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Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries | [Neil deGrasse Tyson]

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries

Neil deGrasse Tyson has a talent for guiding readers through the mysteries of outer space with stunning clarity and almost childlike enthusiasm. This collection of his essays from Natural History magazine explores a myriad of cosmic topics. Tyson introduces us to the physics of black holes by explaining what would happen to our bodies if we fell into one; he also examines the needless friction between science and religion, and notes Earth's status as "an insignificantly small speck in the cosmos".
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Publisher's Summary

Neil deGrasse Tyson has a talent for explaining the mysteries of outer space with stunning clarity and almost childlike enthusiasm. This collection of his essays from Natural History magazine explores a myriad of cosmic topics, from astral life at the frontiers of astrobiology to the movie industry's feeble efforts to get its images of night skies right.

Tyson introduces us to the physics of black holes by explaining what would happen to our bodies if we fell into one; he also examines the needless friction between science and religion, and notes Earth's status as "an insignificantly small speck in the cosmos".

Renowned for his ability to blend content, accessibility, and humor, Tyson is a natural teacher who simplifies some of the most complex concepts in astrophysics while sharing his infectious excitement for our universe.

©2007 Neil deGrasse Tyson; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Tyson takes readers on an exciting journey from Earth's hot springs...to the universe's farthest reaches....witty and entertaining." (Publishers Weekly)
"Smoothly entertaining, full of fascinating tidbits, and frequently humorous, these essays show Tyson as one of today's best popularizers of science." (Kirkus Reviews)
"[Tyson] demonstrates a good feel for explaining science in an intelligible way to interested lay readers; his rather rakish sense of humor should aid in making the book enjoyable." (Library Journal)

What Members Say

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  •  
    K-Rock Perkiomenville, PA United States 10-02-13
    K-Rock Perkiomenville, PA United States 10-02-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A little tough to follow, but pretty interesting"
    Would you listen to Death by Black Hole again? Why?

    Probably not. The "book" is actually a series of articles that are put together like a chapter book. As such there is a decent degree of redundancy. The plus side is that with repetition comes increased comprehension (as the subject matter can be a little heady for us non-science types)...the downside is that the book really could have been condensed by an order of a few hours with all the repeate material


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    the narrator is generally personable and you can easily visualize Neil deGrasse Tyson in his style. To each their own on this but I think the most compelling aspect of the narrative for me is getting a greater appreciation for the sheer magnitude of the universe versus the sheer insignficance of our place in it.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    For someone with nothing more than a beginners understanding of astrophysics, I found all of it pretty interesting. Probably, my favorite were the portions that focus on the potential for life on other planets.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    "bring your pillow" kidding. my guess is books on astrophysics don't translate well to the big screen. Probably better suited for PBS or the Discovery Channel


    Any additional comments?

    A little repetitious but fascinating stuff to the layman.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Saud 05-04-09
    Saud 05-04-09

    Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.

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    "Great Information, Great Narrator"

    For anyone interested in getting an informative and entertaining ride through the history of science and cosmology, this is the book for you.

    From Aristotle to Einstein to Hollywood and the multiverse, this book is a refreshing view on the history of cosmic research and theories. And yes, there is a whole chapter about what happens if you fall into a black hole.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry J. Marshall 01-31-08 Member Since 2011

    Medical Doctor Gastroenterologist and Infectious disease specialist Scientist. I collect calculators, I am learning Mandarin.

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    "Great Articles - Mostly pithy and enjoyable."

    These astronomy and science articles by Tyson are mostly very good. Some are a little bit simplistic but most are quite deep. I listened to it a few times and learned a lot. If I ever get back to New York I am going to drop by the planetarium and shake the author's hand.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Yoshida 12-21-13
    A. Yoshida 12-21-13
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    "Did you know the sun is white, not yellow?"

    This book is a compilation of essays from the Natural History magazine with some minor editing for continuity. It still reads like a compilation of essays with the common theme of the cosmos; it's not a book just about black holes or about our galaxy colliding with another galaxy and getting sucked into a black hole. Some of the material in the book is a little complex for a non-scientist. An amateur astronomer would probably find the entire book interesting. For the general public, only certain chapters would be fascinating. For example, the sun is white, not yellow. If it was yellow, then white stuff (like snow) would look yellow. After reading that, it seems obvious that the sun is white. Yet most people have this misconception. It is worth reading to know some of our mistaken ideas about the universe.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 10-31-13
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 10-31-13 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Engaging pop science"

    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.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason FPO, AP, United States 10-21-13
    Jason FPO, AP, United States 10-21-13 Member Since 2013
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    "An entertaining scientific journey"

    The content is fantastic and vivid, roughly walking us through the start of the universe to our modern understanding of that start, always with a strong astronomical and cosmic perspective.

    One of the most fascinating parts to me was fairly early on in the book, when the author described all of the scientific observations and deductions that could be made just by sticking a stick in the ground and observing its shadow!

    I also appreciated, in a slightly terrifying way, the breakdown of the various ways the human race might be wiped out due to some space-borne or space-delivered disaster. Tyson shares an extremely provoking thought when he mentions that we as humans may one day be extinct and, upon being examined by some future intelligent species on this planet, wonders how big-brained mammals met the same fate of extinction as the "pea-brained" dinosaurs!

    The reader is wonderful, with appropriate emphasis and pacing and the production is top-notch delivering a clear and crisp recording.

    Overall, I really enjoyed this and it goes on my "re-listen in the future" list - both because it is such an enjoyable read, but also because there is so much fascinating information that I feel a second (or possibly even third) listen is needed to absorb it all!

