In this MasterClass review, we’ll see if the Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass on Scientific Thinking and Communication lives up to its promises and delivers a course worthy of your investment.
Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass Summary
What you’ll learn: In this MasterClass, scientist and pop culture icon Neil deGrasse Tyson teaches scientific thinking and communication. You’ll learn how to think like a scientist, how to recognize preconceived biases, and how to communicate your ideas to others.
Run time: 2 hours 14 minutes
Recommendation: 9/10—Critical thinkers and avid learners will love learning from Dr. Tyson, the “world’s most recognizable living scientist.”
With a “gazillion” hours of Neil deGrasse Tyson video content readily available on the internet, one might ask: What more does he have to offer in a MasterClass?
As it turns out, quite a lot.
Gifted with the unique ability to cross humor, pop culture, and science, Neil deGrasse Tyson is an iconic communicator of ideas. It’s this unique ability that MasterClass has decided to encapsulate and share with its learners. And this class on Scientific Thinking and Communication did not disappoint.
In this Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass Review, we’ll unpack what’s included in this class, answer any questions you might have about the MasterClass experience, and help you decide whether or not MasterClass is worth your time and money (spoiler: I think it is).
In this MasterClass Review:
- Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass Summary
- About Neil deGrasse Tyson
- What does this MasterClass promise?
- How much does Neil deGrasse Tyson’s MasterClass cost?
- What is included in the Neil deGrasse Tyson teaches Scientific Thinking and Communication MasterClass?
- About the structure of the class
- Key Things I Learned
- Things I liked about the Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass
- Things I didn’t like about the Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass
- Does the class keep its promises?
- Is Neil deGrasse Tyson’s MasterClass worth the money?
Yes. MasterClass charges a yearly subscription to access all of their courses. Jump to the pricing section to learn more.
The Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass on Scientific Thinking and Communication is 2 hours and 14 minutes long and spans 13 video lessons.
Yes. If you cancel within 30 days of purchase, MasterClass will issue you a full refund.
Yes. Even if you are not interested in the sciences, this MasterClass is worth it for anyone in a profession who needs to communicate ideas, instill curiosity, or challenge preconceived notions of others.
About Neil deGrasse Tyson
Neil deGrasse Tyson is half astrophysicist, half pop cultural icon. Dr. Tyson toes the line of being an effective science communicator but also a relatable and inviting person. He’s not what you would expect the Director of the Hayden Planetarium to be. If I were to distill his personality into a few short words, it would be these: curiosity-provoking.
The product of New York City public schools, Dr. Tyson advanced through the years with his sights set on becoming a scientist. At the age of 17, Tyson was invited by the world-renown scientist, Carl Sagan, to visit Cornell University in Ithica for a day. Tyson later said about the visit, “I already knew I wanted to become a scientist. But that afternoon, I learned from Carl the kind of person I wanted to become.”
Since then, Tyson has gone on to become an accomplished planetary scientist, join the ranks of social media icons, write books, produce podcasts, and host the thought-provoking Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.
So yeah, I hoped to learn a lot about science and communication in his MasterClass.
And Dr. Tyson did not disappoint me.
What does this MasterClass promise?
I was particularly interested in what Neil deGrasse Tyson’s had to cover. I incorrectly assumed that this MasterClass would be a tour de force of the cosmos. I would shortly learn from this MasterClass that my assumptions stemmed from my own human biases.
“What I’m going to do in this MasterClass is teach you how to think,” begins Dr. Tyson in Lesson 1. “The goal here is to train your mind how to see the world differently, to question what others say.”
“By the time we’re done,” he continues, “you will be equipped with some of the methods and tools so you can turn data into information, information into knowledge, knowledge into wisdom.”
In other words, this MasterClass on scientific communication peels back the curtains to reveal the inner workings of Dr. Tyson—his way of thinking, his strive for scientific literacy, his desire for effective communication—and supply us, the learners, with the necessary tools and methods to apply to our everyday lives.
So, did Neil deGrasse Tyson live up to his promises? Did he meet my expectations? I’ll cover that at the end of the review (skip ahead if you want to find out). But first, let’s talk about what’s probably on your mind…
How much does Neil deGrasse Tyson’s MasterClass cost?
In 2021, MasterClass began testing alternative subscription models besides their original flat-rate annual membership. Eventually, they settled on a new cost-friendly three-tier MasterClass pricing model for their annual subscription:
- Individual – $120 per year (average $10 per month)
- Duo – $180 per year (average $15 per month)
- Family – $240 per year (average $20 per month)
The Individual membership (formerly the “Standard Plan”) is perfect for single individuals who are most likely to consume online learning at home. The Duo (formerly the “Plus Plan”) and Family (formerly the “Premium Plan”) plans are better for couples as MasterClass allows multiple devices to watch at the same time. (Netflix has similar restrictions for their membership plans).
