Catalin Negru's Reviews > Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier

Space Chronicles by Neil deGrasse Tyson
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bookshelves: science

Target audience: Common people, anyone passionate about space, astronomy, the Universe and the future of space exploration.

About the author: According to Wikipedia, Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator. Since 1996, he has been the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City. The center is part of the American Museum of Natural History, where Tyson founded the Department of Astrophysics in 1997 and has been a research associate in the department since 2003. Tyson's research has focused on observations in cosmology, stellar evolution, galactic astronomy, bulges, and stellar formation. He has held numerous positions at institutions including the University of Maryland, Princeton University, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Hayden Planetarium.

Structure of the book: The book has 384 pages, divided in an Editor’s Note, Prologue, Part I – containing 12 chapters, Part II – containing 15 chapters, Part III – containing 9 chapters, Epilogue, Appendices from A to F, Acknowledgments, Index, Biographical Notes, Praise for Space Chronicles, and Praise for Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Overview: Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier is not a book in the real sense of the word; it was not composed as a book. It is a collection of fascinating essays written by Tyson over the years and originally published separately.
The primary theme of the book is the importance of space exploration. This is our future as a species, this is our destiny and this is what we must do, as quickly as possible. If we want to avoid a possible extinction, we must follow our multi-millenary dream, reach the stars and become a multi-planetary species. But, in order to achieve this, we must channel our efforts, energy and resources in the right way, both at individual level and collective level.
So, the secondary theme of the book is a call for more funding and resources to be allocated for space exploration. But the call is not addressed to the leaders or experts of the developed countries of the world (mainly USA); the call is addressed to the common people, the voters who decide every 4 years the course of their country (and of the world) and the parents who educate and raise the future citizens of the Earth.
Each essay presents America's history in space, covering the two themes from different points of view, with different examples and with different arguments. For example, Tyson condemns our indifference for space exploration given the opportunities we have compared to past generations. But he also says that manned space flights will generate enthusiasm among young people, sufficient to encourage them to become scientists and engineers. The world needs much more scientists and engineers, not entertainers. Science is the answer to all our problems, and new generations of scientists, more enlightened and more in number, must rise to lead humanity towards new heights of knowledge and prosperity. Unlike religions or myths, the language of science is universal. Science transcends all barriers and all over the world, no matter the language or cultural background, scientists manage to understand each other and work together for a common goal. Tyson illustrates very well throughout the essays how he traveled around the world and worked together with people from different countries, even USSR.

Quote: You need to live in a nation whose government values the search to understand humanity’s place in the universe. You need a society in which intellectual pursuit can take you to the frontiers of discovery, and in which news of your discoveries can be routinely disseminated.

Strong points: Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier follows the philosophy of the author. Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of my favorite scientists and I watched many of his public speeches on Youtube. Not only he, despite being one of the great thinkers of our time, manages to make himself understood to the masses, but he also makes complex things look simple and science look fun. His goal is not only to expand knowledge, but also to educate the public and keep them interested in science. And so far he is doing a fantastic job.

Weak points: The essays become very repetitive and reading the same ideas over and over again in different forms is a little annoying. There is also no underlying structure to the book. The last third of the book is an appendix containing the legislation that created NASA, which is not interesting at all. I believe that there was no material left to make a book in the real sense of the word and the appendix plus the praises to the author and the book were added only to increase the number of the pages in order to look like a serious book. It is a little disappointing because Tyson’s style is fun.


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Reading Progress

July 11, 2016 – Started Reading
July 11, 2016 – Shelved
July 19, 2016 – Finished Reading
August 11, 2016 – Shelved as: science

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