Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Books: Death by Black Hole


Looking at the title, you might think that "Death by Black Hole" is some kind of sci-fi murder mystery. In fact, it's a collection of astronomy essays from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, a columnist for "Natural History" magazine. These are aimed at the non-astronomer, someone who might be literate in science but doesn't know too much about the inner workings of the cosmos.

I wish more people were interested in astronomy. While on the surface it might not be all that practical, I think it gives one a lot of perspective. For instance, it becomes faintly ridiculous to see Russia and Georgia fighting over scraps of land, that, in the cosmic scheme of things, might as well be dust motes.

Tyson's book is a fun exploration of a lot of the oddities of space - like how the photons hitting you from the Sun are a million years old, or how the titular phenomenon works ("spaghettification" is the technical term). I guess hardcore astronomy types won't actually learn much new from this book, but for everyone else, it's an interesting read.

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