Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson (2017)

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse TysonOne of my roles while working at UBC involved sitting on the Science faculty curriculum committee, where we reviewed proposals for new and changes to courses, programs and degree requirements. As many of you know, my degrees are in history and information studies. So it became a half-serious joke between me and my colleagues that to get a BSc you should know more about pretty much every kind of science, from botany and ecology to physics and math, than I do. Not a high bar, I grant ya. I did complete Grade 12 studies of all the sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Physics) but as it’s been more than 30 years, my recall is weak at best. Thus I consider myself an excellent judge of the accessibility of this little book, which comes in at under 150 pages. As the title indicates, it’s a high-level introduction to the major concepts in astrophysics, such as the origins of the universe, dark energy and dark matter, radiowaves, and exoplanets. In his signature engaging and conversational style, Tyson explains the science of our universe using straightforward language and always conveying his lifelong passion for the stars. By no means does he dumb things down, either. We start out with Einstein’s theory of general relativity, gravity, and quantum mechanics. I found myself flipping back pages regularly to remind myself of something he’s explained, but I am happy to report I actually understood, or at least I think I do! And Tyson not only succeeds in explaining these topics to the non-scientist, but also in developing an appreciation for our place in space, what he calls, in the concluding Chapter 12, the Cosmic Perspective. Having completed this little gem, I feel both humbler and smarter! My thanks to publisher W.W. Norton for the advance reading copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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