Book Review: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Note 12/13/2018: I recently emerged from my finals frenzy to start engaging with the news again and am greatly disturbed by the allegations made against the author of this book, Neil deGrasse Tyson. I absolutely #believesurvivors, and I want to make it clear that I do not want to support those who engage in sexual misconduct. The harm done is more than physical & psychological, and ripples across all aspects of the personal and professional lives of those who have lived through these experiences. One article that I appreciate was this one from the Atlantic, which explores the damaging affects of sexual misconduct on the professional careers of women, including backlash from the wider #MeToo movement as a whole.
I decided to leave this review up as an opportunity to make my thoughts on this issue public while also maintaining consistency and stay open to my past perspectives on life. With regard to Astrophysics for People in a Hurry I did like this book; however, I recommend that readers check it out from a library rather than buy it.

 


 

I’m not exactly a scientist. For all that my mother has a PhD in Cell Biology and my girlfriend works in tech, I didn’t major in a STEM field, and had to drop almost every science class I attempted to take in college to save my GPA from ruin. All that said, I maintain an insatiable curiosity about the universe, and so when I was walking through the bookstore and stumbled upon Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, I just knew that I needed to buy myself a copy.

In his preface, Neil deGrasse Tyson offers this book as something for those who are  “too busy to absorb the cosmos via classes, textbooks, or documentaries, and […] nonetheless seek a brief and meaningful introduction to the field,” (p, 12). Personally, I have watched a documentary or two, seen all episodes of Crash Course Astronomy twice or more, and in fact spent an entire semester in an astronomy class, so I do not exactly fit into this category. That is not to say that I did not find this book enriching and valuable, because I very much did. While this book was not written exactly for me, I nevertheless enjoyed it immensely, as the narrative format kept me informed, supplementing information that I already knew, but softening the spiky edges that the math* had created for me while in my courses or watching videos.

Each chapter of the book can for the most part be read as an independent essay, though to get the big picture I read them all, and each flowed easily into the next. That said, they could each be read alone, especially since the sparse but informative footnotes made a brief repeat of important details (picoseconds, I’m looking at you). Personally I’m a big fan of footnotes, but I think that even for those that don’t love them as much as me and Nabokov those within Astrophysics for People in a Hurry are tolerable since they are few and contain only that which is essential and/or funny.

Starting with the big bang, deGrasse Tyson takes us through the beginning of the universe, blending the facts as we know them with how we know them and thus pairing together science and history as the seamless entities they are in a chapter literally titled “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” All of the subsequent chapters focus on an important concept and/or issue in the field of astrophysics, including the much-misunderstood (and distinct!) concepts of dark matter and dark energy that get so much traction within science fiction narratives. Not to mention that in all of the places relevant to it deGrasse Tyson seriously deliberates on the concept of a multiverse, which makes my little nerd heart sing.

The book’s comedic elements are lighthearted and evenly paced, such that I felt both informed and entertained. Any time I might have felt that there was too much information being imported to my brain there would be a brief quip about Pluto to make me laugh.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is not just an excellent outline of what we know about the universe (though it is that) but also a treatise on how viewing life and existence on a cosmic level can inform us as sentient beings to see ourselves as but a mote in the universe. What I’ve taken away from this book is that what we don’t know is vastly larger in quantity than what we do, but staying curious and empathizing with one another is what makes our experiences meaningful. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an even a passing interest in astronomy, since the universe is even more amazing than they may think.

Happy reading!

Cheers,

Talia

 

*I’m not actually as bad at math as I act like I am, but what little skill I have lies with basic algebra rather than calculus or geometry.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

darnellouis

For Your Entetainment

Own Your Content

Own Your Content is a campaign from WordPress.com & CreativeMornings, encouraging creatives to own their content, platform, and the future of their work.

Hachette Book Group

The Official Website of Talia Franks

Elodie Under Glass

in vitro veritas: science, feminism and the media

Dobby's Sox

The Boston Area Chapter of The Harry Potter Alliance

SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

ΕΥΔΟΞΑ ΑΓΝΩΣΤΑ ΚΑΤΑΓΕΛΑΣΤΑ

We Are Star Stuff

A blog about mythology, the stars, and the new mythology, comics.

READING (AS)(I)AN (AM)ERICA

Book reviews with an Asian Americanist lens

The Green Wolf

Artist & Author Lupa

The Druid's Garden

Spiritual Journeys in Tending the Land, Permaculture, Wildcrafting, and Regenerative Living

Love, Seamus

Dear reader, It’s me! Seamus. I am here to vent to you about my day or teach you a lesson! Enjoy your day. Love, Seamus

The Nerds of Color

Pop Culture with a Different Perspective

LeadVonE

The Official Website of Talia Franks

Crustimoney Proseedcake

The Official Website of Talia Franks

Escape Velocities

The only way out is through

Word-for-Sense and Other Stories

The Official Website of Talia Franks

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close