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Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

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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.

223 pages, Hardcover

First published May 2, 2017

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About the author

Neil deGrasse Tyson

68 books283k followers
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.

In 2001, Tyson was appointed by President Bush to serve on a twelve-member commission that studied the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry. The final report was published in 2002 and contained recommendations (for Congress and for the major agencies of the government) that would promote a thriving future of transportation, space exploration, and national security.

In 2004, Tyson was once again appointed by President Bush to serve on a nine-member commission on the Implementation of the United States Space Exploration Policy, dubbed the “Moon, Mars, and Beyond” commission. This group navigated a path by which the new space vision can become a successful part of the American agenda. And in 2006, the head of NASA appointed Tyson to serve on its prestigious Advisory Council, which guides NASA through its perennial need to fit ambitious visions into restricted budgets.

In addition to dozens of professional publications, Dr. Tyson has written, and continues to write for the public. From 1995 to 2005, Tyson was a monthly essayist for Natural History magazine under the title Universe. And among Tyson’s fifteen books is his memoir The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist; and Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution, co-written with Donald Goldsmith. Origins is the companion book to the PBS NOVA four-part mini-series Origins, in which Tyson served as on-camera host. The program premiered in September 2004.

Two of Tyson’s other books are the playful and informative Death By Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries, which was a New York Times bestseller, and The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet, chronicling his experience at the center of the controversy over Pluto’s planetary status. The PBS NOVA documentary The Pluto Files, based on the book, premiered in March 2010.

In February 2012, Tyson released his tenth book, containing every thought he has ever had on the past, present, and future of space exploration: Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier.

For five seasons, beginning in the fall of 2006, Tyson appeared as the on-camera host of PBS NOVA’s spinoff program NOVA ScienceNOW, which is an accessible look at the frontier of all the science that shapes the understanding of our place in the universe.

During the summer of 2009 Tyson identified a cadre of professional standup comedians to assist his effort in bringing science to commercial radio with the NSF-funded pilot program StarTalk. Now also a popular Podcast, for three years it enjoyed a limited-run Television Series on the National Geographic Channel. StarTalk combines celebrity guests with informative yet playful banter. The target audience is all those people who never thought they would, or could, like science. In its first year on television and in three successive seasons, it was nominated for a Best Informational Programming Emmy.

Tyson is the recipient of twenty-one honorary doctorates and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest award given by NASA to a non-government citizen. His contributions to the public appreciation of the cosmos have been recognized by the International Astronomical Union in their official naming of asteroid “13123 Tyson.” And by zoologists, with the naming of Indirani Tysoni, a native species of leaping frog in India. On the lighter side, Tyson was voted “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive” by People Magazine in 2000.

More recently, Tyson published Astrophysics for People In A Hurry in 2017, which was a domestic and international bestseller. This adorably readable book is an introduction to all that you’ve read and heard about that’s making news in the universe—consummated, in one plac

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 14,696 reviews
Profile Image for Jessa Rodrigues ☕ (decafJess).
552 reviews105 followers
August 10, 2017
Imagine you are standing with your face up and your mouth wide open underneath a waterfall of Skittles.

At first, a few Skittles get into your mouth and you can taste them. Awesome, you think. I love Skittles.

Then, the Skittles become overwhelming, as more and more try to force themselves in, and millions and millions puddle around your feet, piling up past your knees.

That's kind of how this was.

I'm all about learning new things, but there were SO MANY FACTS IN SUCH A SMALL SPAN. By the time I hit page twenty, I realized I was mentally absent as my eyes and mind processed words but failed to commit those words to actual thought.

I wanted to love this book. I want you to love this book.

Alas, I just felt overwhelmed.

I recommend this book, but read it slowly and in small sittings. As a person in a hurry, I tried to plow through it all at once and became lost.

received via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 318 books399k followers
August 13, 2017
Ah, yes. Nothing like an astrophysics book for beginners to remind me why I’m not an astrophysicist! Even at the basic level, with Tyson’s clear, funny and accessible writing, I found a lot of these concepts WAY over my head. Nevertheless, it is fascinating stuff. My big takeaway was humility: just how small humans are in the grand scheme of things, and there is something freeing about that. It reminded me of a fake headline on The Onion news satire site that made me chuckle: Obama Reassures Americans: ‘The future, and I’m talking three billion years from now, is still bright.”

The amount we don’t know about the universe is staggering. Dark matter, dark energy . . . how can we be completely unaware of forces that make up the bulk of our universe? But also, how amazing is it that we can find this stuff out from our little speck of a planet in the suburbs of Nowheresville, Milky Way Galaxy? This is a short book, perfect, as the title says, for people in a hurry. If you would like your mind exploded by science, and get a few chuckles out of the deal, check it out!
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews154k followers
December 10, 2020
We are stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out—and we have only just begun.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, within 224 pages, attempts to cover the entirety space and time.

He does a pretty good job.

However, this is not Astrophysics for Dummies. There are assumptions made for the audience - you do need a bit of a working knowledge on particles and space to fully understand the significance of the text.

That being said, I could still (mostly) follow along even in the areas where I knew little to nothing about.

