America’s most approachable astrophysicist distills the past, present, and (theoretical) future of the cosmos into a quick and thoroughly enjoyable read for a general audience.
In his signature conversational style, Tyson (Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier, 2012, etc.), director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History and host of StarTalk, shows once again his masterly skills at explaining complex scientific concepts in a lucid, readable fashion. In fun, digestible chapters, he covers all the basics: the constituent bits that make up the universe, the forces and laws that govern their interaction, and the pioneering scientists who pieced together the mechanics fabricating our reality. Substituting down-to-earth wit for unnecessary jargon, Tyson presents ideas in clean, straightforward language and allows for the awesome nature of the universe to impress itself on readers unadorned. Also compelling is the author’s contagious exuberance for his field, which he has consistently demonstrated throughout his writing and TV careers. Whether expounding on the general theory of relativity or the mystery of dark matter, he celebrates the many theories that have been experimentally confirmed while acknowledging the grand extent to which there is still so much left to discover. He also emphasizes that astrophysics need not be inaccessible. “The cosmic perspective comes from the frontiers of science, yet it is not solely the provenance of the scientist,” he writes. “It belongs to everyone….The cosmic perspective enables us to see beyond our circumstances, allowing us to transcend the primal search for food, shelter, and sex.” In short order, you’ll be conversant in mind-bending trivia about “star stuff” that may fundamentally shift your perspective of our place in the universe—and convince you to pursue some of the many fine longer-form books on the subject.
A sublime introduction to some of the most exciting ideas in astrophysics that will leave readers wanting more.