Renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn't yet know what he'll talk about when he visits Whitman College in Walla Walla in September.
"It will be a blend of cosmic discovery, culture, policy and all the ways we experience the universe," he told the Herald, interests he has covered in numerous books, TV shows and radio broadcasts.
But you don't need him to give a "greatest hits" talk about the wonders of the universe or a canned lecture he has given over and over, Tyson said.
"The talk I give is of that moment and of that audience," he said.
One specific question he always tries to cover: "How do you get people to understand what a truth is?"
Tyson is the first to hold the Frederick P. Rose Directorship of Hayden Planetarium in New York City and a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History.
However, it's Tyson's frequent role as a "science communicator" that has often put him in the spotlight. He's fresh off a 13-episode reboot of Cosmos, the science program first hosted by Carl Sagan in 1980.
Tyson has written 10 books on topics ranging from black holes, his own memoirs and his role in the celestial object Pluto being downgraded from a planet to a dwarf planet. He's played host to podcasts and several programs on PBS, and served on government commissions regarding the aerospace industry and space exploration.
Tyson may talk about the intersection of science and politics. He's been recently troubled by how certain scientific truths have been adopted into political platforms, he said.
"People are cherry picking truths," he said. "That's wrong. That's not democracy."
NASA has been a regular topic for Tyson in the past, as he's been critical of the lack of financial support from the government for the agency, noting it has led to many valuable discoveries. It likely won't be a topic at Whitman, though, as the future of the space agency has become murkier and he doesn't know what more he can say about it.
"My point was that government investment leads to innovation and growth," he said.
Tyson also will take questions from the audience at Whitman, something he does at many of his talks. He almost always has an answer. Almost.
"Someone once asked what I'd do with $1 billion," Tyson recalled. "I was stumped. I think it was because I don't think of money as the solution to problems, I think of ideas as the solution to problems."
This won't be Tyson's first trip to the Pacific Northwest, as he's been to Seattle to meet with colleagues at the University of Washington. He even has ties to the Tri-Cities: his father-in-law, John Young, lives in Pasco.
But this foray to the east of the Cascades will allow him to indulge one of his less scientific interests -- he'll have an opportunity to sample wines from the Columbia and Walla Walla valleys.
"While there I'll be sure to check it out," he said.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
-- When: 7 p.m. Sept. 11-12
-- Where: Cordiner Hall, Whitman College, Walla Walla
-- Cost: Tickets range from $38 to $100 and can be purchased here: http://mainstrstudios.ticketfly.com/event/600907-neil-degrasse-tyson-walla-walla/
-- More: Tyson's visit is co-sponsored by Walla Walla Center for the Arts and Main Street Studios.
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald