Dr. Phil Plait

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Bad Astronomy

For as long as he can remember, Dr. Phil Plait has been in love with science.

“When I was maybe four or five years old, my dad brought home a cheapo department store telescope. He aimed it at Saturn that night. One look, and that was it. I was hooked,” he says.

After earning his doctorate in astronomy at the University of Virginia, he worked on the Hubble Space Telescope as a NASA contractor at the Goddard Space Flight Center. He began a career in public outreach and education with the Bad Astronomy website and blog, debunking bad science and popular misconceptions. The book Bad Astronomy was released in 2002, followed in 2008 by Death From The Skies! He can most recently be seen in “Crash Course Astronomy”, a 46-part educational web series he wrote and hosted that has over 20 million views. He hosted the TV show “Phil Plait’s Bad Universe” on the Discovery Channel in 2010 and was the head science writer for “Bill Nye Saves the World” on Netflix, due out in 2017. Dr. Plait’s blog has been hosted by Discover Magazine and Slate, and is now on Syfy Wire.

Dr. Plait has given talks about science and pseudoscience across the US and internationally. He uses images, audio, and video clips in entertaining and informative multimedia presentations packed with humor and backed by solid science.

He has spoken at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, the Space Telescope Science Institute (home of Hubble), the Hayden Planetarium in NYC and many other world-class museums and planetaria, conferences, astronomy clubs, colleges & universities, and community groups. He has appeared on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Pax TV, Tech TV, Syfy, Radio BBC, Air America, NPR, and many other television and internet venues. His writing has appeared in Discover magazine, Sky and Telescope, Astronomy magazine, Night Sky magazine, Space.com, and more.

Death From The Skies!

Asteroid impacts! Cometary debris! Extinction level events! These are the ways the world might end, and these are the topics of “Death from the Skies!”, a scientifically-based but fun look at giant impacts from cosmic objects. Phil Plait — astronomer, author, and blogger — talks about how these events have shaped our history, how they may do so again, and why Hollywood always seems to get them wrong. And lest you think it’s all doom and gloom, Plait goes into details on how we might prevent the next great impact from ruining our whole day.

When the Moon Eats the Sun: The Total Solar Eclipse of August 2017

On August 21, 2017, there will be magic in the sky: a total solar eclipse, the first one visible in the United States since 1979! These rare and amazing events are among the most beautiful of all astronomical phenomena, and their impact on humanity has a rich and fascinating history. Yet they are also saddled with many misconceptions and fears — Can you go blind watching one? Do they emit harmful radiation? Astronomer and author Phil Plait provides the truth about eclipses in a humorous and engaging way, featuring the latest scientific photographs, and will show you how you too can watch this spectacular display of cosmic synchronicity.

Science Communication in the Age of Snapchat

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, and good old TV: our attention is divided amongst so many different media outlets, and worse, some of them propagate misinformation and false facts. It is more important than ever to effectively communicate on science topics. But with so much competition, what’s the best way to engage? In this program Phil Plait, who has over 500,000 followers on Twitter, hosts a popular YouTube series, and is known for his social media presence, discusses different strategies to reach people. This informative and entertaining talk gives you some insight into getting the point across, encouraging everyone to be themselves and have fun while doing so.

The Response

“Phil Plait’s unique style, sense of humor, and ability to capture and engage an audience is simply stellar. Whether you have a draw towards the sciences or not, Phil has something, will debunk something or simply make you think “Really??” like no other! Phil spoke at our Illinois K-12 statewide math and science conference relating to STEM Communication in the World of SnapChat. His innovative approach to using social media in education was not only relevant, but opened the doors of interaction with teachers, students and followers alike!”

Jill M. Schauland
I-STEM Network Administrator

“We hosted Phil Plait as our international guest for National Science Week 2013. Phil gave a fantastic presentation to students across Australia (delivered online through RiAus livestreaming) which sparked questions coming in from across the nation. His evening presentation to a sold-out audience of 400 was a great mix of education and entertainment, and Phil’s generosity with his time for questions and comments from the audience after the event was really appreciated.”

