Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries

4.4 105
by Neil deGrasse Tyson

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“[Tyson] tackles a great range of subjects . . . with great humor, humility, and—most important— humanity.” —Entertainment Weekly
Loyal readers of the monthly "Universe" essays in Natural History magazine have long recognized Neil deGrasse Tyson's talent for guiding them through the mysteries of the cosmos with clarity and enthusiasm.


“[Tyson] tackles a great range of subjects . . . with great humor, humility, and—most important— humanity.” —Entertainment Weekly
Loyal readers of the monthly "Universe" essays in Natural History magazine have long recognized Neil deGrasse Tyson's talent for guiding them through the mysteries of the cosmos with clarity and enthusiasm. Bringing together more than forty of Tyson's favorite essays, ?Death by Black Hole? explores a myriad of cosmic topics, from what it would be like to be inside a black hole to the movie industry's feeble efforts to get its night skies right. One of America's best-known astrophysicists, Tyson is a natural teacher who simplifies the complexities of astrophysics while sharing his infectious fascination for our universe.

Editorial Reviews

Sky and Telescope
“Characteristically fun and jaunty.”
Angela Gunn -
“Dr. Tyson has a grand time dissecting certain forms of foolishness. Get it, plan to savor it”
Roy E. Perry - The Tennessean
“Tyson comes across as having an excellent grasp of the current state of astrophysics, cosmology, chemistry and other scientific disciplines... he conveys knowledge clearly to the nonspecialist, often with ingratiating humor and wit.”
Anthony Doerr - Boston Sunday Globe
“It's more imperative than ever that we find writers who can explain not only what we're discovering, but how we're discovering it. Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of those writers.”
Each month in Natural History magazine, columnist Neil de Grasse Tyson takes a different slant on the universe. His topics range the cosmos; from jaunty putdowns of Hollywood "science" to learned speculation about a close encounter with a ravenous black hole. The author of Death by Black Hole is no mere poseur: He serves as an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History and is the Director of New York City's famed Hayden Planetarium. This collection of essays cover the field; it even includes a fascinating critique of intelligent design.
Publishers Weekly
What would it feel like if your spaceship were to venture too close to the black hole lurking at the center of the Milky Way? According to astrophysicist Tyson, director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium, size does matter when it comes to black holes, although the chances of your surviving the encounter aren't good in any case. Tyson takes readers on an exciting journey from Earth's hot springs, where extremophiles flourish in hellish conditions, to the frozen, desolate stretches of the Oort Cloud and the universe's farthest reaches, in both space and time. Tyson doesn't restrict his musings to astrophysics, but wanders into related fields like relativity and particle physics, which he explains just as clearly as he does Lagrangian points, where we someday may park interplanetary filling stations. He tackles popular myths (is the sun yellow?) and takes movie directors most notably James Cameron to task for spectacular goofs. In the last section the author gives his take on the hot subject of intelligent design. Readers of Natural History magazine will be familiar with many of the 42 essays collected here, while newcomers will profit from Tyson's witty and entertaining description of being pulled apart atom by atom into a black hole, and other, closer-to-earth, and cheerier, topics. 9 illus. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This essay collection was originally published over 11 years in Natural History magazine. Professional astrophysicist Tyson (director, New York City's Hayden Planetarium) talks here mostly about the cosmos as seen by contemporary science, also touching on the history of science. He demonstrates a good feel for explaining science in an intelligible way to interested lay readers; his rather rakish sense of humor should aid in making the book enjoyable. The two concluding chapters address the relationship between science and religion (Tyson is forthright in arguing that "intelligent design" is not science). Because some of the essays concern overlapping topics, certain brief sections might seem repetitious for those reading the volume straight through, but this does not detract significantly from the overall value of the book. Recommended for public and undergraduate college libraries.-Jack W. Weigel, formerly with the Univ. of Michigan Lib., Ann Arbor Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A collection of the author's astronomy columns from Natural History. Astrophysicist Tyson (Origins, 2004, etc.), director of the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium, groups his essays into several broad categories. The first, "The Nature of Knowledge," includes pieces on how science has grown because of extensions to our senses via instruments that collect data none of us could otherwise obtain; one essay shows what can be learned by measuring and making calculations from a stick poked into the ground. "The Knowledge of Nature" looks at basic astronomical facts: the planets, the asteroids, the points where gravity holds an object in orbit. "Ways and Means of Nature" discusses natural constants such as the speed of light and the surprisingly complicated question, "What color are the objects around the universe?" (Many published astronomical photographs show colors that correspond not to what an observer in space might see, but to phenomena the astronomer wishes to display graphically, such as the relative temperature of the objects portrayed.) "The Meaning of Life" addresses various conditions that seem to be necessary for life to evolve in a planetary system, including the "Goldilocks" question of the right temperature to allow liquid water on a planet's surface. "When the Universe Turns Bad" discusses cosmic disasters, notably the earth's being incinerated as the sun becomes (in several billion years) a red giant. "Science and Culture" looks at the sometimes uncomprehending reaction of the public to theories and discoveries; in Tyson's opinion, a wider knowledge of simple math might solve many of the most bizarre responses. Finally, "Science and God" touches on thoseareas where science and religion appear to compete for the same turf: notably, the origin of the universe, and whether it betrays evidence of design. Smoothly entertaining, full of fascinating tidbits and frequently humorous, these essays show Tyson as one of today's best popularizers of science.
Wook Kim - Entertainment Weekly
“Tyson proves that no topic is too big or small for his scrutiny.... [He] tackles an impressive range of subjects... with great humor, humility, and—most important—humanity.”

