Friday, September 14, 2012

Paging Dr. Tyson

Ever since Ella knew what astrophysics was, she has wanted to be an astrophysicist. Really. Her goal is to the be first person to walk on Mars. She spent weeks trying to convince me to let her have a lemonade stand to raise money for NASA. "How much lemonade do you think I'd need to sell?"

Ella's siblings groan every time it's her turn to pick a TV show because she usually opts for something like Nova Science Now or Through the Wormhole. Her favorite podcast is Star Talk by Neil deGrasse Tyson. She loves to spout off facts about planets and stars and string theory and 5th dimensions - stuff that's way over my head.

I have to admit that I have a slight crush on Dr. Tyson. I love how enthusiastic he is about being smart. He genuinely gets a kick out what he does. I've read his books and listened to his podcasts. And when I went to NYC for the marathon, I might have actually lurked outside the Hayden Planetarium in the hopes of seeing him.

Last spring, Ella started her own website, The Magnolia Post, and without my knowing it, she sent an official interview request to Dr. Tyson.

Hello Neal Tyson! My name is Ella Gardner, I am 11 years old and I have my own newspaper and online newspaper. I think it would be really neat if I could meet you, or do an online interview. By the way I think Star Talk is one of the greatest podcasts ever, and I did more research on dimensions and on string theory. I really hope that you will reply, but it is fine if you cannot, I understand that you are very busy. Thank you for considering my request, 

Ella Gardner
Head of The Magnolia Post
Future Astrophysicist

 It's a cute, completely appropriate e-mail from an 11-year-old. When she told me she'd sent it, I figured there was no way she would get any kind of response.

A few weeks later, as we were driving to dinner with friends, Ella was checking her e-mail on my phone and started yelling about how Dr. Tyson's office had replied and said he'd do an interview. I was sure that it was a nice form response and that Ella had misinterpreted it. When we got to dinner, I looked at the e-mail and was stunned.

Dear Ella,

Dr. Tyson is happy to do an interview with you.  What is the best time of day for you?
Will the interview be over the telephone or will you come to the museum?

Let me know and we can find a date that will work for both you and Dr. Tyson.


Elizabeth Stachow
Executive Assistant to Neil deGrasse Tyson
Director, Hayden Planetarium
American Museum of Natural  History
175-208 Central Park West @ 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192

It's a real response inviting Ella to do an interview with Dr. Tyson. I posted an excited announcement on FB and started planning our trip to New York City. Ella was so excited she was jumping up and down, which was tough to do since she was on crutches.

Ella and I both sent e-mails back to Ms. Stachow. Mine said that she had made an 11-year-old very happy and that if Dr. Tyson was actually willing to meet with Ella, we'd make the trip to NYC, just tell us when. Ella's e-mail  essentially said the same thing - "My mom said I could come to NYC to meet with Dr. Tyson."

And then we waited and planned. One friend was so geeked about the whole thing that he suggested having Ella do a Kickstarter project and offered ideas how she should make it interactive. He also sent a link to an interview where Dr. Tyson talked about how important Carl Sagan was to him when he was young.

My crush on him got a bit bigger.

Ella started researching how much it would cost to fly to New York. I promised Lily that she could go on the trip too. Knittergran was offering to fly up and meet us there. I was thrilled about the chance to take my big girls to my favorite place. Ella told everyone who stood still long enough that she was going to New York to interview Dr. Tyson. It was all very, very exciting.

And then nothing.

She and I both sent second e-mails to Dr. Tyson's assistant. I even called up to the museum and left a message for her.

Not a word.

My first reaction was that of a mama-bear protecting her young. I was going to go all scorched-earth on Dr. Tyson and take him down. I'd put it all over Twitter and Facebook and he'd see the error of his ways.

But then I realized that A. I have 30 people a day read my blog and he has millions of followers, and B. pissing off Neil deGrasse Tyson was probably not the best way to get him to meet with my daughter.

So I haven't done anything, until now. It breaks my heart just a little every time someone asks Ella whether she's set a date for the interview and she has to explain that she's never heard back. It makes me a little mad at Dr. Tyson. Between moving, changing schools, illness, injury, surgery, and a lot of other stuff, Ella's had a pretty tough year. Getting to go to NYC and meet her hero would have gone a long way toward making Ella Ella again.

This is one of those times that I wish I had the twitter power of The Bloggess or Wil Wheaton or The Oatmeal. I'm pretty sure that one tweet from them would get some reaction.

So if you know someone who knows someone, could you maybe pass this along?


Unknown said...

oh no way! I really hope he replies. keep calling and maybe he'll do it just to get you to go away!

Susan said...

I love Dr. Tyson, too and I hope that there has been a big change or something which caused the communications to go unanswered temporarily.

Jeffrey Simons said...

Dear Ella and Ms. Gardner:
I'm Jeffrey Simons, the Social Media Director for StarTalk Radio, the podcast Dr. Tyson hosts.
Our apologies for any delay in the response -- it is not intentional.
It’s our understanding that Elizabeth is on a long vacation, from which she has not yet returned.
I am quite aware of Ella's email, and was incredibly impressed by her, as we all were.
As soon as Elizabeth is back I’m sure she will be back in touch with you.
By the way, you can also give credit to her uncle, AB, for bringing this situation to our attention... it was his post in the TexasCHLforum that caught our attention.
Jeffrey Simons
StarTalk Radio
Social Media Director

Sarah Lynn said...

I hope with the response above, the interview is still on.

What a bright, proactive daughter you have :)