Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries
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Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  8,680 ratings  ·  577 reviews
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 stunning clarity and almost childlike enthusiasm. Here, Tyson compiles his favorite essays across a myriad of cosmic topics. The title essay introduces readers to the physics of black holes by...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published November 1st 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Chloe
Within my skull, where all of those vital pieces of data surrounding science are supposed to be stored, there is instead a vast beaker-shaped void of ignorance. In high school, while we were supposed to be studying the musculature of the formaldehyde-soaked amphibians pinned ignominiously to their coffinesque metal trays, I was far more interested in studying the effects of adding fire to small green buds. During my brief time wandering the hallways of the University world, I was able to do away...more
Chris
I have often lamented the passing of my favorite popular scientist, Carl Sagan, by talking about how necessary he is right now. We are at a point in our history where scientific illiteracy is growing, where people are not only ignorant of how science works, but are proud of their ignorance. What we need is someone who can reach the majority of Americans who are not especially scientifically literate - the people whose automatic reaction to science is to think, "That's just too hard for me to dea...more
Maria
I have one last section to go (Religion and Science), but my main points won't be affected by it.

Death By Black Hole provides, especially in the first couple of sections, a really good outline of various problems that astrophysicists are confronted with, and it definitely made me think of the scientific process in a new way. So that was pretty cool. But on the whole, my reaction was rather meh - kind of disappointing when the book really isn't bad.

My main complaint about the book isn't actually...more
Jocelyn
I don't think I can properly explain how much I love this book, but I'll try.

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries is a collection of essays Tyson wrote for Natural History, a magazine dedicated to -- you guessed it -- natural history (basically, science) between 1995-2005.

What I like about it:
- Tyson writes in a way that's easily accessible for anyone even without a science background. His analogies are easy to understand and they're fun. Like, "Oh, Neil deGrasse Tyson, you." Also, h...more
Stephanie
Blinded by science
Einstein, Io, comet tails
Information glut


I consider myself an intelligent person. I also find science fascinating. I'm just not sure what happen between me and Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries.....

Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for a science-y book. Maybe I over estimated my intelligence. Both are quite possible. The whole time I was listening to this, it was like listening to Charlie Browns teacher. whaa wha whaa wha whaa Galileo, wha wha E=mc2, whaa whaa wha...more
Brendon Schrodinger
Neil is without doubt one of the greatest scientific communicators alive. He is erudite and hilarious with no apparent effort and can always bring the 'wow'.

I enjoy his podcast and have probably watched near all videos on youtube that feature him. This is the first time that I have tried his written work and I am very pleased with the results.

This work is a collection of editorial pieces that Neil writes for a periodical. They are intended to be short, punchy scientific stories and not form an o...more
Kathy
A great title for a book, that alone made me want to read it. Of course, this is the type of book I will almost always pick up from the library. It is a collection of essays on science for the magazine Natural History. It covers a wide range of topics, usually relating to physics, from particle physics to astrophysics. I love this stuff and I only wish I retained enough math to be able to read more technical discussions than these rather general essays.
The essays are informative and entertaining...more
Alex Telander
DEATH BY BLACK HOLE AND OTHER COSMIC QUANDARIES BY NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: An astrophysicist for the American Museum of Natural History, director of the world famous Hayden Planetarium, and columnist for Natural History magazine, Neil DeGrasse Tyson brings to the non-scientific world the ideal book for those fascinated with space, the cosmos, black holes, and all the questions and wonders therein. Death by Black Hole is the perfect book for the reader who wants answers to questions about the univer...more
Cheri
Neil Degrasse Tyson is one of those science guys that you wished you had as a teacher, he's excited and impassioned by his subject and it shows on every page. Mostly known as the host of PBS's Nova Science Now, he never talks over your head, but at the same time, Tyson always assumes that you're intelligent and can grasp the concepts he's discussing. It's a fine balance that many science writers fail to master. Anyone who is interested in Astronomy should give this book a try. It covers a lot of...more
jeremy
in this young, still fertile century, there may not be a better emissary and evangelist for scientific curiosity than neil degrasse tyson. the bronx-raised astrophysicist's ability to succinctly, accessibly, and entertainingly convey even the headiest and most complex of subjects is itself a marvel. death by black hole: and other cosmic quandaries collects 42 of tyson's essays from natural history magazine, published over 11 years beginning in 1995.

death by black hole is divided into 7 sections;...more
Bakari
Astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson‘s Death By Black Hole is definitely an engaging read, especially for these modern times. Though many pages and chapters about the particulars of matter, energy, space, and time—the physics of the universe—were very difficult for my scientifically illiterate mind to comprehend, I read nearly ever page for nuggets of understanding.

Tyson is a excellent writer because he knows his subject matter. Just think how different our Bible reading population would be if T...more
Sean
I feel that the reason that people do not understand science in the US today is because we have a foolish tradition of thinking that the only way to "know" physics is through the terse formalism of mathematics. Math is a tool to do science, as much as a microscope or a superconducting supercollider. The disservice we do as scientists are when we are unable to communicate the concepts about our physical world to the population at large because we tangle ourselves up in mathematical formalism.

Neil...more
David
As a scientist, at first I was rather bored by this book. I was not learning anything new, and not gaining new insights into astronomy.

But, as I read further, it just hit me--this book is tremendously entertaining! If you are a layman, and looking for a unique viewpoint, you could do a lot worse than this book. And, believe it or not, you will be entertained!

In addition, Tyson puts several aspects of astronomy and astrophysics into a unique perspective. He describes all the ways that the univers...more
Josh
For me this book was merely okay. I've read quite a bit of these types of books, physics for the layperson, and this book was probably my least favorite.

I don't like the overall tone of the book. Tyson makes a point to belittle the human race as much as possible and he comes across as pessimistic. By no means do I think humans are the pinnacle of perfection, but I think we're doing pretty well.

The content of the book was all over the place and only briefly touched on black holes and other cosmic...more
Colleen
This is a great introduction into the world of astrophysics for the lay person. It's funny and engaging in a way you couldn't imagine a book about astrophysics being (without reading this book). How did it all begin and where are we going are just some of the cosmic quandaries that are tackled. It even has a whole section on how many ways the planet and its life could end! Fun stuff for a nerd like me. Plus, it touches on many other science/culture conundrums that are great food for thought.

It...more
Leslie
If the lovely fact that our sun will probably burn out in 4 billion years and our beloved Earth will turn into a huge ball of black rock because of it (until it's vaporized that is) bothers you, keeps you up in the night, this book might not be for you. If you're worried about an asteroid hitting somewhere between Hawaii and California in 2039 and Idaho becoming ocean front property (hmm, maybe an improvement?), then this book might not be for you. If you're worried about what might happen to yo...more
Emma Sea
My main dissatisfaction with this book is that it's a series of collected magazine columns. This does seem a bit like criticising an apple because it's not a banana, however I think Tyson would have be been better advised to hire an editor to whip this into an actual book, rather than just reprint the original short essays. For example, in chapter 25 Tyson critiques the concept of the "Goldilocks Zone", discussing the myriad ways life could flourish in environments entirely dissimilar to our own...more
Bryce Holt
Gah, I suffered from the worst malady a reader can have while making my way through the audio version of this - disenchantment. I've read too many other books on the subject, and while I praise deGrasse Tyson as both a teacher and a storyteller of the cosmos, I did not feel this collection of essays compared to the more robust information you get from the likes of Brian Greene, one of deGrasse Tyson's contemporaries. One of the author's instincts, I believe, is to over-inform on the unnecessary...more
Dale Jr.
Neil deGrasse Tyson has become a bit of an inspiration and scientific hero to me. He's a man who strongly pushes forth to erase scientific ignorance and champions the exploration of our world and the universe to further human greatness.

His lectures are intensely interesting and full of scientific knowledge, yet easy to follow by anyone willing to listen and apply their minds. He boils down some of the most complex theories and scientific facts so that they're easily understood. His writing is no...more
Robin
This book has a lot of passages that make you stop reading and think..."holy shit." The author uses everyday metaphors and analogies to make very complicated things- like black holes- easily understandable. Theories about how life began on earth, the beginning and end of time, and the inevitable demise of planet earth are all covered in this book! The first few chapters are a little slow- but they are building a frame of reference to help those of us that aren't astrophysicists!
Jake
“The remarkable feature of physical laws is that they apply everywhere, whether or not you choose to believe in them.”