Lisa Bailey
Program Manager
RiAus

“Informative, intelligent, and entertaining, Dr. Plait was a highlight of SpaceVision 2013 and influenced the entire attitude of the conference for the better in every way. I’m sure many can’t wait to see him again, I know I’ll be among the first in line whenever I get the opportunity.”

John Conafay
Business Development Intern, ASU LightWorks
Treasurer, SEDS-USA
President, SEDS-ASU
Arizona State University

“Phil was fantastic and the night went beautifully. He is such a great guy and the public loved his talk. He had everyone enraptured.”

Toner Stevenson
Manager
Sydney Observatory

“Phil captivated his audience through a personable manner that shone in both the lecture setting, as well as his one-on-one interactions. His ability to blend scientific discussion with humor was met with sweeping, positive feedback from students, educators, and community members alike.”

Ivan Atanassov
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Phil was a great addition to our lecture series. His talk was engaging, funny, and well received by all. He is a master of communicating science to public audiences. After the lecture event he was gracious and friendly, answering questions until everyone had a chance to chat with him. We had a great visit; I can’t wait to have him back again.”

Shane Larson
Physics
Utah State University

“Phil’s talk was insightful and entertaining. Our students thoroughly enjoyed his presentation! Phil was open to talking with students after and answering every and any question they had. The program was a great success and Phil was a pleasure to work with!”

Nicole Hornung
Ideas & Issues Coordinator
University of South Carolina

“Phil Plait is a one of a kind artist of science communication.  He spoke to three groups at three different events for us.  Everyone at every event loved Dr. Plait and wanted more.”

Tom Hooten
Director, Center for Earth & Space Science Education
Tyler Junior College

“Dr. Phil Plait was funny, engaging and informative. During the Q&A session and book signing, he interacted with our audience and truly cared about what they had to say. Our students, faculty and surrounding community members were proud to bring such an influential scientist to our campus. Plait was one of the best speakers we have brought.”

Allison Barkel
Student Coordinator, Campus Life
Eastern Michigan University

“We were very pleased with Phil Plait’s visit to our university. He spoke to students in a standing-room only auditorium and delivered a highly entertaining and educational presentation. His enthusiasm for astronomy was very obvious and contagious. We hope he can visit us again in the near future”

Sylvia Saenz Aldape
Director of Graduate School, Academic Centers and Continuing Education
The University of Texas-Pan American

“Phil Plait has a perfect mix of humor and intellect that make his presentations very entertaining.  His talks are easily understandable by general audiences, yet provide enough scientific detail to stimulate the more scientifically informed of the crowd.  Phil is very personable and is willing to entertain questions from the audience with candor and humor or will engage in one on one discussions.  He was a pure delight to host.”

Kimberly A. Carlson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Biology Department
University of Nebraska at Kearney

“Phil did an outstanding job…. The lecture was accessible to students in all disciplines. In fact, the underlying message was one of critical analysis of claims that the listeners would encounter throughout their lives. Some of my students sought me out afterwards to tell me that this was the best lecture we’d had.”

Gordon Hammerle
Professor
Adrian College

“Students, faculty, staff and community members were entertained and educated by Dr. Plait’s lecture, particularly those who aren’t ‘science people’. They were impressed by his ability to take scientific concepts and explain them so that everyone could understand. His combination of science and humor made this talk a great way to start our 2009/2010 season.”

Ruth M. Dobyns
Issues & Artists Coordinator
Wilmington College

“There was literally standing room only in the Auditorium. We don’t often get such a huge crowd for our Noon Talks! As scientifically accurate as it was, (it) still was the most entertaining we’ve had in a very long time.”

Lucy Albert
Office of Public Outreach
Space Telescope Science Institute

“(Phil Plait’s) Moon Hoax presentation drew the largest crowd of teachers we have had to our Center in over three years…. We even had a waiting list and had to turn disappointed teachers away…. Presenting as a guest lecturer at a NASA Center for scientists and engineers is not the easiest task. (He) was humorous and enjoyable, yet scientifically accurate; this is what the Dryden Center staff appreciated the most. The multimedia presentation…was not only professional and interesting, but was delivered without a hitch. It captured everyone in the room.”

