Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries

by Neil deGrasse Tyson


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"[Tyson] tackles a great range of subjects…with great humor, humility, and—most important—humanity." —Entertainment Weekly

Loyal readers of the monthly "Universe" essays in Natural History magazine have long recognized Neil deGrasse Tyson's talent for guiding them through the mysteries of the cosmos with clarity and enthusiasm. Bringing together more than forty of Tyson's favorite essays, Death by Black Hole explores a myriad of cosmic topics, from what it would be like to be inside a black hole to the movie industry's feeble efforts to get its night skies right. One of America's best-known astrophysicists, Tyson is a natural teacher who simplifies the complexities of astrophysics while sharing his infectious fascination for our universe.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393350388
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 09/02/2014
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 48,715
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History, director of its world-famous Hayden Planetarium, host of the hit radio and TV show StarTalk, and the New York Times best-selling author of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. He lives in New York City.

Table of Contents

Preface     11
Acknowledgments     13
Prologue: The Beginning of Science     15
The Nature of Knowledge: The challenges of knowing what is knowable in the universe
Coming to Our Senses     25
On Earth as in the Heavens     31
Seeing Isn't Believing     38
The Information Trap     48
Stick-in-the-Mud Science     60
The Knowledge of Nature: The challenges of discovering the contents of the cosmos
Journey from the Center of the Sun     69
Planet Parade     75
Vagabonds of the Solar System     85
The Five Points of Lagrange     95
Antimatter Matters     102
Ways and Means of Nature: How Nature presents herself to the inquiring mind
The Importance of Being Constant     111
Speed Limits     119
Going Ballistic     127
On Being Dense     135
Over the Rainbow     144
Cosmic Windows     152
Colors of the Cosmos     161
Cosmic Plasma     168
Fire and Ice     175
The Meaning of Life: The challenges and triumphs of knowing how we got here
Dust to Dust     185
Forged in the Stars     192
Send in the Clouds     199
Goldilocks and the Three Planets     207
Water, Water     213
Living Space     221
Life in the Universe     229
Our Radio Bubble     238
When the Universe Turns Bad: All the ways the cosmos wants to kill us
Chaos in the Solar System     249
Coming Attractions     254
Ends of the World     263
Galactic Engines     268
Knock 'Em Dead     275
Death by Black Hole     283
Science and Culture: The ruffled interface between cosmic discovery and the public's reaction to it
Things People Say     291
Fear of Numbers     298
On Being Baffled     303
Footprints in the Sands of Science     309
Let There Be Dark     320
Hollywood Nights     327
Science and God: When ways of knowing collide
In the Beginning     337
Holy Wars     346
The Perimeter of Ignorance     353
References     363
Name Index     369
Subject Index     373

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Death by Black Hole 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 112 reviews.
Calatelpe More than 1 year ago
This book is very easy to read, even if you are not otherwise very interested in science. One of its stronger points is its accessibility to laypeople. If you've ever seen him speak on tv, then you know how capable he is of making everything he talks about incredibly interesting (even if it might otherwise come off as mundane by someone with even a little less enthusiasm). His writing style is no different, and his own love of science (and astrophysics in particular) is infectious. I learned a lot of really interesting things from this book, things of which I had been disappointingly ignorant of beforehand. Lagrange points, for instance, or how just how much you can determine about the universe by literally measure it with a stick in the mud. Were you interested in the universe, in astronomy when you were a little kid...did you grow out of it? This book will take you back to that early appreciation, and it'll never let go.
Susan Nord More than 1 year ago
Neil deGrasse Tyson's enthusiasm for the universe is really shown in this book. Filled with humor, Death by Black Hole takes complex subjects and exposes them to the reader in a way that is very easy to understand. I benifitted from reading this book twice to better understand some of the concepts. Enthralling!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read about half of this book for school, and found myself reading way ahead and finishing the entire thing. Even if you knew nothing about science and the cosmos, you could understand this. Tysonexplains everything clearly amd in depth. Great buy!
Old_Sage More than 1 year ago
In writing "Death by Black Hole," Neil Degrasse Tyson has proven once again that he is an exceptional Astrophysicist. His mental dexterity related to matters of science and the universe are beyond reproach. Although I would recommend his writings and lectures for the general reader to the scholar, I would caution the mentally obtuse to refresh their understanding of general science so that they can fully appreciate the insightfulness of "Death by Black Hole." I would also recommend reviewing Dr. Tyson's presentation during his contribution to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies' scientific conversation titled "Beyond Belief: Science, Reason, Religion & Survival." For those also interested in esoteric teachings, "Death by Black Hole" informs us that stars come in 3 basic colors: red, white, and blue. Interestingly, these were also the 3 colors chosen for the flag of the United States. Part of the brillance of Dr. Tyson and his book is how he takes common knowledge and sprinkles it with scientific study to make a cerebral subject like astrophyics interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is anyone else having trouble with the order of posts? I am not getting the most recent first for some reason... <p> Sapphirestar pulls herself upright once Spiritnight is removed from her, and she looks at Lavamist with unfamiliarity. There was a time she would have assumed Lavamist would always trust her, that if she had a reason to mistrust another she would trust her. "You're right Lavamist, I don't know what I'm thinking. I'm normally unfair and accusing, aren't I? You have reason not to believe me," Sapphirestar says to the younger shecat in sarcasm. "But why don't you ask Spiritnight? Since he is so trustworthy," the tabby directs her burning blue gaze at the tom, "ask him what I might have learned during my stay with the Ice Claws." <br> Spiritnight doesn't fight Lavamist when she pulls him back but growls a warning to Sapphirestar. He remains silent as she speaks and realizes too late that Sapphirestar knows his entire story. His heart pounds in his ears but still the tom maintains his silence. <br> Sapphirestar's gaze sharpens further and she slowly says, "Tell Lavamist the truth, show me there is even the slightest bit of honesty within you and speak up, or I will."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book! It was very well-written and easy to understand. Dr. Tyson passes on a world (galaxy?) (universe?) of information in a highly entertaining manner. I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in general science, astronomy, or cosmology. I have read a number of books on this subject, but still learned a lot from this one. Put it at the top of your must-read list!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best book ever
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great book for all that want to know about the cosmos without falling asleep.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tyson takes the dryness out of the topic of the universe and makes the reader want to keep turning the page. I couldn't put this book down and is a great intro to a complex suject.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As the title says this book was very informative. I liked the format it was presented in, which I can't really can't put in a category. Tyson did a good job explaining some basic, and some more advanced, topics.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Devil_llama on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a rarity - a book about astrophysics that is very readable and easy to understand. The author has a sense of humor, and mixes in pop culture references with high quality prose, offering lucid explanations for hard to understand science that bring much needed clarity to a much abused subject. The book is easy to read, and it's fun. I do wish, however, that scientists writing about this topic (or any biological topic, too) would not take on the question of Science and God. That's better left for books dealing specifically with that topic, and while Tyson did not give the religious much to feel good about, there are some words or phrases that could easily be pulled out of context and used (gleefully) by those who seek to persuade the easily persuadable that scientists are finding God (Tyson never said anything of the sort, and was quite unequivocal on the fact that there is no compatibility between religion and science as they are currently being done). In addition, it does tend to give the religious the idea that there is something about their obsessions that make them worthy of discussion in a serious science book. However, this book is a truly fine book, and carping aside, I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to understand what really is "out there" and "bigger than ourselves". (I'll give you a hint: it's known as the universe).
coffyman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent essays! Fascinating insight and very informative. Couldn't put it down.
cmbohn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I just found this one hard going. I don't know if it was the writing or if it was me, but I found myself losing interest and putting it aside again and again. Finally gave up. My favorite essay was "Goldilocks and the Three Planets" about Venus, Mars, and Earth and how earth is "just right."
