||2012 Powell's Staff Top 5s
The great Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium, PBS/Nova host, and ambassador to all sorts of interstellar and cosmic awesomeness, is also the author of nearly a dozen books. His newest, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier
, is a collection of three dozen articles, speeches, and interviews (and even a poem!) previously published or delivered in public. Divided into three main parts ("Why," "How," and "Why Not"), Space Chronicles
delves into a wide variety of topics and subtopics related to space exploration, the space program, and the science advanced by the two.
Tyson, with the trademark wit and humor that has made him so beloved, expounds upon the importance of reinvigorating our national space program and advocates for increasing NASA's budget (from its current and paltry halfpence on the tax dollar). He seeks these goals, not merely for the sake of exploration and discovery (important pursuits be they may), but instead to (re)foster a culture that shares a common dream of the future and inevitably results in new technologies, greater understanding, and an overall amelioration of the human species. Tyson decries the decline of scientific literacy so prevalent in American society today and contrasts it with other countries, whose own space programs are growing ever more focused and robust (there are now more scientifically literate citizens in China than there are college graduates in the United States).
When you visit other countries that don't nurture these kinds of ambitions, you can feel the absence of hope. Owing to all manner of politics, economics, and geography, people are reduced to worrying only about that day's shelter or the next day's meal. It's a shame, even a tragedy, how many people do not get to think about the future. Technology coupled with wise leadership not only solves these problems but enables dreams of tomorrow.
is accessible and digestible to anyone curious about recent astronomical developments, as Tyson is adept at distilling the essence of even the most complex of subjects. This collection is rather light on the science (for those unnecessarily deterred by the often-challenging nature of headier works), and instead finds Tyson serving in his more familiar role of educator and diplomat of the stars. While there is some repetition to be found within these essays, articles, and speeches (as they were delivered to a range of audiences), it in no way detracts from the nature of Tyson's message and, in fact, only serves to reinforce the important points he attempts to convey. Space Chronicles
also features eight fascinating appendices, six of which focus on the meager tax dollars apportioned to NASA each fiscal year (as percentage of GDP, as percentage of total government spending, in comparison to other nations, etc.), and two that offer the full texts of NASA's policies as enacted by law (National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 and Selected Statutory Provisions Applicable to NASA).
Neil deGrasse Tyson (host of the soon-to-be-released sequel to Carl Sagan's epic miniseries, Cosmos
) is a
galactic treasure. With infectious enthusiasm, reason, and humility, Tyson is the epitome of the sort of teacher that every student deserves to have at the front of his or her science classroom. Space Chronicles
, at the very least, will likely renew or strengthen the allure and enchantment of space exploration for its readers and, perhaps, may just compel one to speak out as an advocate for bolstering the NASA budget, in the hopes of recommitting ourselves, as a nation, to the promise and wonder of the as-yet-uncharted frontiers overhead.
During our brief stay on planet Earth, we owe ourselves and our descendants the opportunity to explore — in part because it's fun to do. But there's a far nobler reason. The day our knowledge of the cosmos ceases to expand, we risk regressing to the childish view that the universe figuratively and literally revolves around us. In that bleak world, arms-bearing, resource-hungry people and nations would be prone to act on their "low contracted prejudices." And that would be the last gasp of human enlightenment — until the rise of a visionary new culture that could once again embrace the cosmic perspective. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Neil deGrasse Tyson is a rare breed of astrophysicist, one who can speak as easily and brilliantly with popular audiences as with professional scientists. Now that NASA has put human space flight effectively on hold with a five- or possibly ten-year delay until the next launch of astronauts from U.S. soil Tyson's views on the future of space travel and America's role in that future are especially timely and urgent. This book represents the best of Tyson's commentary, including a candid new introductory essay on NASA and partisan politics, giving us an eye-opening manifesto on the importance of space exploration for America's economy, security, and morale. Thanks to Tyson's fresh voice and trademark humor, his insights are as delightful as they are provocative, on topics that range from the missteps that shaped our recent history of space travel to how aliens, if they existed, might go about finding us.
"Astrophysicist Tyson, the director of Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, delivers a forceful, cumulative argument for space exploration even in the face of a disastrous economy. In this collection of articles and talks, the author investigates what space travel means to us as a species and, more specifically, what NASA means to America." Kirkus Reviews
A thought-provoking and humorous collection on NASA and the future of space travel.
About the Author
Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History, director of the world-famous Hayden Planetarium, a monthly columnist for Natural History, and an award-winning author. He has begun production of a new Cosmos series, premiering in early 2013. He lives in New York City.