Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries

by Neil deGrasse Tyson


A vibrant collection of essays on the cosmos from the nation's best-known astrophysicist. “One of today’s best popularizers of science.”—Kirkus Reviews.

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 stunning clarity and almost childlike enthusiasm. Here, Tyson compiles his favorite essays across a myriad of cosmic topics. The title essay introduces readers to the physics of black holes by explaining the gory details of what would happen to your body if you fell into one. "Holy Wars" examines the needless friction between science and religion in the context of historical conflicts. "The Search for Life in the Universe" explores astral life from the frontiers of astrobiology. And "Hollywood Nights" assails the movie industry's feeble efforts to get its night skies right. 

Known 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 simultaneously sharing his infectious excitement about our universe.


From Publishers Weekly
What would it feel like if your spaceship were to venture too close to the black hole lurking at the center of the Milky Way? According to astrophysicist Tyson, director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium, size does matter when it comes to black holes, although the chances of your surviving the encounter aren't good in any case. Tyson takes readers on an exciting journey from Earth's hot springs, where extremophiles flourish in hellish conditions, to the frozen, desolate stretches of the Oort Cloud and the universe's farthest reaches, in both space and time. Tyson doesn't restrict his musings to astrophysics, but wanders into related fields like relativity and particle physics, which he explains just as clearly as he does Lagrangian points, where we someday may park interplanetary filling stations. He tackles popular myths (is the sun yellow?) and takes movie directors—most notably James Cameron—to task for spectacular goofs. In the last section the author gives his take on the hot subject of intelligent design. Readers of Natural History magazine will be familiar with many of the 42 essays collected here, while newcomers will profit from Tyson's witty and entertaining description of being pulled apart atom by atom into a black hole, and other, closer-to-earth, and cheerier, topics. 9 illus. (Jan.) 
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From Booklist
Whenever astronomy intrudes on the news, interviewers flock to the telegenic Tyson for an explanation. The high-profile astrophysicist is also an essayist for Natural History, the American Museum of Natural History's monthly that is the source for this volume. His pieces are organized under whimsical banners such as "All the ways the cosmos wants to kill us," and Tyson's style will connect with general readers who are interested in the form the apocalypse will take. Scientists know that in a few billion years, an expanding sun will vaporize the earth, provided it's not been previously destroyed by a rogue black hole. Besides regaling spooky stories, the selections deploy movies as an astronomy popularizer, with Tyson critiquing the accuracy of the sky depicted in various scenes. Elsewhere, topics in the history of astronomy and physics fall into two categories: essays about the discovery of physical laws, and about cosmic objects such as galactic gas clouds and quasars. Whatever readers' scientific tastes, something in Tyson's wide-ranging collection will sate them. Gilbert Taylor
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