I skipped physics in senior high school, doing biology instead. And I managed to fail that in Year 12. But I love reading about cosmology and the universe, and this book has been a great help. It deals with the big questions like whether we'll ever be able to travel through time, whether there's life out there and where we all came from, but, it's written in a way even I could understand. And yet they did it without dumbing things down. There's a lot of meat to chew on, but they made it easily digestible. I hope this gastronomic analogy doesn't put you off, because it's really a great read. The authors explain how atoms work and what the universe looks like, yet they manage this without breaking their promise to use only one equasion. If you're interested in the big questions, don't shy away from this entertaining and informative book.
What I liked about Professor Kaler's approach was that he related everything back to the earth. Though he points out that the terrestrial planets could be regarded as the sun's leftovers, he reminds us that size does not equal significance.
The professor has a way of describing things so that you can picture them in your mind's eye. He points out not only the huge sizes of objects like the sun and Jupiter, but even more so the enormous distances between them. I did not realise how big the solar system is. Neptune is 30 times further from the sun than is earth. And the comets perhaps extend out to half the distance to the next star. But you don't get blinded with statistics. Professor Kaler explains succinctly how the moon orbits the earth, why it appears in phases, and other basic facts of astronomy.
The lectures are well worth your credit. I've already started listening to Part 2.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
While no one can replace Carl Sagan, Tyson might be the nearest thing the 2010s have to him, a friendly advocate of the sciences who knows how to explain abstract topics in everyday language without dumbing them down or dissipating their inherent wonder. I enjoyed his series on NOVA, so I decided to pick up this book after I noticed it on sale at audible.
No regrets. If you want an introduction or a refresher course on the basics of astronomy and astrophysics, this series of essays on various topics should fill in the gaps nicely. Tyson covers topics such as the mechanics of the solar system, the formation of the Earth and planets, the Big Bang and the origins of the universe, and the essential concepts of 20th century physics (quantum theory, relativity, subatomic particles, forces, string theory). Much of the ground Tyson treads will be familiar to those who watched Dr. Sagan's classic Cosmos series in the early 1980s, but a lot of discoveries have been made since then, so the update is worthwhile. Like Sagan, Tyson makes no bones about the fact that he sees science, not religion/superstition/mysticism, as the only reliable tool for understanding how the universe actually works. As he points out, no religious text has yet proved useful for predicting physical phenomena -- in fact, The Bible significantly misstates the value of Pi. (However, he's much less obnoxious about it than Dawkins.)
Tyson also spends some time nitpicking on the scientific errors in several Hollywood blockbusters. Yes, he's that guy -- the one that you stopped inviting to Doctor Who night.
If I have a complaint about this book, it's that its provenance as a collection of articles is pretty obvious. Things that were stated as assumptions or background information in one chapter will be repeated again a few chapters later. The editor could have done a better job integrating everything. And it's probably not a book I'd recommend to more knowledgeable readers; most of the information here, though presented in an appealing, accessible way, is basic.