesson for you.

Here’s what you can expect when you sign up for the Scientific Thinking and Communication MasterClass:

  • 13 video lessons with a total playtime of 2 hours and 14 minutes
  • A PDF to act as supplementary material as you go through the lessons
  • Easy digital access through your personal devices, including Roku
  • Audio-only lessons for times you want to learn on the go
  • Exclusive access to MasterClass’s active community of students, professionals, and enthusiasts

The course is broken down into 13 lessons. Here’s a brief overview of each one:

1) What You Know Is Not As Important as How You Think: A quick introduction to Neil deGrasse Tyson, and why scientific thinking and communication are important skills to develop.

2) The Frontier of Science: Neil does an amazing job navigating the reader around the idea of hypothesis and theory, and how these two seemingly intangible things are so crucial in the foundation of objective truths.

3) The Scientific Method: More into the scientific method and its practical applications in both science and in real life.

4) Be a Skeptic: Ask Questions: Why a curious mind is important, and why it’s important to take on informed skepticism rather than a general rejection of all definitive ideas.

5) Cognitive Bias: How to recognize your cognitive biases, the most common forms it takes, and how it affects our perception and interpretation of objective truths.

6) Beware of Cultural Bias: A more social approach to cognitive bias and how it plays a role in how we interact with each other.

7) Our System of Belief: The role of personal belief systems and how that may cloud our understanding of objective truths.

8) Scientific Measurement: Calculating the Incalculable: The distinction between accuracy and precision.

9) Communication: It’s Not Enough to Be Right: Why it’s just as important to be an effective communicator as it is to use scientific thinking in finding those objective truths.

10) Preparing for Your Audience: Tips on how to engage your audience to heighten your impact and improve your engagement rates.

11) Communication Tactics: The key factors that drive engagement and communication success, and Neil’s very own key tactics when speaking to groups of people as he often does on TV.

12) Inspire Curiosity in Your Audience: How effective curiosity is in effectively communicating your ideas and how to deliver information strategically and impactfully.

13) The Future of Our World: The importance of scientific thinking and effective communication and what roles these two play in the future success and progress of humankind.

Is Neil deGrasse Tyson’s MasterClass Worth It?

Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most accessible scientific minds.

As a public figure, his TV appearances, talks, podcasts, and interviews are seemingly endless.

He has tons of free material on the internet, so why should you spend on his MasterClass when he has material available online?

I grew up watching Neil explain how blackholes form and what life on faraway worlds might look like.

He’s broken down what systems are necessary for organic life to form in other planets, and shared his understanding of the stars and brought it closer to Earth.

He’s been an arbiter of science all his life and I love being able to say that I owe much of my scientific curiosity to him.

But what Neil teaches in his MasterClass isn’t science. He’s teaching you how to think.

He demonstrates how to use the methods used in scientific inquiry and understand how to apply that into every single thing in your life.

Neil deGrasse Tyson breaks down the nuances between inquiry, curiosity, skepticism, accuracy, and precision to create guidelines for healthy intellectualism.

He shares invaluable communication tips he’s developed over the years as both a seasoned communicator and an esteemed member of the scientific community.

MasterClass has its fair share of self-help and business courses available, and although Neil deGrasse Tyson’s is filed under science, his might just be one of the best materials available for communication and learning.

So if you’re someone who wants to develop critical thinking skills, are curious as to how a brilliant mind like his works, or want to simply understand how to balance being empathetic with being right, there are loads you can pick up from this never-before-seen side of Neil deGrasse Tyson.

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Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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