photographed by Patrick P. Lee
Dakotah Tyler  at the California Science Center

Hey, Dakotah, how’s it going?


Hi. I appreciate you reaching out. I’m glad my content resonates with you. 


What’s the goal of your content on TikTok and Instagram?


My goal is not only to demystify science and boost science literacy but also to connect what we know about the universe to our experience as humans. I believe more people understanding science is a concrete step to improving our world. It’s especially important to reach communities where science role models are scarce and I strive to be a relatable voice for those that traditional science communication has missed.

That’s fascinating. As someone who dabbles in quantum mechanics as a hobby, I often struggle to grasp certain concepts. When did it start making sense to you?


Well, it’s been a gradual process. As I worked through problems and gained a deeper understanding, things clicked. Quantum mechanics can be particularly challenging because it operates on a vastly different scale from our everyday experience. But with practice and perseverance, it becomes more manageable. On some level, ‘understanding’ Quantum Mechanics is really just understanding the math.


I can relate to that struggle. It’s like trying to comprehend how something on a quantum level can exhibit different properties when scaled up to the size of a solar system. The notion that the same components can behave differently based on scale is mind-boggling.


Exactly. It’s one of the many fascinating aspects of physics.


Speaking of challenges, transitioning from a football background to astrophysics must have been quite a journey. How did that unfold for you?


It hasn’t been easy, but I’m committed to following my interests and making a meaningful contribution to the scientific community. The journey required me to apply the resilience and work ethic honed through years of being an athlete.

Absolutely. It’s essential to defy stereotypes and pursue our passions, regardless of societal expectations. Your journey serves as a powerful example of resilience and determination.


I appreciate that. Representation matters, and I hope to inspire others to pursue their dreams no matter how unconventional they may seem. We humans are all very similar, much more so than most would actually like to admit. Yet it is scientific fact that our DNA and past experiences make each one of us completely unique. It’s so important that we develop the courage to lean into our one-of-a-kind authenticity and find the purpose that we are uniquely equipped to fulfill. That takes a lot of self-belief and at times unbreakable determination.


What is dark matter? And why is it so mysterious?


So, we don’t know what what dark matter is. But it’s something that is there and apparently has a gravitational presence. So it doesn’t interact with normal matter in the way that normal matter interacts with normal matter. But it does interact with it gravitationally. So we are still determining exactly what it is. The term dark matter is misleading. Because we’re calling it matter, but we don’t know what it is.

Any thoughts on the multiverse?


This is conjecture right now. But every time we’ve ever thought there was just one of something and we were special, we have been wrong. First we thought there was one planet, Earth. No, there are countless planets. We thought there was only star – the Sun. No there are hundreds of billions of stars just in our galaxy. We thought the Milky Way was the only galaxy – but no it is just one of at least a trillion galaxies in the observable universe. So is there one universe? The fact that one exists suggests to me that there are likely others – many infinitely many? Some of the biggest questions in astrophysics surround this topic: How many universes are there? Where do they come from? Why does our universe exist at all? All very hard to test because our perspective is limited to the confines of the universe itself.


I do not know how this works in a math equation, but I’ve been reading about no actual time. It’s just frozen slides of things that have already happened, and we perceive it as progression. I’m not explaining this correctly. 


Time is still something that physicists discuss – the nature of time. Einstein would describe it in a similar way to how you put it – that it’s still a real thing, but that all time always exists. The past, present, and future are all equally real, we are just experiencing it in the present moment. As far as what that “experience” really is, the flow of time that we encounter – it could be an illusion. One thing is for sure though, time is real and can run differently in different circumstances.


I often think about how claustrophobic space and physics feel. I think about how much we’re stuck to this planet and its physics, especially when it relates to spacetime and how other intelligent life is out of our reach. 


There are these other planets that are out there, the possibility for life. And time is something that’s super interesting to think about. But we know that time can change, depending on how you move. And so, to think about that, you know, if you are, if you are driving down the highway, 20 miles per hour east, let’s say, and you’re somebody else is driving on the highway, 20 miles per hour west, they don’t experience that much of a difference here. But because of the effects of relativity, and if you were to think about the impact of going in one direction on the other side of the universe, you’re aligning with a very different time. 

In either of those cases, the person going east, depending on how things are oriented, would be lined up with 100 years in the future. And the person going west would be aligned with 100 years in the past, which is so interesting to think about. Because to me, that suggests that all of these times exist simultaneously.

Do you dream about astrophysics? Have you ever solved problems in your dreams?

No I don’t usually remember my dreams, which is a shame. I wonder what mysteries about the universe could I uncover if I could unlock the power to work through problems and wax philosophical in my dreams haha.


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