This is somewhat similar to Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything but with less emphasis on human accomplishments.

Like Bryson, Neil deGrasse Tyson provides great analogies when he explains the creation (and subsequent formation) of the universe. If we combine both books, it feels like we get a Short History of Everything.

However...he does waste page space needling his audience about religion, which I could've definitely done without in such a compact book. (It felt rather distasteful).

I really liked how Tyson could break down complex topics.
Matter tells space how to curve; space tells matter how to move.
And how he was able to inject humor in such dry matter.
The power and beauty of physical laws is that they apply everywhere, whether or not you choose to believe in them.
I would like a sequel called Astrophysics for People with Time on their Hands - just to see what else is out there!
The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.
Audiobook Comments
Read by the author - and was a joy to listen to!

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,037 reviews2,042 followers
December 8, 2022

If you are a person who is interested to know more about Astrophysics but doesn’t know anything about it, Neil DeGrasse Tyson is there to help you with this book. The author took extra care to ensure that his book won’t have the common mistake seen in the books written by people who had education from Ivy League Universities (Mr. Tyson went to Harvard and Columbia to get his degree and Ph.D.). Instead of bombarding us with a lot of scientific jargon, the author decided to write in a simple language that everyone can read. The felicity in his love for astrophysics is estimable.

What I learned from this book
1) What is the biggest sign of lack of intelligence in human beings?
The author sarcastically criticizes the ignorance of human beings about pollution. He says that it is the biggest sign of lack of intelligence in human beings.
“Looking more closely at Earth’s atmospheric fingerprints, human biomarkers will also include sulfuric, carbonic, and nitric acids, and other components of smog from the burning of fossil fuels. If the curious aliens happen to be socially, culturally, and technologically more advanced than we are, then they will surely interpret these biomarkers as convincing evidence for the absence of intelligent life on Earth.”

2) Why is astronomy considered as the most sublime form of science?
Astronomy is the empirical branch of science that plays a vital role in our life. The author tells us the reason why astronomy is very important.
“Of all the sciences cultivated by mankind, Astronomy is acknowledged to be, and undoubtedly is, the most sublime, the most interesting, and the most useful. For, by knowledge derived from this science, not only the bulk of the Earth is discovered . . . ; but our very faculties are enlarged with the grandeur of the ideas it conveys, our minds exalted above [their] low contracted prejudices.”

3) Whipped cream and the universality of the physical law.
The author narrates a funny experience he had in a restaurant in California.
“A few years ago I was having a hot-cocoa nightcap at a dessert shop in Pasadena, California. Ordered it with whipped cream, of course. When it arrived at the table, I saw no trace of the stuff. After I told the waiter that my cocoa had no whipped cream, he asserted I couldn’t see it because it sank to the bottom. But whipped cream has low density, and floats on all liquids that humans consume. So I offered the waiter two possible explanations: either somebody forgot to add the whipped cream to my hot cocoa or the universal laws of physics were different in his restaurant. Unconvinced, he defiantly brought over a dollop of whipped cream to demonstrate his claim. After bobbing once or twice the whipped cream rose to the top, safely afloat. What better proof do you need of the universality of physical law?”

My favourite three lines from this book
“The power and beauty of physical laws is that they apply everywhere, whether or not you choose to believe in them.”

“We are stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out—and we have only just begun.”

“I don't know about you, but the planet Saturn pops into my mind with every bite of a hamburger I take.”

What could have been better?
If you are not an astrophysicist, you will inevitably find out that the name of this book is a misnomer. You cannot read this book in a hurry, even if it is written in a simple language. It is because a lot of information is packed in the 208 pages.

4/5 This book will be a perfect choice if you want to know more about astrophysics through epigrams, aphorisms, funny experiences, and scientific principles written in a simple and palatable manner by the erudite.

Profile Image for Always Pouting.
568 reviews695 followers
February 14, 2020
I think it's pretty self explanatory what this book is about so no need to summarize. I have to say though that I'm generally not a fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson, because a lot of times he'll just indulge the actual stupid things other people say. Like the whole "debate" about whether or not we're living in a simulation after Elon Musk made that comment. Every time this happens I can't find any actually science news in my newsfeeds because now suddenly everyone is only talking about that one dumb thing. I guess that's not really Neil's fault but I never claimed to be rational. Regardless of my general feelings of irritation whenever I see Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about pop science things I think this books was pretty awesome. It's definitely a short read that manages to be accessible and comprehensive. The only thing I didn't like was the closing chapter, mostly because I'm belligerent and bitter and when people try to be hopeful or just thoughtful the way he was being 99% of the time I'm like god please don't. Still would recommend the book to anyone who wants to learn more about space and doesn't know where to start.

Profile Image for Tulay.
1,202 reviews2 followers
May 30, 2017
Just spend a half a day with this book, time you spend, reading or listening won't be wasted.
From the big bang 14 billion years ago, to today. Milky way was formed 9 billion years ago, how it was named? How the planes and asteroids was named? How we fit in the universe, or the universe within us? Kuiper belt and Pluto, and wonder are we all Martians.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,667 followers
July 4, 2017
"The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you."
- Neil deGrasse Tyson


"People who believe they are ignorant of nothing have neither looked for, nor stumbled upon, the boundary between what is known and unknown in the universe."
- Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Physicists are a unique breed. Most people exist in a sphere that is directly impacted by the work of physicists, but only possess a minimal knowledge of some basic Newtonian physics. But even with this gap of knowledge, a few physicists rise to the level of rockstars. Albert Einstein is arguably one of the most recognizable figures of the 20th century. Newton may be one of the most important, and influential, men to have ever lived and exists both in myth and history as a figure almost as important as the founders of major religions (Jesus, Moses, Muhammed). The group of physicists that came to age during the nuclear age also achieved a near rockstar-level reputation and noteriety (Oppenheimer, Fermi, Feynman, etc).

In our modern age, a physicist needs to be at one level a genius at math and high-level physics, but also needs to be a great communicator. Neil deGrasse Tyson is almost as much a translator of physics as an astrophysicist in his own right. He bridges that gigantic gulf between the bleeding edge of science and the average person's attention span (not an easy task). He has a talent for understanding his subject, but also getting his audience. He is funny, cheeky, and cognecent that the average reader isn't going to read a 500+ page book on physics (no matter how interesting). So Tyson distills, refines, and delivers just a glimps of what is happening and has happened in the Universe during the last 13.8 Billion years. He does this just as easily in a 140 character tweet as he does in a 208 page book. Some academics are geared toward research and some are geared toward education. Dr. Tyson = Education^3
Profile Image for Jilly.
1,838 reviews6,228 followers
October 13, 2017

Neil deGrasse Tyson has the gift of helping non-geniuses get a slight clue on what those geniuses are talking about. Slight.

Don't even think you can sit down and read this baby in a night. It is definitely a read-a-chapter/think-for-a-bit kind of book. I read a chapter after each fiction book I was reading, and then I would talk about it with my genius son who somehow understands all this stuff. I homeschooled the kid. How does he know so much more than I do? I think he might have been cheating on me!! He was out learning shit on the side! Little bastard!

Anyway, like all geniuses, Neil deGrasse Tyson can only dumb stuff down so much, so there are quite a bit of mathmatical and scientific terms in the book that he assumes we can understand. Those geniuses don't get just how dumb we are. See? I know something he doesn't. People are morons. Myself included.

Damn! Because pictures really would have helped.

Still, I really enjoyed getting less dumberer from reading this. I'm going to read more by NDT and hopefully find something my son doesn't know and rub it in his smug little face. Ha! That'll teach him!
Profile Image for Thomas.
711 reviews172 followers
November 15, 2018
I borrowed this book through kindle unlimited. It is an excellent astrophysics book for the layperson.
However, it is chock full of scientific information about the universe, electrons, neutrinos, etcetera.
A solid 4 stars.
Profile Image for Michelle.
147 reviews234 followers
May 18, 2020
Astrophysics is a complex subject. Even years of study barely scratches at the understanding of the universe. Nevertheless, Neil deGrasse Tyson has an amazing ability to make the cosmos fun and understandable. Filled with wonderful ideas -- galaxies devouring dwarf galaxies, massive radio telescopes, a fun run through the periodic table of elements, comets, a study of time --so much is packed into just over 200 pages! Tyson can make the heavy subject engaging, and the strange and ominous fantastically enthralling.

I just wish he would leave his political and social agenda out of his scientific presentation. I loved the facts he is an expert with, but I could do without the politics and social theory about which, in my opinion, he has no special knowledge to share. Let's just focus on the matter and energy, please! Tyson is brilliant, but some things in this world are truly subjective.

That said, if you don’t mind the author’s platitudes, “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” is a wonder. It helps you understand a bit of the immensity of space in which we reside, and the extraordinary discoveries we have made in the course of trying to make sense of it all. All the more amazing since some of these discoveries took place over 300 years ago. For some, this may not be the best gateway book if you’re trying to have a better grasp on Astrophysics, but I think this is a lovely addendum for folks that have watched Tyson’s "Cosmos" TV series.
Profile Image for Lori.
353 reviews423 followers
September 6, 2020
I believe, and I'm sure many of you agree, that every book has its time. This one's been sitting on my bookshelf since I pre-ordered it. I'm glad I didn't get to it because where better to look than up right now to be uplifted and inspired. Just in our little Milky Way, there are at least a hundred billion suns, probably hundreds of billions and just as many planets with their moons. Planet Earth is just a tiny, insignificant part of a single solar system in a single galaxy. In our universe there are trillions of galaxies and this universe may be a small part of a multiverse. Knowing this doesn't make one's problems go away or the world's, but it's a beautiful direction in which to point your mind.

It's entirely possible all of us are made from material that originated on Mars. Neil says he stopped counting moons in our solar system at seventy-nine. As I write it's known that there are at least two hundred moons, and asteroids and comets and a certainty that there are more living things than the ones on Earth. it's humbling, he says. It's also intensely fascinating.

Reading this book reminded me of things I'd forgotten and taught me a lot of new things. It had me wrestling with chemistry and physics which generally go over my head -- but it had me wrestling. He never lost me and I never gave up trying to understand parts that were hard for me to comprehend. As he showed in the two seasons of Seth MacFarlane's "Cosmos," Neil is the one you want as your guide to the basics of astronomy which among all the sciences has the most to discover. How exciting! Reading this been an educational, enchanting and uplifting experience.

Yesterday a paper was published detailing the discovery of an unprecedented collision of two massive black holes -- which happened 1.3 billion years ago. We are just seeing the light from that collision now. Better and different sorts of telescopes are being developed, other ways to make discoveries involving math and physics and chemistry and -- so much being learned now, in our time, and in our future. How exciting! Thanks to Neil's gift for writing and explaining, his patience and his wit, "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry" is full of wonders and it's wonderful.
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book835 followers
September 24, 2020
Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most remarkable scientists of our time, having devoted a large part of his work to popularise astrophysics, one of the most counterintuitive of all fields of science. I loved his “remake” of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos TV show, and this book is in the same vein. As announced in the title, it is a slim pop-science book that can be read in one sitting. It covers a wide field nonetheless: from the Big Bang to black holes and multiverses, to the chemistry of the universe, to life evolution, to exoplanets, to astronomical observatories. Tyson has a knack for making everything quite accessible and even fun to the layperson. He also is an expert in the history of physics and, while covering contemporary subjects (one of his favourites being dark matter and dark energy), he manages to drop a few facts about Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday or Albert Einstein.

I remember reading other books written by astrophysicists, like Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, Trinh Xuan Thuan’s The Secret Melody or Hubert Reeves’ Patience dans l'azur. Somehow, in each case, and probably unbeknownst to their authors, these books have a distinctive poetic flavour, a sort of lyrical flight somehow, which is best expressed in this sentence by the Scottish astronomer James Ferguson, quoted at the end of Tyson’s book:

Of all the sciences cultivated by mankind, Astronomy is acknowledged to be, and undoubtedly is, the most sublime, the most interesting, and the most useful. For, by knowledge derived from this science, not only the bulk of the Earth is discovered . . .; but our very faculties are enlarged with the grandeur of the ideas it conveys, our minds exalted above [their] low contracted prejudices.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,892 reviews10.5k followers
January 2, 2018
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is a very readable account of the creation of the universe and how the universe works, as related by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

I had this on my watch list for a long time but didn't pull the trigger until it went on sale for $1.99.

Since the first movie I saw in the theater was a rerelease of Star Wars sometime in the early 80s, space has always given me a sense of wonder. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is an easily digestible summation of the universe, from the big bang to the present.

Neil deGrasse Tyson breaks down the universe into manageable chunks, from leptons to galaxies. He does a good job with theoretical concepts like dark matter and dark energy, pulsars, quasars, and other flashing bits. Since I've watched many of his appearances, it was easy to hear his voice in my head. There's a fair amount of humor but not enough to distract from all the sciencing going on.

Seriously, it's a pop science book about the universe. How much else can I say? If you already know a lot about astrophysics, it's probably not the book for you. However, if all you know about the formation of the universe is dimly remembered things from grade school, you'll probably enjoy it. Since most of my recent scientific knowlege comes from Doctor Who episodes, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Four out of five stars.

Profile Image for Trish.
1,874 reviews3,381 followers
May 22, 2017
This book, as its author, is difficult to rate.
I am always happy to see "normal" people like me interested in sciences instead of not caring or just accepting what they are told instead of questioning and discovering for themselves. Naturally, we can't all be scientists of the first grade, having deep knowledge of every aspect of the natural world (or technology or whatever). However, curiosity only killed the proverbial cat - in reality, it's vital and good.

Many people feel clubbed to death, however, when you start conversations about black holes and the theory of relativity, which is not too hard to understand. It's the problem with many teachers, professors, and other lecturers: they lack the charisma to hold people's attention. What is more, if you can't explain something in layman's terms, don't bother.
NDT is one of those rare people, who do not only know what they are talking about (more about that further down), but also have a very unique way of HOW he explains phenomena. Some people even call him a rock star of science. And that is where the problems begin.

Many people are of the opinion that we should leave science to the experts, much like the Vatican wants us to leave faith to the priests/cardinals/popes and just blindly accept what they put in front of us and that people like NDT are counterproductive by "dumbing" complex matters down (funnily enough, the people complaining are NOT scientists themselves). I, as you probably have guessed, disagree.
Yes, compromises have to be made when explaining highly complex matters like the beginning of the universe (as much as we know about it at least) to people without any science degree. Nevertheless, the easy way is not always the right way (yes, I just quoted Dumbledore in a review about a science book but I think NDT would approve).
As long as people are interested and learn, we - as a society - can only gain from that. Many discoveries have not necessarily been made by people who already had big names or held titles in their respective fields. And even if it only serves to make someone infect their children with a natural thirst for knowledge, it's worth it (when I look around day after day, I see enough people who enjoy sticking their heads in the sand because it's easier to let others do the work for them).
Admittedly, even I (very interested in all sciences and reading a lot about different fields) only know half-truths because some things are too difficult to understand by simply reading about them. But knowing half is better than not knowing at all. Especially since it results in me constantly wanting to learn more.

So to all people criticizing NDT and people like him, I say this: keep in mind that the guy is a graduate from the prestigious Bronx High School of Science, then went and got a BA in physics from Harvard and a PhD in astrophysics from Columbia, before being with the American Museum of Natural History (NYC) and serving as their Director of the Hayden Planetarium. He knows what he's talking about.
The fact that he's a funny guy who can break down the most complex things into an interesting narrative is an added bonus!

This book then is his introduction to the topic of astrophysics. In my opinion, even young teenagers can read it. Make no mistake, it's not even scratching the surface, but only tickling it. However (and this is vitally important), it does so in a way that makes you get hundreds of books of secondary literature and really start digging into the respective topics discussed in the 12 chapters of this book. And THAT is how you catch 'em and reel them in! Really, it's a stroke of genius if you think about it. :D

NDT plays his cards right. He knows he's charismatic and he knows that people like listening to him because he makes them laugh in an intelligent way. Just look at this photo from the cover:

Yep, playing the rock star card. Big-time. But so what?! He's playing to his strengths and we're all benefitting from it!

I've seen a few interviews with him, my favourite being when he dismantles someone who verbally attacks him (idiot) about GMOs. Bwahahahahaha! This man's mind is as sharp as a whip and as far as I can tell from what I've seen/listened to/read from him (I'm following his podcast too), he's never been wrong with what he told people. So yeah, I'll read more about the topics in this book and I'll read more of NDT's books. Sometimes it takes a rock star to make you care about the sincere topics.
Profile Image for Mark .
367 reviews301 followers
December 14, 2021
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Where does one start writing a review of a book like this? So many complex theories, so many names of particles, planets, galaxies, quarks, and quasars. So much physics, theory, and history.

Forget about this being a book for people in a ”hurry”, this is complicated stuff. Don’t be in too much of a hurry, take your time when reading this. So, to continue the themes of topsy turvy thinking, upside down confusion and downright blatant ignorance – I will start my review by describing the end of the book.

The final chapter Reflections on the cosmic perspective, I found to be utterly profound. After all was said and done in the previous chapters it’s important we think what this is all about. Tyson describes a study were subjects felt ‘insignificant’ when being taught about the universe. A feeling I am sure we have all felt when trying to grapple with such weighty matters. Some of us (me included) have felt the same when pondering the very small world of quantum physics – tiny, tiny particles zipping around sub-atomic space. However, Tyson makes the point to feel inadequate and feel miserable about it, is a measure of our ego. Humankind is such a minuscule part of this wonderful universe; we are no more significant or less significant then all the creatures who live and who have ever lived (Oh my – I love that!!).

I mean, numerically we aren’t significant – for example, There are more bacteria in one inch of our colon than all the people who have ever existed. Intellectually, sure we are more intelligent than say Chimps (or Rugby Players) with only a minor genetic variation between us and our furry friends (the Chimps). But what’s to say there are no other intelligent life forms out there, more intelligent than us caused by an equally miniscule genetic variation? Imagine what they could do? Calculus in the womb? The Count from Sesame Street playing with the imponderable infinity?

Perhaps, feeling more humility about our place in this universe (and Earth) is a good thing. Reflecting on our place as just one member of a family of life and matter. Understanding we are breathing oxygen previously breathed by others, drinking water once consumed and urinated by all manner of life forms, using Carbon atoms in our essential biochemical molecules handed down to us by forests and algae. In fact, we’ve been recycling for millennia.

We are very much a part of this world, Solar System, Galaxy and Universe/s - but we’re not in charge of it.

The universe is indeed a cold, dispassionate place but the most beautiful thing one could ever imagine. I was moved entirely with Tyson’s closing thoughts, not because of my lack of theism and the congruence of his thinking with mine (although that always helps) – but because it makes sense and truly puts this reader at total peace with how things are.

Onto the science....

The chapter on Invisible Light was one of the most fascinating. The discovery of invisible light, that is, light with wavelengths longer than red in our rainbow such as infra-red and radio waves and the discovery of those wavelengths shorter than violet in our rainbow such as ultra-violet, x-rays and those nasty gamma rays. Importantly, he describes what we do with these invisible light rays, particularly with regards to astronomy, how we detect various rays of invisible light to study different features of our universe.

Dark Matter and Dark Energy featured heavily. This stuff makes up 27% and 68% of the universe respectively, leaving only 5% for the stuff we can see – like planets and stars. It’s this 95% of stuff we know hardly anything, or nothing about that make scientists incredibly excited. These were ‘discovered’ when Hubble showed the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, not being retarded by the pull of gravity. Hence, some other form of energy is pushing the universe to expand it faster and faster. Maybe the next Newton or Einstein is in utero, right now, ready to unleash his or her intellect on solving the mysteries of Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Surely that’s not much of an ask – expecting answers to the misunderstood 95% of the universe. It’ll happen – to be sure.

Tyson describes Einstein as a “Bad Ass”. Meaning he was strutting his stuff in his theoretical physics world, with just his mind and something to write with – and really clever experimental physicists since have confirmed his theories such as The Theory of General Relativity and Quantum Theory. Einstein’s remarkable work has truly stood the test of time.

So, if you want to have your mind spiked into action in a smart, easily digestible (mostly) way – this is a book for you. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Tyson which was excellent, and I found it added to the experience. This book needs a re-listen – for example, next time I might be more interested in the chapter on Between the Galaxies and can read up on that topic and bore family and friends shitless again. Why not?

Blistering and magical 5-Stars
Profile Image for Sean Gibson.
Author 6 books5,675 followers
April 19, 2018
“Ray, pretend for a moment that I don't know anything about metallurgy, engineering, or physics, and just tell me what the hell is going on.” – Dr. Peter Venkman

As a matter of fact, Ray, I DID study, though it was more than 20 years ago, so it’s entirely possible I’ve forgotten a thing or two…so you can suck it.

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book is a joy. Do you need to have some basic grounding in physics to understand and appreciate it? Yes. If you have some basic grounding in physics, will you still be totally overwhelmed and perplexed by some of the ideas it presents? I certainly hope so, or else I’m an idiot (which is entirely possible…okay, probable). But, Tyson has a gift for making the impossibly complex digestible, and this brief overview of some of the most fascinating topics in astrophysics (not dissimilar, though slightly more reader friendly, than Rovelli's Seven Brief Lessons on Physics) is not only enlightening and entertaining, it also provides ample food for thought and a much-needed reason to reflect on things that transcend the day-to-day insanity we call life these days.

It’s difficult to grasp the overwhelming size of space when you struggle to figure out how to properly fold a pizza box (as some of us do—shut up), but it’s intellectually rewarding to wrestle with concepts that challenge your brain and force you to think in a different way.

Highly recommended for people who want a better grasp of a fascinating scientific arena and who want to sound smart in 30-second soundbites at parties (though be warned that follow-up questions will leave you doing the verbal equivalent of fumbling with a pizza box).
Profile Image for Ivan.
415 reviews272 followers
May 12, 2017
Short and sweet introduction to astrophysics. Science was bit basic for me as I posses some knowledge of the subject but it's perfect gift for my nephew who has shown interest and keeps asking me to explain this stuff to him. Neil deGrasse Tyson is great with words and simple explanations of complicated things. His writing style is fun and even funny at times and makes all of this sound incredibly cool. That in combination with very short length makes this book perfect if you are trying to set child onto the righteous path of nerd or trying to convert an adult.

Also I plan to get it as hardcopy for my nephew but I listened to audiobook version and Tyson's narration is just marvelous.
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,497 reviews2,315 followers
January 13, 2018
What a fun science book!

I have always been a science nut and had to get this book! The library was backed up so I know I wasn't the only one. I truly love the way he teaches the reader science on the reader's level without talking down to us. So many fun, witty remarks that stick the info in your head helps. He makes science fun! No wonder the kids these days know him, besides the fact he 'killed Pluto'. LOL. Wonderful book and I learned and laughed.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,318 reviews4,839 followers
November 18, 2021

3.5 stars

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, an American astrophysicist, is the Director of the Hayden Planetarium, and the host of 'Star Talk' and 'Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.' Tyson is also a very funny guy, and his sense of humor lightens the 'lessons' in Astrophysics for People in a Hurry - which contains a brief overview of cosmology.

I'll just touch on some topics in the book I found interesting.....some new, some not so much.


Fourteen billion years ago the universe was teeny tiny, 'a trillionth the size of the period that ends this sentence.' It exploded in 'The Big Bang' and expanded at a phenomenal rate - one second after the big bang the universe was already several light years across (at least 18 trillion miles).

The Big Bang

By then, the forces we're familiar with had formed: gravity, the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force, and the electromagnetic force.

At the same time, a large array of particles had appeared, including photons, electrons, neutrinos, quarks, and more....all the stuff that makes up 'matter.'

For the first billion years the universe continued to expand and cool, and matter coalesced into galaxies. Scientists estimate that there are about 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of billions of stars. Debris around some stars merged to form planets, and Earth formed in a 'Goldilocks' zone where oceans remain liquid.....allowing life as we know it to develop.

Matter coalesced into galaxies


Sir Isaac Newton

After Sir Isaac Newton determined the laws of gravity, scientists discovered that physical forces are uniform throughout the universe. Tyson notes, "The power and beauty of physical laws is that they apply everywhere, whether or not you choose to believe in them."

The astrophysicist has a fun story about this: When Tyson told a waiter that his hot cocoa had no whipped cream, the server insisted it had sunk to the bottom. But whipped cream has low density, and floats. So Tyson gave the waiter two options: "Either someone forgot to add whipped cream or the universal laws of physics are different in this restaurant." LOL

Cosmic background radiation (CMB), seen in every direction we look, is the microwave radiation emitted by the cooling universe 380,000 years after the big bang. It's the remnant of something that was once enormously bright, but now requires special instruments to observe.

CMB was first seen by two American physicists that worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories. They accidentally discovered CMB while trying to develop new channels of communication for AT&T.....and later won the Nobel Prize for this achievement (so that's a nice perk!).


Ordinary matter makes up everything we see and feel. It has gravity and interacts with light. However, this ordinary stuff makes up only 15 to 20 percent of the universe. A full 80 to 85 percent of the cosmos is made of a mysterious substance called 'dark matter', which has gravity but doesn't interact with light. Scientists have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what this is.

