Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

I have an email routine. First, I delete all the SPAMMY emails. Then I go through my SPAM folder in a neurotic search for any important emails that accidentally got placed in the SPAM. It was through this routine that I ended up spotting an email from Audible reminding me that I had some unspent credits. This was also a good reminder that I was subscribed to Audible.

So I went in and downloaded a bunch of stuff I’d been meaning to read. One of those was Neil deGrasse Tyson’s short book explaining the awesomeness of the universe. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to separate any allegations of sexual impropriety, but here’s a Vox article reporting on it for the sake of openness.

I listened to this entire book twice, and I feel an incredible urge to dive in one more time. I never experienced a significant longing to understand the universe growing up; I stuck with physics in high school and then took it in college because I figured it would be the easiest way to fulfill the “lab” requirement for my Bachelor’s Degree. I know, I know … this is a horrible approach to higher learning and I should be ashamed. But I was a creative writer, damn it! I had more important things to do, like write horror stories about evil frost creatures taking over towns in the dead of winter.

One of the biggest challenges with this book is its scope. No matter how well Tyson explains concepts like the Big Bang and Dark Matter and the basic elements of the periodic table, the sheer scope of the universe is so immense that we have trouble conceptualizing it. The book starts with the Big Bang, and the numerous events that take place literally one second after it occurs. Tyson takes you through the creation of stars, the explosion of stars that leads to new periodic elements that can form planets over the course of millions of years, and the creation of new elements as the result of the immense explosion that took place at the birth of the known universe.

Good books get you thinking. This book changed the way I look up at the stars. I’m thirsty for more now, and I feel a tremendous respect for the scientists who have advanced our understanding of the universe. I read news articles now about Dark Matter with feverish dedication. Just as importantly, I think more about the people who choose to ignore the amazing scientific breakthroughs in order to maintain a dogmatic rigidity within their belief system. I feel sorry for anyone who can’t accept the beauty of the natural world, the laws that govern our universe, and the birth of life itself billions of years ago. Where does space end? What happened before the Big Bang? How do we answer these questions if we can’t expand our conception of time and space? I love thinking about this.

I love this book.