The B&N Podcast: Neil deGrasse Tyson

The astrophysicist, author and champion of science Neil deGrasse Tyson is more than comfortable taking on the very biggest of subjects. The director New York City’s Hayden Planetarium and host of the 21st-century edition of the documentary series Cosmos, Tyson is the author of a raft of bestsellers that unveil the mysteries of the universe, from the Higgs Boson to black holes. Now, in Accessory to War, Tyson and co-author Avis Lang ask a big question: where does astrophysics end and military research begin?  To find out, we visited Tyson in his offices for a wide-ranging talk about telescopes, spy satellites, and the future of science.

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An exploration of the age-old complicity between skywatchers and warfighters, from the best-selling author of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.In this fascinating foray into the centuries-old relationship between science and military power, acclaimed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and writer-researcher Avis Lang examine how the methods and tools of astrophysics have been enlisted in the service of war.

“The overlap is strong, and the knowledge flows in both directions,” say the authors, because astrophysicists and military planners care about many of the same things: multi-spectral detection, ranging, tracking, imaging, high ground, nuclear fusion, and access to space. Tyson and Lang call it a “curiously complicit” alliance. “The universe is both the ultimate frontier and the highest of high grounds,” they write. “Shared by both space scientists and space warriors, it’s a laboratory for one and a battlefield for the other. The explorer wants to understand it; the soldier wants to dominate it. But without the right technology—which is more or less the same technology for both parties—nobody can get to it, operate in it, scrutinize it, dominate it, or use it to their advantage and someone else’s disadvantage.”

Spanning early celestial navigation to satellite-enabled warfare, Accessory to War is a richly researched and provocative examination of the intersection of science, technology, industry, and power that will introduce Tyson’s millions of fans to yet another dimension of how the universe has shaped our lives and our world.

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