However, the ability to download video lessons for offline viewing is helpful for people who might want to watch MasterClass on their commute to work without eating up most of their data. The Plus and Premium plans offer their users the ability to do just that.
Personally, I go for the $120 per year option as I average about one MasterClass per month, which means my cost per class is $10.
The price may seem steep. However, the subscription gives you access to all of the MasterClass courses, including other science-related courses such as:
- Bill Nye teaches Science and Problem-Solving
- Chris Hadfield teaches Space Exploration
- Matthew Walker teaches the Science of Better Sleep
- Dr. Jane Goodall teaches Conservation
Plus, you must remember that each MasterClass is someone’s lifetime of work distilled into well-organized and enjoyable video content. In other words, if it turns out the Neil DeGrasse Tyson MasterClass isn’t for you, chances are you’ll find other MasterClasses you do enjoy.
What is included in the Neil deGrasse Tyson teaches Scientific Thinking and Communication MasterClass?
Here’s a rundown of what you are getting with the Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass.
|2 Hours 14 minutes
|4.7 out of 5 ⭐️
|13 video lessons
The runtime clocks in at just under two and a quarter hours. This may seem brief, however, Tyson is simply practicing what he preaches (more on this in the Lesson Summary below). In other words, he knows his audience. I preferred watching the course at 1.5x speed which means I finished the entire video course in about one and a half hours. Perfect for an afternoon of learning.
This MasterClass (like all MasterClasses) comes with a supplemental workbook that summarizes all the key topics covered in the course in three sections:
- Part 1: On Scientific Literacy
- Part 2: On Communicating Science
- Part 3: Exploring Neil’s Concepts and Concerns
At only 24 pages, the workbook seems sparse. And yet, it is packed full of in-depth material not covered in the video lessons. For example, in Lesson 12 Dr. Tyson mentions pedagogical approximation which I had never heard. A text graphic popped up referring to the workbook for more information. Sure enough, there it was at 13:
“What is the interest level of my audience and what topics matter most in my conversation with them? Neil calls this a ‘pedagogical approximation.’”
I’m grateful to the MasterClass team for crafting complementary workbooks for their online courses.
About the structure of the class
Neil deGrasse Tyson’s MasterClass is divided into 13 lessons with an average run time of approximately 10 minutes. However, the video playback buttons offer you the ability to watch the course at 1.5x and 2x speed.
- What You Know Is Not as Important as How You Think
- The Frontier of Science
- The Scientific Method
- Be a Skeptic: Ask Questions
- Cognitive Bias
- Beware of Cultural Bias
- Our Systems of Belief
- Scientific Measurement: Calculating the Incalculable
- Communication: It’s Not Enough to Be Right
- Preparing for Your Audience
- Communication Tactics
- Inspire Curiosity in Your Audience
- The Future of Our World
“It’s not good enough to be right. You also have to be effective.”
Dr. Tyson presents the above statement as something his father told him long ago. In a free-thinking (but polarized) society, the goal of critical thinking isn’t to hammer objective truths over people’s heads, it’s to effectively communicate knowledge to inspire curiosity in others.
This MasterClass begins with Dr. Tyson talking about the frontier of science and what it really means to be a scientist. He helps differentiate hypothesis and theory (often used incorrectly by people). He then shifts to the scientific method and what it means to form a hypothesis, run an experiment, and publish results for other scientists to attempt to replicate.
I jotted down extensive notes in Lessons 4 through 7. Here I learned the importance of being skeptical and asking questions. Dr. Tyson also touched on the biases (such as confirmation bias: selecting data to agree with your truth) we all carry as human beings and how these biases play a role in shaping our observations and perceptions of reality.
Side Note: One aspect of the class I appreciated was an example he used of someone trying to sell you crystals with energy fields that can cure ailments. He says both of the following responses are intellectually lazy: (1.) Yes! Here’s my money I can’t wait to use them. (2.) Get out of here you charlatan! I am inclined to respond with the latter. However, by rejecting a person’s statement, we close off any opportunity to probe whether or not what the person claims could be true. Instead of being dismissive, Dr. Tyson says, start asking questions like any other good scientist. (Where are these from? Can I see the test results? What is the frequency of the energy?)
The final third of this MasterClass covers communication skills and understanding your audience. While I am not a public speaker, I still found this section useful.
So no, there weren’t any deep dives into black holes and the Big Bang. The demographics for this course are less astrophysics, and more curious learners looking to instill curiosity in others.
My fast-track lesson plan
Although 2 hours of video lessons isn’t a huge time commitment, I created a fast-track collection if you are looking for an abbreviated lesson plan. In just over 60-minutes you can watch these lessons and take away the main points of Tyson’s MasterClass. I found these lessons to be the most impactful and beneficial to helping me learn science and communication.