ccavalli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great collection of his essays on astronomical topics in all their vastness! Tyson is information, understandable, and funny which makes the book enjoyable for anyone interested in astronomy, from those just learning to those who already know a lot. Great read!
readermom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great title for a book, that alone made me want to read it. Of course, this is the type of book I will almost always pick up from the library. It is a collection of essays on science for the magazine Natural History. It covers a wide range of topics, usually relating to physics, from particle physics to astrophysics. I love this stuff and I only wish I retained enough math to be able to read more technical discussions than these rather general essays.The essays are informative and entertaining. A lot has changed in the 17 years since I took my particle physics class at BYU, so I am always interested to learn more. Not only does he describe what is happening in science, he describes the edges very well. By edges I mean the places where scientists are not sure what is happening and are actively searching for answers. That is always the most interesting part of any science. The problem today is that to get to that edge, you have to take years of schooling to understand what they are looking for. Once the edge could be explored in your home lab or a field (if you were Benjamin Franklin) now you need millions of dollars and a space telescope.The book is a bit repetitive, though that often happens with collections of essays because each one had to be self contained and couldn't refer to last month's issue. There has been a bit of editing to smooth out the sequencing and to make it an easier read.While I enjoyed all the essays, I took exception to the last one, entitled, The Perimeter of Ignorance. Here is the author's basic premise, Writing in centuries past, many scientists felt compelled to wax poetic about cosmic mysteries and God's handiwork. Perhaps one should not be surprised at this: most scientists back then, as well as many scientists today, identify themselves as spiritually devout. But a careful reading of older texts, particularly those concerned with the universe itself, shows that the authors invoke divinity only when they reach the boundaries of their understanding. They appeal to a higher power only when staring at the ocean of their own ignorance. They call on God only from the lonely and precarious edge of incomprehension. Where they feel certain about their explanations, however, God hardly gets a mention.He goes on from this hypothesis to give some quotes from Newton and other scientists, who do indeed see an explanation for the unexplainable in the presence of God. He then links this tendency to the current vogue for intelligent design. That also follows, more or less. I have my own issues with intelligent design, at least how it is being explained and used in the public sphere, but I won't go into all that here. The problem I have is that the author considers an appeal to deity as an admission of failure and the mental equivalent of throwing up your hands and saying, "Heck if I know, only God could figure that out, I will just go find something easier to study, like Paris Hilton." He says, in talking about intelligent design and the dangers of it, I don't want students who could make the next major breakthrough in renewable energy sources or space travel to have been taught that anything they don't understand, and that nobody yet understands, is divinely constructed and therefore beyond their intellectual capacity.Since when is saying something is divinely designed the same as saying we are not capable of understanding it? As a devout person, but one who would have been a scientist, if not for a few chance decisions and a problem with basic arithmetic, I find everything divinely inspired, even those things we do understand. Too many people equate religion with ignorance, without considering the fact that the intelligent people who believe, must have a valid reason for doing so. And similarly, there are many ignorant people who have no religion. I cringe whenever a particularly proud, ignorant and Christian person is on the news saying something stupid because that just reinforces this ignorance=relig
plenilune on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you love astronomy, but have never had much of a mind for math or complex theory (like myself), this is the perfect book for you. Tyson never underestimates his reader; he manages to write about complicated things in every day language without making you feel like he's dumbed them down. Note that it is a collection (originally these were online essays) so there's some occasional repetition. Still, I found the book downright fascinating.
jefware on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Entertaining but not real coherent.
meggyweg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had never read a book about astrophysics before, and I'm pretty illiterate in the hard sciences in general. In spite of those facts, I could sort of understand this one. I think Dr. Tyson does a good job of illuminating his specialty for the lay reader. The book had many surprising and intriguing facts, it was often funny, and I completely agree with Dr. Tyson's views on "intelligent design."
susanadewey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great book. Worth reading more than once.
KApplebaum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What's not to love about a book with a name like this? Yeah, just more proof that I'm a science geek. (Don't mess with me - I have a slide rule, and I'm not afraid to use it!)
Phyrexicaid on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fantastic! What a great set of essays, highly enjoyable.
whitetara on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had the opportunity to take an intro to astrophysics course that was taught by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Charles Liu at the Museum of Natural History in NYC. Neil is a great teacher and this book reads exactly as he speaks - quick-witted and factually with plenty of easy to relate to references that help to bring the science to laymen. The book will be a quick read and a review for anyone that is well versed in the basic topics of astrophysics but for those that have an interest and have never read anything about it before, this would be great to start with. For those that have already delved into this arena, I feel they'll find it too basic. But well written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A cinder colored female with amber orbs padded in. Deep inside her yellow cresents fire flickered slowly, desperate to be let out. With one flick of her black ears she turned to get a good look around. "Hello." She purred slowly, sitting down after she was content.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stumbled in with 2 small kits trailing behind her. "Can I join?"