Tami Simmons
NASA Dryden ERC Manager

“Phil Plait’s absolute love and obsession with space science is apparent in all of his talks, but his down to earth style make him accessible for people of all ages and interest levels. His enthusiasm and energy make him a favorite with children, and his sharp wit and wide breadth of knowledge keep adult audiences glued to their seats. Phil Plait was one of the best speakers we had in our 2007 lecture season!”

Angela Torretta
Public Relations Manager
Turtle Bay Exploration Park

“Phil Plait is a gifted speaker, writer, and presenter. At his session, conference attendees fill the room, sit on the floor when there are no chairs left on which to sit, and stand outside the door if the room is full in order to hear the message Phil has to convey. He not only presents valuable information, but he also promotes thoughtful listening and provokes critical thinking in his audience. Phil Plait is a presenter/speaker extraordinaire.”

Sharon Janulaw
President-Elect
California Science Teachers Association

“Phil kept our audience thinking and laughing for over an hour. He had a real rapport with his interlocutors during questions and answers. Everyone loved him, and they kept telling me so for a week afterward. It would be hard to think of a more engaging way to bring real science to a general audience.”

Tony Zito
Chair
Department of Mathematics, Physical and Computer Sciences
Dutchess Community College

“‘7 ways a Blackhole Can Kill You’ kept Iowa science educators on the edge of their seats. Phil’s presentation style not only informs and peaks your curiosity but it also pushes the envelope on learning more about our universe.”

Morgan Masters
Iowa Science Teachers 2009 Fall Conference

“From eggs to asteroids, Dr Phil Plait was outstanding. His lecture was perfect for the layman but technical enough for the enthusiast. He was very approachable and questions from the audience could have gone on forever. It was a pleasure to make him a part of the Union Speaker’s Forum program.”


Cameron McLean
Director of Student Activities
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

“Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, spoke to a group of 400 gifted and talented high school seniors at the summer Arkansas Governor’s School. He spoke about critical thinking from the view point of the sciences, specifically astronomy. His informal presentation style and his humor were appealing to our audience and he kept their attention for the full 90 minutes. Even the students who were not interested in science were engaged and entertained…. Our students rated Phil as one of the highest rated speakers of our program this summer. We definitely want him back next year!”

Lyle Rupert
Director
Arkansas Governor’s School

“Dr. Plait’s talk, “Death from the Skies!”, was engaging, informing, and alarming all at once. We really enjoyed having him on campus. The students asked lots of questions, and Phil stuck around to autograph everyone’s booksafterward. His visit to campus was simply fantastic.”

Heather Mbaye
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of West Georgia

“Phil was an amazing and enthusiastic speaker that had the audience laughing. His energy and poise of speaking was attractive to many students.”

Nicky Damania
Director of Student Activities
Colorado State University-Pueblo

News & Updates

  • 03/30/2017 TMO Background Mode Interview with Astronomer & Science Communicator Dr. Phil Plait

    Like many young astronomers, Phil’s interest in astronomy ignited when he first saw Saturn and its rings through a telescope. He earned his Ph.D. working on the study of supernovae with the Hubble Space Telescope. We chatted about his career, his enduring work in amateur astronomy with his telescope, his love for science communication, why people who don’t believe in the Apollo moon landings are wrong, the study of a potentially dangerous asteroid or comet collision with Earth, how climate change is affecting us, and the recent discovery of a nearby solar system with Earth-like planets.

    • 09/02/2016 Phil Plait will be head science writer for Bill Nye’s new show

      BIll Nye Saves the World will explore science and its impact on politics, society and pop culture. Each episode will tackle a different topic from a scientific point of view, dispelling myths and refuting anti-scientific claims that may be espoused by politicians, religious leaders or titans of industry. Nye also will bring in special guests, conduct experiments and, ultimately, let the facts make the case. The series is slated to debut in spring 2017.

      Netflix and Bunim/Murray Productions will produce the series, with Gil Goldschein and Julie Pizzi set to exec produce with Michael Naidus (The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson), who will serve as showrunner. Writer and stand-up comedian Mike Drucker has been tapped as head writer, with astronomer, author and award-winning science communicator Phil Plait set as head science writer.