Astrophysics for People in a Hurry book cover

“Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, W.W. Norton & Company, 222 pages, $18.95

Astrophysics is a branch of science that may seem beyond the grasp of most individuals, including this humble reviewer. Fortunately, readers curious about pursuing the marvels of the cosmos have Neil DeGrasse Tyson and his predecessor, Carl Sagan, to hold our hands on the journey.

Tyson, who recently became America’s first recipient of the Stephen Hawking medal for science communication, intended “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” as an introduction to his ever-evolving field. Surprisingly, the book immediately rose to No. 1 on the New York Times’ nonfiction best seller list.

As readers familiar with his 13-part television series, “Cosmos, A Space Time Odyssey,” already know, those who might feel overwhelmed by the subject matter should be reassured. Tyson’s feather-light approach to each ponderous topic is never intimidating.

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What other scientist would bother with a reminder that Chuck Berry’s music was deemed one of the diverse sounds of our planet which would be included on the Voyager space probe? Tyson even recalls the “Saturday Night Live” aliens’ response which requested us to “send more Chuck Berry.”

And what other author would be able to gently connect such diverse subjects as dark matter, the origin of the universe, and the infinitesimal components of quantum physics? He relates the discovery of the invisible electromagnetic spectrum to the realization that telescopes could be built to perceive wavelengths beyond those seen by the human eye. Thus the discipline of astrophysics was born.

By linking the cosmic explosion of stars to the formation of the basic chemical elements, he joins humankind to the entire inanimate universe.

Tyson’s book will make the reader ponder how Homo sapiens arrived upon this small blue pebble we call home and what wonders are yet to be discovered.

J. Kemper Campbell, M.D., is a retired Lincoln ophthalmologist who felt more intelligent by simply carrying this book around.


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