“The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.” Neil deGrasse Tyson
“Neither is this book” Me
In an alternate universe (multiverse), I imagine that I am an astrophysicist, because I am endlessly fascinated by the subject. In this universe, however, I am sadly kind of an idiot. I adore Neil deGrasse Tyson – from his dumb dad jokes to his outlandish enthusiasm for all things in heaven and earth, Horatio, he is my favorite nerd. I even have a Google alert set for him and I only have three of those total (Jane Austen, Kit Harrington, obviously). So I was excited to hear that he was coming out with a book, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, as though all that is standing between me and a comprehensive understanding of the laws and theories of physics is … time.
In retrospect, what I really need is a book called Astrophysics for People Who Subscribe to More Than Two Philosophy Podcasts or Astrophysics for Political Science Majors. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t learn anything, because I did. I will have you know that I used the word ‘heliocentric’ conversationally yesterday, eliciting a raised eyebrow of one of my best friends. There is a whole lot of information in this small book, but brevity is not the key to understanding.
Instead, we get through the Big Bang, dark matter, invisible light, exoplanets, quarks and quantum mechanics in what feels like the speed of light (see what I did there?). I enjoyed it, but I could have done with a lot more explanations – I mean, please do not assume that I know that dark energy is not that goo that Voldemort lived in for eleven years before he took over Quirrell’s body in that weird turban, okay?
If you are going to tackle this, I highly recommend the audiobook, narrated by Tyson himself, wherein he laughs at his own jokes like the dork he is. The book’s synopsis claims that this book will ‘bring the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly’, but I think they’re assuming a fairly high baseline of knowledge about the cosmos. But what the hell… stretch yourself.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry – Grade B+