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Neil deGrasse Tyson is the director of the world-famous Hayden Planetarium, an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History, and host of the hit radio and Emmy-nominated television show StarTalk. He has received NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal, nineteen honorary doctorates, and has been named People magazine’s Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive. He lives in New York.

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Death by Black Hole 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 105 reviews.
Calatelpe More than 1 year ago
This book is very easy to read, even if you are not otherwise very interested in science. One of its stronger points is its accessibility to laypeople. If you've ever seen him speak on tv, then you know how capable he is of making everything he talks about incredibly interesting (even if it might otherwise come off as mundane by someone with even a little less enthusiasm). His writing style is no different, and his own love of science (and astrophysics in particular) is infectious. I learned a lot of really interesting things from this book, things of which I had been disappointingly ignorant of beforehand. Lagrange points, for instance, or how just how much you can determine about the universe by literally measure it with a stick in the mud. Were you interested in the universe, in astronomy when you were a little kid...did you grow out of it? This book will take you back to that early appreciation, and it'll never let go.
Susan Nord More than 1 year ago
Neil deGrasse Tyson's enthusiasm for the universe is really shown in this book. Filled with humor, Death by Black Hole takes complex subjects and exposes them to the reader in a way that is very easy to understand. I benifitted from reading this book twice to better understand some of the concepts. Enthralling!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read about half of this book for school, and found myself reading way ahead and finishing the entire thing. Even if you knew nothing about science and the cosmos, you could understand this. Tysonexplains everything clearly amd in depth. Great buy!
Old_Sage More than 1 year ago
In writing "Death by Black Hole," Neil Degrasse Tyson has proven once again that he is an exceptional Astrophysicist. His mental dexterity related to matters of science and the universe are beyond reproach. Although I would recommend his writings and lectures for the general reader to the scholar, I would caution the mentally obtuse to refresh their understanding of general science so that they can fully appreciate the insightfulness of "Death by Black Hole." I would also recommend reviewing Dr. Tyson's presentation during his contribution to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies' scientific conversation titled "Beyond Belief: Science, Reason, Religion & Survival." For those also interested in esoteric teachings, "Death by Black Hole" informs us that stars come in 3 basic colors: red, white, and blue. Interestingly, these were also the 3 colors chosen for the flag of the United States. Part of the brillance of Dr. Tyson and his book is how he takes common knowledge and sprinkles it with scientific study to make a cerebral subject like astrophyics interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is anyone else having trouble with the order of posts? I am not getting the most recent first for some reason... <p> Sapphirestar pulls herself upright once Spiritnight is removed from her, and she looks at Lavamist with unfamiliarity. There was a time she would have assumed Lavamist would always trust her, that if she had a reason to mistrust another she would trust her. "You're right Lavamist, I don't know what I'm thinking. I'm normally unfair and accusing, aren't I? You have reason not to believe me," Sapphirestar says to the younger shecat in sarcasm. "But why don't you ask Spiritnight? Since he is so trustworthy," the tabby directs her burning blue gaze at the tom, "ask him what I might have learned during my stay with the Ice Claws." <br> Spiritnight doesn't fight Lavamist when she pulls him back but growls a warning to Sapphirestar. He remains silent as she speaks and realizes too late that Sapphirestar knows his entire story. His heart pounds in his ears but still the tom maintains his silence. <br> Sapphirestar's gaze sharpens further and she slowly says, "Tell Lavamist the truth, show me there is even the slightest bit of honesty within you and speak up, or I will."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book! It was very well-written and easy to understand. Dr. Tyson passes on a world (galaxy?) (universe?) of information in a highly entertaining manner. I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in general science, astronomy, or cosmology. I have read a number of books on this subject, but still learned a lot from this one. Put it at the top of your must-read list!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best book ever
