Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

My favorite astrophysicist returns to dish out knowledge and wonder, this time in a thin volume for those too busy — or perhaps too daunted — to read a big fat book.  His goal is simple: to offer enough to a hungry audience to make them culturally conversant in his field of choice, and hopefully to inspire them to want more.

Much of this book is offered in chronological order of discovery.  The result is that Dr. Tyson paints a portrait of the evolution of our scientific awareness.  One discovery builds to the next, and so on down the line, changing the way we understand the cosmos and our place in it.

Don’t let the size of this book fool you.  Dr. Tyson packed it full, and he does not dumb it down.  He makes that plain enough just in the opening paragraphs to the first chapter.  Nor does he endeavor to leave anyone behind either.  He’s an educator first and foremost, and that comes across in all of his books.  This is no exception.  What’s found here will require the audience to want to learn.  If you’re willing and able to do that, he’ll open the doors for you and invite you in.  You’re on your own for some of the basic terminology, which is easy enough to brush up your foundations if you find it’s been too long.  For the higher concepts, as I say, he meets you halfway.  Just remember: it’s astrophysics, and he’s an expert.  You’re not expected to know this stuff already.  His goal is to teach you.

For what it’s worth, the most challenging part of this entire book (at least for me) is the discussion of the Big Bang and what happened in the couple of minutes that followed.  Admittedly, I’m also a devoted follower of Dr. Tyson’s work, so it was inevitable that some of this would sink in sooner or later.  Based on some of his other works, I would suggest that for anyone wishing to dip a toe into these waters, this book is certainly as good a place to start as any.  I still recommend some of his offerings through The Great Courses for maximum impact, but this is still an exceptional work from an exceptional man.  The name of the game of his profession is wonder.  Open your mind to it, and prepare to be amazed.

5 stars

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