    If you are interested in matters of mankind progressing in the scientific endeavor, in matters astronomical or cosmological, and especially if you might like to hear how it could all go sideways on us due to the massive forces at work in our universe - I can highly recommend this book!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Waco, TX 05-06-13
    Chris Waco, TX 05-06-13
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    "Dr. Tyson has Done it Again"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Death by Black Hole to be better than the print version?

    I'd consider the audio edition equivalent or better than the print version. Neil deGrasse Tyson has such a talent for explaining advanced concepts in a way that is accessible to the everyman. He explores the works of the greatest minds in human history and condenses them into a non-technical, accessible medium for all to enjoy. Rest assured, there is nothing lost in enjoying this book in the audio format. Aside from the proverbial "E=mc^2" there are no formulas to intimidate and no mathematics required.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I'm sure this is better suited as a question for a fiction novel. I mean, is Neil an option?


    What does Dion Graham bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Dion Graham brings this book to life and seems very at ease discussing concepts of the universe as we know it. He's very easy to understand and follow and is on my list of enjoyable narrators.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    As I have a background in physics there was not a lot for me to learn scientifically from this book; however, I can always find better ways to explain advanced concepts and make them accessible by listening to Dr. Tyson's musings.


    Any additional comments?

    Yes, if you are a scientific enthusiast, just curious about the world around you, or you chair the physics department at a prestigious university, you'll find something worth knowing here. Neil deGrasse Tyson has a remarkable talent for explaining the universe around us and I've met no rival to him.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tiogshi Nanaimo, BC, Canada 04-01-08
    Tiogshi Nanaimo, BC, Canada 04-01-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Parables in Science Fiction"

    A good many wonderful essays, but even more valuably, parables and weavings, are found within this book. A bit of Tyson's material is a bit pretentious for my tastes, but it comes rarely and is easily recognized when it does.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terry Sherman Oaks, CA, USA 01-20-08
    Terry Sherman Oaks, CA, USA 01-20-08 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
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    "One of my all-time favorites"

    Physics the way I like it - easy to comprehend, with more than a dash of humor. One of the best laymen's science books I've ever read. And Neil DeGrasse Tyson is my favorite astrophysicist: ever since I saw him on TV show "The Universe" I've wanted to read his books.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 07-08-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    "Fascinating"

    I can tell this is one of those books I will be listening to over and over again. Kept me up long into the night staring at the stars.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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  • Katie
    Newton Abbot, Devon, United Kingdom
    8/17/10
    Overall
    "Brilliant"

    Unusually for a non ficton book this made me laugh out loud in parts. A ripping good listen for anyone wanting to learn about the cosmos and be entertained!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Juliet
    Compton Martin, Bristol, United Kingdom
    3/24/10
    Overall
    "Arduous"

    Have given up listening to this repeatedly as it failed to grab my attention...

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Diana
    Lydney, United Kingdom
    4/15/09
    Overall
    "left brained"

    Good stuff within but author rather stuck in his own academic thinking to think outside the box.
    Not for those who like to explore other ways of thinking.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Anthony
    GardenviewSouth Africa
    2/6/09
    Overall
    "Great Content Badly Read"

    Audible is one of the best things since sliced bread. Of the books I've downloaded only one has irritated me to the extent I felt I had to post a review.
    The content of this book is amazing, exciting and real. It contains a number of concepts that need to be digested and thought over and this is where the problem lies.
    The reader attacks the content in such a way that there's hardly a pause between words and certainly no time to even think about the points made let alone mull them over for a fraction of a second.
    I have never heard written words spoken so quickly for so long and I'm amazed that the producer (or whatever the right name is for the overseer of a recording) didn't recognize this and either get a new reader or cancel the production completely.
    This may sound a little harsh but I was just not able to get beyond the second hour of what promised to be an amazing journey.
    The book is worthy of being re-recorded... with a carefully selected reader. Which brings me to a general question... how are readers selected?

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Christopher
    Cheltenham, United Kingdom
    12/21/08
    Overall
    "Down to Earth, in a space sort of way"

    I've an inherent interest in anything "space" and physics, but this book is quite superb. The information is presented in an easily understandable way, with technical terms explained. There is subtle humour to keep it light hearted. I've listened to it several times now, and still want to go back for more!
    Bravo

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Aernout
    Cape TownSouth Africa
    7/8/10
    Overall
    "The worst clown taking you on a nightmare tour"

    I have honestly given this guy a try, a few times even. First when I bought it, over a year ago, and again a few months later, and I tried it again earlier this week. But what should indeed be a Journey Through It All becomes a guided tour where after a few block you feel like doing something bad to the guide because of his irritant way of trying to be the superstar himself instead of showing you around.
    Both the author as well as the narrator (haven't checked if they're the same or not) think they are the Clown of the Class Room with the worst jokes ever, the most boring 'tongue in cheek' attempts to entertain, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

    If through the horrible text a star shines through it is - trust me - because of the strength of the star and is in no way caused by this most boring of books ever to have graced my virtual bookshelf.

    Although I have loads of space on my disk, this book is going through the digital destructor.

    What an absolute waste of money, time and effort...
    Worst audiobook in my wide collection.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Becki
    United Kingdom
    3/17/10
    Overall
    "Interesting but heavy going."

    From other reviews I was expecting something along the lines of A Brief History of Nearly Everything but I was disappointed. Although this is undeniably interesting and fascinating at points, this book is regularly hard-going. Bryson is an average person who (just like us) is trying to get to grips with some truly mind-blowing subjects but at the end of the day Tyson is a scientist and therefore struggles to lay it out for the average person. Mildly amusing at points and I must say that I understand more than I ever have done about the wonders of the sloar system. If you're prepared to concentrate and admit you might not understand it all then it's worth it.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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