Course Reviewers 60-Minute Lesson Plan
Bonus: MasterClass Live with Neil deGrasse Tyson
Remember at the beginning of this article when I said there are “gazillions” of video content of Neil deGrasse Tyson readily available for anyone to watch? Well, that is somewhat true.
I wasn’t being specious. I have found a bonus 1-hour MasterClass Live interview with Dr. Tyson that is unlisted on YouTube, meaning it’s only available to those with special access to the link (like me 😊). I’m here to share the link with you:
Enjoy this bonus tidbit!
Key Things I Learned
It wouldn’t be much of a MasterClass if I didn’t learn anything. Luckily, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s MasterClass on Scientific Thinking and Communication was chock-full of information.
As I’ve already covered, this MasterClass wasn’t a listing of fun facts about astrophysics and mathematics. Instead, it was Dr. Tyson’s approach to thinking like a scientist and communicating those ideas to others, especially to those without scientific backgrounds.
Below are a few key learnings that stood out during the MasterClass:
- As our knowledge grows, so too does our “border of ignorance”
- A hypothesis is an informed “guess” or explanation of observable phenomena. A theory is an explanation of a phenomenon that is widely supported by the scientific community and backed by data.
- How do you know when something should be believed and when it shouldn’t? Simple, whatever you think is true, find another way to demonstrate that truth beyond your own testimony.
- We are not wired to think about probability and statistics. We are wired to look for patterns.
- Personal truth is something you hold to be true, no matter what others think of it (i.e. religions). In a free-thinking society, this is fine as long as it doesn’t constrain or conflict with the freedoms of others (that’s why it is called a “personal” truth.).
- All measurements are approximations.
Things I liked about the Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass
What makes this MasterClass is Neil deGrasse Tyson himself. The class workbook says it best, “Neil’s success in communicating about topics that typically intimidate or confuse laypeople comes partly from his gift as a storyteller.”
Dr. Tyson is not a boring individual. He weaves together science and humor and pop culture to create a sense of awe and wonder about the world and universe. His goal in life (and this MasterClass) isn’t to prove that he is right, but to inspire science literacy in others.
What I especially liked about the Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass is the simple fact that I can apply the learnings about communication to writing and other aspects of my career. You don’t need to be curious about science to take away helpful tidbits (although it helps!).
Overall, I’d put this MasterClass in the top 5 classes on the platform because of its quality and cross-applications.
My favorite quotes from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s MasterClass
“We are a participant in the great unfolding of cosmic events.”Lesson 1
“The degree to which you believe something is true […] should be in proportion to the evidence that supports it.”Lesson 4
“It’s an odd thing how eyewitness testimony is in the court of law, because in the court of science, it is the very lowest form of testimony.”Lesson 4
“In the face of new data, you have to say, ‘I was wrong.’ If you can’t say that, you will never be a scientist.”Lesson 5
Things I didn’t like about the Neil deGrasse Tyson MasterClass
Okay, I need to get really nerdy and nitpicky for this section. I couldn’t find much fault in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s MasterClass on Scientific Thinking and Communication. However, I do wish there was more discussion on some science subjects such as relativity, black holes, space travel, and dark matter. I understand that would be an entirely different MasterClass, but being a science nerd, I would have enjoyed a bit more scientific discussion.
Besides that, I could’ve used a bit more specific communication tools and methods. Some moments were a bit vague or seemed like common sense. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this MasterClass.
Does the class keep its promises?
The supplemental workbook summarizes Tyson’s promise as this:
“Neil is out to teach you how to think critically about science, how to communicate your findings effectively, and, more than anything, how to retain a sense of awe and wonder about the world you live in.”
In two and a quarter hours, yes, I believe he has accomplished this and delivered on his promise. To summarize once more, Dr. Tyson spends the first third of the course covering scientific thinking. The second third of the course is spent understanding and recognizing the biases we hold as humans (that affect our findings). And the final third is dedicated to communication tools and techniques.
Overall, I was left with a sense of “awe and wonder” about my place in the universe, and am eager to learn (and share) more!
Is Neil deGrasse Tyson’s MasterClass worth the money?
Yes if you…
- Are interested in science
- Want to better your communication skills
- Enjoy Neil deGrasse Tyson’s body of work
- Want to improve your science literacy
No if you…
- Have no interest in science
- Are looking for a more in-depth course on astrophysics
Taking everything into consideration, I believe this MasterClass is worth checking out if you consider yourself an avid learner and are looking to polish up those critical thinking and communication skills. Coupled with the other science-related MasterClasses, the $180 price point is well worth the investment.
If you’re interested in learning more, here is a trailer to the class: