Sunday, May 7, 2017

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
© 2017 Neil deGrasse Tyson
200 pages



Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is exactly what it says on the tin, a brief cosmological primer that presents the basics of cosmology, explains the ways we are continuing to learn about the cosmos, and ends with a Saganesque hush meditating on what the cosmic perspective has to offer. Neil deGrasse Tyson is an active science popularizer, the creator and primary host for StarTalk Radio, which has grown beyond a podcast to become a video series and book – not to mention his day job as director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City.

Astrophysics is a review of what is known about the big picture, and avoids string theory, m-theory, branes, and other things best considered by people not in a hurry. Tyson does include a section on dark matter and dark energy, however, since the math of our current model of universal expansion doesn’t make sense without including them . Tyson is quick to defend against the idea that ‘dark matter’ – accounting for the detected weight of matter which doesn’t seem to interact with anything – as a math cheat, since the weight of something is there…we just haven’t figured out what it is just yet. Along the way, Tyson also comments on topics like why the cosmos tends to produce spheres (planets, suns, clusters of galaxies…), the history of radio telescopes, and the supreme importance of the period table.

As someone whose most recent interaction with astrophysics has been The Big Bang Theory, since I haven't read anything in this area in four years, I found Tyson completely enjoyable.

8 comments:

  1. I got a D in physics in high school, but I might give this one a try. Perhaps the author can succeed where my physics teacher did not: teaching a dullard about science. Thanks for your review, Stephen.

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    1. If you want to look at science in general, I would recommend "Almost Everybody's Guide to Science".

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  2. He's a really good guy - and funny too! I do miss astrophysics and cosmology. Nothing in that area planned anytime soon I'm afraid. I'm going to *have* to plan in more science this year... [muses]

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    1. This year my science reading actually has a plan: early on I drew up a list of categories (biology, astronomy, neurology, etc) and my goal is to read a book for each category. Otherwise, my reading will just pool around biology like it usually does!

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    2. Well you know my science interests: AI, Quantum Mechanics and Evolution. I have a few interesting ones in 'the pile' but it's just getting them into my *actual* read list!

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  3. Tyson for president: well, no, he probably wouldn't do it, but it's a nice idea... we've watched several of his series' on the cosmos with great pleasure; always nice to hear someone who isn't lying and is familiar with more arcane principles, like truth...

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    1. Well, if we're going to put NY television personalities in the house, why not?

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  4. It somehow seems appropriate to characterize astrophysics as reading for people in a hurry. I have neglected this area of science for too long (in spite of an A in high school physics) so I will put Dr. Tyson on my reading list.

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