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Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

W. W. Norton & Company

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4.6 ratings
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Celebrity scientist Tyson's profound intellect is matched by his charm and wit. In this slim title, he attempts to explain some of the most complex astrophysics concepts in layman's terms. Readers should be prepared for a challenging yet edifying experience from the get-go: "In the beginning…all the space and all the matter and all the energy of the known universe was contained in a volume less than one-trillionth the size of the period that ends this sentence." Tyson riffs on topics such as gravity, the speed and makeup of light, the shape of space, and dark matter, maintaining as chatty a tone as possible as he tries to make these important principles comprehensible to the uninitiated. VERDICT Likely to resonate the most with those with a scientific bent, but Tyson's pop culture appeal expands the audience somewhat.—Jamie Watson, Baltimore County Public Library


"Neil deGrasse Tyson makes a big bang with Astrophysics for People in a Hurry."
Sloane Crosley, Vanity Fair

"Tyson is a master of streamlining and simplification....taking mind-bogglingly complex ideas, stripping them down to their nuts and bolts, padding them with colorful allegories and dorky jokes, and making them accessible to the layperson"

"This book will keep you fascinated with succinct and dynamic explanations of a wide variety of astronomical topics. A winner that every astronomy enthusiast should have on the bookshelf!"
David J. Eicher, Astronomy

"This may have been written for people in a hurry, but I urge you to take your time. It will all be over far too soon."

"Engaging and illuminating."

"Tyson manifests science brilliantly....[his] insights are valuable for any leader, teacher, scientist or educator."

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will blow your mind....it is awesome."

"Infectiously enthusiastic, humorous and, above all, accessible....reading
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is both a humbling and exhilarating experience."

About the Author

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Times best-selling author of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. He lives in New York City.

Over a year on the New York Times bestseller list and more than a million copies sold.

The essential universe, from our most celebrated and beloved astrophysicist.

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

While you wait for your morning coffee to brew, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.

Ratings & Reviews

4.6 ratings
Customer Reviews
  • Billy Stewart

    4.0 out of 5 stars Greatly enjoyable…

    I see one or two star reviews because this is difficult to understand for novices or passers-by looking to glean some basics about the cosmos. I believe this is because people read the title and expect the book to contain basic, introductory information. Here the title may be interpreted as a ‘Astrophysics for Dummies’ or ‘Astrophysics 101’ type of study, but the book’s title, and more so the book’s epigraph, (“For all those who are too busy to read fat books yet nonetheless seek a conduit to the cosmos”) suggest that a lot of information is presented in a concise read with a plethora of details shortened in summary. And so it is.Some low to middling reviews lament Mr. Tyson’s glazing over topics with less detail than would be preferred. Here I believe the brevity offered for each topic is exactly what the title promises: a quick, detailed read with an assumption that the reader has a basic understanding of math and science that informs astrophysics. And so the 12 chapters, each broken in to smaller, quick-burst summaries, provide history and present-day knowledge of the topics that explain mankind’s understanding of the universe.Granted, I am not an astrophysicist, nor am I of much value to any form of science or math in general, being that I’m massively right-brained, more a musician, poet, satirist, writer, philosopher.But I love the cosmos! I find a beauty in the universe that quickens my heart, inflates my lungs, consumes my mind, floods my spirit, and allows deep fascination to etch itself within my soul. The unfathomable expanse in which this little blue planet upon which we live exists, like a infinitesimal Lilliputian in a Brobdingnagian sea, is simultaneously mesmerizing and terrifying. In the beauty of what appears to be chaos is actually scientific principle governed by concrete, scientifically sound laws. I find peace and am stilled by the possibilities. Also, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s approach to the universe, and his intense interest in things which affect our daily lives on earth but aren’t particularly relevant to astrophysics, is unique, funny, easily interactive, and deeply moving.So, yes, I read this book, I understood the basic principles of science, the bases of mathematical models, all concepts absorbed by my artistic lens which is informed by my penchant for learning as an autodidact. I’m greatly pleased! Our universe is gorgeous and the laws that govern its existence are enjoyably complex but herein adroitly explained.

