Thursday, July 13, 2017

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson knows a lot about space (somehow I doubt that line is making it onto his next book jacket).  He knows so much about space and has so much personality that he is actually famous.  He’s a famous astrophysicist.  I’m pretty sure I don’t have to go into how rare that is.  Luckily for us, even though he’s probably quite busy with his work at the Hayden Planetarium and his various media appearances, he found time to put together a book for the astrophysics novice.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is a collection of short essays about various space-related topics.  The subjects range from gravity to light and even to the philosophical (Tyson’s ideas about the “cosmic perspective”).  Most of the essays were originally written for and appeared in scientific magazines and journals, so there isn’t as much hand-holding as there often is with a primer.  However, there is still plenty to learn even if you still confuse astronomy and astrology.  The short chapters are packed with information including historical anecdotes about scientific discoveries both obscure and illustrious.

What’s even more enjoyable is that amidst all of the hard science and history and mind-bending concepts, Tyson’s humor and panache are present on every page.  The key to engrossing non-fiction is finding an author with both the knowledge and enthusiasm to get information across to the reader.  Neil deGrasse Tyson can check off both of those boxes.  He also has the skill to harness his ideas and his excitement in a way that helps his audience understand and enjoy a topic as immense as the universe.

If you like this book, you might like Welcome to the Universe, a more in-depth explanation of space, by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss, and J. Richard Gott.

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