As if dark matter isn't sufficiently enigmatic, the universe also contains a large amount of 'dark energy.' This is a kind of 'negative gravity' that's pushing the universe apart - accelerating its expansion. As a result, anything not gravitationally connected to the Milky Way Galaxy (where we live) will rush away at an ever increasing speed.

So galaxies that are now visible to our telescopes will eventually disappear from view. Tyson notes, "In a trillion years, anyone alive in the Milky Way may know nothing of other galaxies, and will see nothing but a dark, endless void." :(


William and Caroline Herschel

In 1781, British astronomer William Herschel discovered a new planet in our solar system. He wanted to name it after his King, in which case the planets would be called: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and George. More traditional heads prevailed, and planet was named Uranus. :)


To communicate with life elsewhere in the universe - who probably wouldn't understand our spoken languages (just watch the 2016 movie 'Arrival') - we would have to use the language of science. The Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977, carries a plaque that shows humans, our solar system, our location in the Milky Way Galaxy, and the structure of hydrogen and the atom.

Voyager Plaque

It also carries a gold record album that has whale sounds, and music from Beethoven, Chuck Berry, and others. Tyson mentions that his favorite parody of this 'gift' is an old skit on Saturday Night Live, in which we receive a written reply from the aliens that asks "Send more Chuck Berry." Ha ha ha

Voyager Record


Tyson's book has lots more interesting information about the universe - and how we study it. On the (slight) downside - since the book is based on a series of essays - it's a little repetitive. And there's a section on elements that veers off the topic of astrophysics.

I'd highly recommend this 'astrophysics light' book to non-specialists interested in the subject. (If you're a physicist, you presumably know all this already.)

In this life I've studied tons of biology and geology. In my next life I'd like to be an astrophysicist who solves the mystery of dark matter and dark energy. :)

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Profile Image for Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen).
422 reviews1,623 followers
April 23, 2018
3.5 Stars

This rating may be more reflective of my personal tastes than the book itself, as this is definitely about large-scale, broad-spectrum science. My interests always veer towards understanding people and the world around me, less than wondering about our beginnings or the scope of the cosmos. As much as I want to learn, all the theoreticals tend to bore me.

But, this book does a really great job of presenting the material from a grounded, real-world approach. Tyson uses funny anecdotes (my favorite is the one about whipped cream and gravity) to help explain these strange, difficult concepts, and it's overall very well done. Plus that chapter on Dark Matter? Spooky and all types of interesting.

At the end of the day, I can't rate this any-higher, because I still zoned out more often than I want to admit. But, I was less confused than I thought I'd be, and more interested than I thought I'd be, so that's something?
Profile Image for Caro (Bookaria).
599 reviews18.7k followers
August 4, 2017
I had different expectations about this book, and the problem is likely me and not the book. The book explains astrophysics, or what we know to date about this subject from the beginning (the Big Bang) to today and also the possible future. Everything is explained theoretically and clarified as that.

I love reading about science facts and that's what I expected but the subject is astrophysics which is defined as:

"the branch of astronomy concerned with the physical nature of stars and other celestial bodies, and the application of the laws and theories of physics to the interpretation of astronomical observations." (source)

So clearly I didn't have an idea of what I was getting into. However, the definition of astrophysics was clarified while reading this book. Neil deGrasse Tyson does an excellent job of explaining these complex ideas and putting it in simple, understandable terms. A lot of the concepts went over my head and require abstract thinking from the part of the reader.

I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson, he did a wonderful job at that.

Overall I liked it but did not love it. I recommend it to all those interested in the cosmos, astrophysics, dark matter and other theoretical subjects.

Review posted on blog.

FINAL NOTE: The author is very charismatic and if you follow him on twitter you probably have realized this by now. His tweets are poignant, interesting and funny.

Profile Image for Kelli.
844 reviews391 followers
November 18, 2017
I guess I’m not in that much of a hurry! Or I’m just not very bright. This book is not accessible for the average person, in a hurry or otherwise. I was lost really early on and trust me, things didn’t get clearer with time. It felt like a convoluted textbook to me. I will accept all the blame for my totally honest take on this book: I hated it. My biggest takeaway was that I’m not interested in astrophysics at all...and I’m okay with that!
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,037 followers
November 16, 2017
I know that Neil deGrasse Tyson has been the new poster child of capital-S Science in the last few years, but I have lived in blissful ignorance. I didn't watch Cosmos, for instance. But I like astrophysics, the parts I can grasp, and have an admiration for people who can grasp the science and math and concepts enough to push our understanding forward.

This is a short book, and I will recommend the audio read by the author. He is very passionate and exuberant about his topics, and it still came across a bit sped up (which I felt it needed.) The different chapters are sometimes previous essays, compiled into this layman's overview of astrophysics - intentionally short, concepts boiled down to the core of where our understanding started, what we know now, and what we do not know. It's clear that the one thing we really have gained understanding of is all that we do not know!