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great book for all that want to know about the cosmos without falling asleep.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tyson takes the dryness out of the topic of the universe and makes the reader want to keep turning the page. I couldn't put this book down and is a great intro to a complex suject.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As the title says this book was very informative. I liked the format it was presented in, which I can't really can't put in a category. Tyson did a good job explaining some basic, and some more advanced, topics.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A cinder colored female with amber orbs padded in. Deep inside her yellow cresents fire flickered slowly, desperate to be let out. With one flick of her black ears she turned to get a good look around. "Hello." She purred slowly, sitting down after she was content.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We're combining posts so as to avoid needing to delete one post and we plan on keeping this up for a bit. Today was extremely busy and tomorrow will be as well, things at MIT are crazy enough when you aren't sick, so yeah I'm drowning in catch up work. Anyways, there's going to be a lot going on here the next couple days so try to be around if ya can! :) <p> the small kit hisses and instinctively takes a powerful swipe at Flightpath's muzzle upon his approach, her small yet sharp claws able to draw blood. It is clear she doesn't trust, and doesn't feel safe unless buried within Sapphirestar's pelt. The tabby leader opens her eyes only at the sound of Lavamist's voice, blue gaze shinning with an unusual look of relief and sorrow. But with her awakening she also smells Spiritnight's scent wafting from her daughters pelt. Her head flies up and she spots the tom lurking at the edge of the clearing. All else in the shecats mind becomes unimportant as her gaze locks on him and fills with hatred. Even a response to Lavamist never comes as she stands on trembling paws. She leaves the kit on her own and races with a fierce growl towards Spiritnight; claws unsheathed and fangs bared. Words cannot even form within the tabby as she leaps onto the toms back and sinks her claws is. Spiritnight may have learned his fighting skills from outside of the clans, but Sapphirestar has just the same and with this traitor she isn't concerned with fairness. Her jaw closes around the back of his neck and she pulls him down with a sharp twist. "How dare you show your face here!!! I ought to tear your throat out-" <p> Spiritnight nods silently to Servalwhisker as she passes, carefully avoiding looking like he wants to chat. When his gaze returns ahead it is to see Sapphirestar's frail, starving looking bodice storming towards him. Whatever it is thst has her so angry Spiritnight doesn't stop to ask questions. Much like the kit, Spiritnight's upbringing has ingrained fight over flight as instict. As Sapphirestar tries to wrench him over he counters with a powerful swipe at her shoulder. His claws catch in flesh and he tears until blood runs down his white paw. Once the Horseclan leader has released him Spiritnight rises and- no longer in self defense but rather in spite at her attack- he takes another strike across her eye and muzzle. He takes advantage of her turning away in pain by lunging forward and implanting his teeth in her neck. They may be an even match as training goes, but Spiritnight is stronger even if Sapphirestar hadn't been starving and already injured. It is only then that Spiritnight detects the slight scent of the Ice Claws present in Sapphirestar's pelt and a tinge of worry echos inside of him. With Sapphirestar's neck in his grasp he forces the shecat down and tightens his grip.... <br> Sapphirestar let's out a yowl as she first feels her shoulder being torn into, and then Spiritnight's claws across her face. The tabby breaks rather easily, at the end of her threshold, as Spiritnight's fresh wounds are added to her just barely healing ones. Sapphirestar feels the tom pin her by the neck and darkness begins swallowing her vision as her desperate gasps for air become useless. <p> I plan on leaving this up for most of the day, you can talk to Spirit or I in the 3rd result, the leaders den if you like. And we are both on our way to reply everywhere else we are needed. Otherwise, I'll talk to everyone tomorrow/later today! :D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
(Is Horseclan really back!?)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*the shecat padded in* "May I join?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heh. Hey, It's Thymedust. Silv or whoever Tom RP's here told me you were back. I however, don't contemplate returning just yet. It's been a long three years since I left Nookverse, and I have taken to Watt pad. Please consider looking for me on there! I'm known as Ticcinsu there. Hoe to talk to you soon! -Thyme & Co. ((Stormfeather, Cloudedthunder, ect.))
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey so the chances of this are kinda low but how long has this clan been around? I used to RP in a Horseclan a long time ago and i think this might be it)))
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He trots in.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Does anyone remember me?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stumbled in with 2 small kits trailing behind her. "Can I join?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great review or first time exposure to cosmology by a master.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ricter87 More than 1 year ago
It's well presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson, but that's not saying it's easy to understand. Stick with it though, it's worth it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting book, is like reading his TV show of the cosmos. Love it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago