Welcome to the Universe
Video Length 6:05
Who Should Read it
Professional time travelers, aspiring astronauts, and all human beings (optional for non-human life forms)
Why Should We Read it
The universe is too fascinating and too elegant for us to miss out on its peculiarities.
What Will We Learn
Astrophysics isn't (that) hard! We just need to train our eyes to understand what we are seeing.
“Astrophysics to this day resides in my same mental category for magic and mysticism... potentially dangerous if I’m not careful.”
When I hear the word “astrophysics”, I often remember a specific physics problem from my university days: “What is the angular momentum of a chair that is rotating about its axis while bolted to a merry-go-round, and the merry-go-round itself is rotating?” This image nearly always evokes uneasiness in me because I never did solve that problem. Astrophysics to this day resides in my same mental category for magic and mysticism: incomprehensible and potentially dangerous if I’m not careful. Welcome to the Universe: An Astrophysical Tour, by Professors Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss, and J. Richard Gott, is the collaborative effort to make this subject a little more accessible to the general public, and a little safer for me.
"It then details the life and death of stars, the Big Bang, and the curious physics of black holes."
The title of the book does not disappoint, and it indeed takes us on a grand tour of our universe. It starts with our life on Earth and recalls how mundane weather and seasonal details are actually astrophysics forces at work. It then details the life and death of stars, the Big Bang, and the curious physics of black holes. It addresses contemporary debates currently capturing mainstream society’s attention, like the possibility of alien life and the (non-)planetary status of Pluto. What are quasars, and why are they called that? How can there be a 4th dimension (or 10th dimension), and what does that imply for our universe? Is there actually a multiverse? This book talks about it all.
"Our math equations, from E=mc^2 to the general theory of relativity, are nothing more than a summary of what we are observing."
Explanations within the realm of astrophysics invariably involve math equations. To overcome these inherent complexities, the authors also focus on astrophysics’ historical roots, when we had nothing more than our eyes to observe the sky. This is the heart of the book’s genius. Over and over again, the authors emphasize that astrophysics, like any branch of science, is in the business of making observations and making sense of these observations. Our math equations, from E=mc^2 to the general theory of relativity, are nothing more than a summary of what we are observing. Those math equations then suggest new possibilities about our universe (like dark matter), which then help point our telescopes in the direction of the next big discovery.
"Astrophysics offers elegant answers to big questions, if only we care to look carefully at the world around and above us."
Astrophysics offers elegant answers to big questions, if only we care to look carefully at the world around and above us. It is a field where the possibilities seem endless, and the next earth-shattering revelation about our universe seems just around the corner. I look forward to these new discoveries. Now about that merry-go-round…