That is one of many gems I underlined during my reading of Death by Black Hole. Each of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s articles covers some aspect of the universe and our place within it. I’ve gotten in the habit of keeping a book like this next to my reading chair at all times. Over the last year, I read this collection of essays nice and slow, a chapter here and there. Not all prose...more
Stephanie
Aug 02, 2010 Stephanie rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Nerds like me
Recommended to Stephanie by: Lawrence
It took me over two months to read this book, but I think reading this book slowly is the perfect way to enjoy it. When I realized I wasn't going to finish it in time for book club, I slowed down and started reading a chapter a night before going to bed. The chapters are just the right length - 4 to 5 pages - so you aren't overwhelmed with information, and then you have a whole day to mull it over (and the information is very mullable) before you tackle the next topic. I could feel myself gettin...more
Evan Wondrasek
Death by Black Hole is one of the most interesting non-fiction science books I've ever read. It's a collection of essays published by Neil deGrasse Tyson over the last 10+ years, and provides great, down-to-earth explanations of amazing astrophysics phenomena.

This isn't a book about farfetched scenarios as its title implies - only a single chapter was actually about "death by black hole" - but the rest of the book presented a thorough and highly scientific explanation of the universe as we know...more
Nicholas Armstrong
I can already see the masses of Tyson fans charging ahead just to light me aflame for having the audicity to doubt a word he says, but so I must. To be fair, I love Neil deGrasse Tyson. I saw him speak at USC, I've watched his lectures and his interviews, and I think he has done more for popularizing science than anyone else. But none of that a writer makes. This is especially true of sarcastic and sardonic wit.

Being funny in text is what I would rate as the most challenging things to accomplis...more
Nicky
Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries is a book about the universe by Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium and intellectual badass. In this series of essays, Tyson combines his passion for astrophysics with an easy-to-read style that enables virtually anyone reading to understand the key concepts presented without burdening the non-astrophysics major with too much technical information. THIS book was what I was looking for one dark night when I took a wrong turn and...more
Samantha
I love Neil deGrasse Tyson. His humor and straightforwardness were some of the best things about the History Channel documentary, The Universe. And his lectures on YouTube are always extremely inventive, interesting, and entertaining. So when I saw this book on the shelf at my local bookstore, I had to buy it.

I wasn't disappointed.

Ever since I was a child, I've enjoyed learning about the universe. I'll never be an astrophysicist, but it always fascinates me to learn about all that's out there (a...more
A
A general and very interesting look at how our fascinating universe works. My only frame of reference for this type of work is Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" and "The Grand Design", which attempt to delve fairly deeply into the subject it discusses while still staying outside of the mathematics behind it all. Neil deGrasse Tyson may seem less substantial, but it is largely because he prefers to stick to what has been and what is with regard to the universe. With regard to black hole...more
Paul Pickell


This is a great down-to-Earth book for the lay astrophysicist. Personally, I felt that Tyson accomplished exactly what he set out to do in this prose: provide an accessible understanding of the cosmos at large. In general, the book is a very easy read. Some parts required a deeper understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum or black hole physics, but Tyson is a very accomplished explainer-of-things otherwise, particularly for his field of expertise: star creation and galaxy evolution. Many top...more
Michael Flanagan
Learning about the space has never been such fun. The author's enthusiasm for all things cosmic comes shining through in this book. As a person that has a passing interest in black holes, quasar and other stuff like that. This book provides a great crash course in all things spacey. I now feel a little bit smarter but I am also now in awe of the scientist t past and present that seek to unravel the secrets of our universe.

The book is cut up nicely into sections dealing with individual subjects....more
Dimitris Hall
Jan 17, 2011 Dimitris Hall rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: fans of astronomy and/or pop science and non-fiction
Oh, what a satisfying read this one was... It's a series of essays on many different astronomical subjects that strike the fancy and border science fiction. Astronomy borders science fiction anyway in many cases, so there's even more ground for such forays than "normal".

From what death by black hole would be like, as the title implies, to the zero-gravitational bowls of our cosmic neighbourhood, to an essay on light-pollution and another one on hollywood astonomy goofs, to the foundations of sci...more
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Neil deGrasse Tyson was born and raised in New York City where he was educated in the public schools clear through his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. Tyson went on to earn his BA in Physics from Harvard and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia.

Tyson's professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of our...more
More about Neil deGrasse Tyson...
Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist Merlin's Tour of the Universe

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