  • Roy McCullough

    5.0 out of 5 stars A quick, enjoyable, and fascinating read

    A short and accessible introduction to many of the mysteries of the universe. Did you know, for example, that: 1) we still don’t know what dark matter is, but we do know that it is responsible for holding the Universe together; 2) that dark matter comprises 27% of all mass-energy in the universe, that the equally mysterious dark energy is responsible for a whopping 68%, and that the ‘regular’ matter that makes up our known world accounts for just 5%; 3) that a hundred billion neutrinos from the Sun pass through every thumbnail square of your body every second, without a trace of interaction with your body’s systems; 3) “A single breath of air draws in more air molecules than there are breathfuls of air in the Earth’s entire atmosphere. That means that some of the air you just breathed passed through the lungs of Napoleon, Beethoven, Lincoln, and Billy the Kid;” 4) “There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on any beach [and] more stars than seconds have passed since Earth formed;” 5) the universe is expanding rapidly and its galaxies are hurtling away from each other. That means “in a trillion years or so, anyone alive in our own galaxy may know nothing of other galaxies. Our observable universe will merely comprise a system of nearby, long-lived stars within the Milky Way”. The book contains many more interesting nuggets and mind-boggling insights into our weird and amazing universe. All food for thought and philosophical introspection. A quick and enjoyable read.

  • Bill Reuter

    5.0 out of 5 stars Easy read!

    Great book. Best read in Neil’s voice. A lot of information, but he puts it into relatable text. I plowed through this book in a couple days.

  • edsetiadi

    4.0 out of 5 stars After the laws of physics, everything else is opinion

    I read this book because I wanted to learn the basics about astrophysics. But as I quickly discovered, this is not astrophysics for dummies. Yes it’s a relatively quick read but Neil deGrasse Tyson seems to wrote it with the assumption of basic knowledge from the readers.Nevertheless, the general feel about the subject can still be understood.Firstly, we can assert without further hesitation that the universe had a beginning. The universe also continues to evolve, with every atom in our body is traceable to the Big Bang and to “the thermonuclear furnaces within high-mass stars that exploded more than five billion years ago.”Moreover, while the Big Bang occurred 13.8 billion years ago, it took another 380,000 years before we can see any matter forming, and few more billion years to form a planet that we call home. Yes, time moves slowly in the universe, and in the grand scale of things our 70-100 years of life, by contrast, is ridiculously short.Furthermore, there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on any beach, more stars than seconds have passed since Earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago. In fact, there are about 100 billion galaxies that we have discovered so far in the universe, one of which is our Milky Way galaxy that in turn contains approximately 100 billion more stars, with one of them is our Sun. We truly are nothing but a speck of dust in the face of the massive universe.Meanwhile, as one star (our Sun) can have several planets orbiting it, other stars also have planets orbiting them and quite a lot of these planets are at a similar distance like the Earth to the Sun, not too close that it evaporates the water but not too far that it freezes the water. In other words, there are thousands of planets that have been found so far that are habitable and have the potential to support life just like on Earth.I also find it particularly intriguing that Newton’s Law of Gravity also guides planets, asteroids, and comets in their orbit around the Sun and organised the orbit of the billion stars within our Milky Way Galaxy. This, as it turns out, is a common thing in the world of science: that everything from nature to space all follow certain laws of physics, while everything else, as Tyson remarks, is opinion.The book also mentions so many fascinating facts such as different colour have different temperature, it also features the explanations of most of the elements in the periodic table, amusing speculations like the possibility that Earthlings might just be a descendant of Martians, and many, many space-science stuff that I find it challenging to digest.Needless to say, I came here to find answers but come out with more questions. Questions like what’s in the space between galaxies? Who or what neatly organised the gravitational orbits of the planets and the stars? What is a supermassive black hole? What’s on the dark side of the moon? What’s that bright thing in the center of the Milky Way galaxy?But I guess that’s what a stimulating book is supposed to do, and the amount of mysteries about the space that we still haven’t uncovered yet are intriguing to closely follow.

  • benjamin chandler

    5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book

    Neil nailed it.

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