Astrophysics for People In a Hurry

Books-2

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil de Grasse Tyson was such a fun and fascinating read. If you have ever watched Cosmos, or listened to StarTalk, you are probably already familiar with his signature use of puns and wry humor. I love it! This book was very informative in terms of covering the basics of astrophysics.

He says: “In this slim volume you will earn a foundational fluency in all the major ideas and discoveries that drive our modern understanding of the universe. If I’ve succeeded, you’ll be culturally conversant in my field of expertise, and you may just be hungry for more.”

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Although the word astrophysics is one that tends to make my eyes glaze over, this book was really easy to read and understand. Here’s some of what I learned:

  • Science thrives on the universality of physical laws and the existence and persistence of physical constants; the speed of light is the most famous physical constant
  • “The power and beauty of physical laws is that they apply everywhere, whether or not you choose to believe them. In other words, after the law of physics, everything else is opinion.” I LOVE THIS
  • We might all be Martians. Really.
  • Dark matter has gravity but does not interact with light in any way; dark energy is a pressure in the vacuum of space that acts in the opposite direction of gravity, forcing the universe to expand faster than it otherwise would
  • The observable universe might contain a hundred billion galaxies
  • The galaxies nearest to the Milky Way are 600,000 light years distant
  • Neil Tyson’s first ever essay on the universe, written in the 1980s, was titled “The Galaxy and the Seven Dwarfs” 🙂
  • Neptune is the outermost planet, not Pluto

One thing that I loved about this book was how positive and uplifting it was. Tyson describes a time when a psychologist wrote to him and said that studying and talking about the universe in the ways that he does just make people feel small, insignificant and unimportant. Tyson disagreed. Knowing how small we are, how big the universe is, and what we know about it and what we don’t know about it, makes him feel liberated, excited.

He says that ultimately we should “embrace rather than fear the cosmic perspective”. Although I didn’t actual fear it prior to reading this book (maybe slight fears of dark matter/energy tbh) you cannot help but feel as excited about it as Tyson does. It’s contagious!

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P.S. Are you watching the eclipse on August 21? We still have to get our eclipse glasses!

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