I was least thrilled by the periodical table chapter, but I get it, the elements are not unique to earth, and that can be used as evidence for some things, mostly things I'm not super interested in the debate on. But I loved his cosmic perspective and where humanity fits as much as I loved his visual description of what the galaxies looked like in the past, and his questions about the things that we can never know we don't know because they are gone.

This is the best science book I've read all year, and possibly also the only science book I will have read this year.
Profile Image for Cyndi.
2,326 reviews95 followers
October 24, 2017
Actually, if you're in a hurry to understand astrophysics, might want give that pipe dream up. Although this book is a brilliant and well written group of essays by one of the greatest minds of our time, it is not a quick read.
I'll grant ya that it's not a huge tome, but the amount of info on every page is amazing. I often had to put it down and let just a few lines sink in.
If you truly want to grasp even just the edges of astrophysics you won't read this book in a hurry. You will take the time to savor every sentence.
Profile Image for Emily.
118 reviews570 followers
November 13, 2017
I have always been more of a words person than a numbers person. I stopped enjoying science in school when numbers got involved, somewhere around Honors Chemistry.

This book was perfect for me. Written in an engaging, approachable style, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry has reignited my interest in science, particularly in astronomy. I learned a lot, only by rereading passages several times and then putting the book down to think for a few minutes before continuing, but mostly I came away with a sense of amazement and humility in the face of the universe and the people so much smarter than me that study it.

The last thirty pages were so profound, just so shockingly profound and inspiring, that I actually feel differently about the world and my place in it. And now I’m off to watch Cosmos and probably order another NDT book to read once my brain recovers from this one.
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews6,942 followers
June 18, 2018
Neil deGrasse Tyson is cool. No question. He doesn't pack much into this short book, but whatever he does talk about is always cool. Even too cool sometimes. Sagan used to awe us with this stuff, but deGrasse Tyson makes it easy to feel like a nerd, by oversimplifying concepts and letting some of his smooth arrogance pass onto the reader.

But, there are always enough nuggets to keep your true inner nerd interested: Like when he explains how Quarks have fractional charges that come in thirds, and that the force that keeps two or more of them together actually grows stronger the more you separate them... Wow, right? And the whole discussion on dark energy and dark matter is the coolest bit, because Tyson is at his best in dealing with still unexplored bits of the subject.

All in all, Tyson's geeky, aloof, arrogant voice remains consistent through this book as well - and those of us who derive pleasure from a likeable know-it-all like Tyson talking down to know-nothings, will enjoy every bit of it. Especially, when the arrogance arising from the backing of science and its capabilities are laced with just the right dose of Sagan-like, pale-blue-dot-like humility about how the arrow of knowledge always gives us humans a smaller and smaller role in the universe.
Profile Image for Maria V. Snyder.
Author 43 books16.8k followers
May 7, 2018
It was interesting and full of information about the universe. A few chapters go into more detail than others and I didn't "get" everything, science wise. But I did get a few good ideas for stories!
Profile Image for Amanda (PandaCat).
656 reviews21 followers
March 22, 2017
***I received an advance reader copy of this book from Netgalley for an honest review***

I love Neil deGrasse Tyson and the way he so easily puts concepts into terms regular people can understand. I love how excited he gets about the universe. This short and simple book is a great intro to our place in the universe.

Also, watch the documentary "We are Stars" at your local planetarium if you get the chance (this book and that documentary go very well together).

I ❤ science!
Profile Image for Cathrine ☯️ .
601 reviews331 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
July 9, 2017
All right, what we have here is a failure to communicate.
Say what?!
I guess I should start with Astrophysics for Dummies . . . Nah, just forget it.
I'm having a good laugh at my reading aspirations right now. I think I'll content myself with stargazing and wondering.
I am not worthy to rate this book.
Profile Image for Paula W.
351 reviews71 followers
March 23, 2020
3/23/2020 - I have suffered with some insomnia lately, what with all the chaos going on in the world right now. I found that turning the television on in the bedroom with the volume on low works well to quiet my insanely hyperactive mind, especially if the voices are soothing and calming. Some of my favorites: any of those documentary shows that deal with oceans and animals and such, the shows about our vast universe, and Bob Ross. The voices are super quiet and there are no drastic/sudden increases in volume to shock me out of my almost sleep.

While flipping through the YouTube app on my TV last night to find something, I came across the audiobook version of this that had been posted. (Hint hint the audiobook is free on YouTube hint hint). I read the book in 2017 so I didn’t necessarily need to read it again, but I know that Neil’s voice was exactly what I needed.

Unfortunately, I had the volume a little too high and got interested again in how well he explains mind-blowing science. Do I understand it all? Heck no. But that wasn’t the intention of the book. The intention was sort of to make me understand that I didn’t understand anything, that the universe is so much more complicated than anyone can understand in a 3.5 hour audiobook reading. It helps me understand what some very intelligent people are doing to figure out some things that even they don’t know yet.

3.5 hours later, I was still awake but much more at peace. And sleep finally came.

6/6/2017 Original Review - Sadly, this is just more proof that the universe doesn't revolve around me. I highly recommend the audiobook, read by Neil himself. His voice is soothing, and the astrophysics seem somehow easier to understand coming directly from him.
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