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Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries    by Neil deGrasse Tyson order for
Death by Black Hole
by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Order:  USA  Can
W. W. Norton, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

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 - offers 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 simple and clearly defined answers to questions about the universe - Tyson makes it easily understandable, even to those knowing next to nothing about science. His book pulls together a selection of the author's columns in Natural History.

While I was hoping for something more in depth - in the style of Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos or Lee Smolin's The Trouble With Physics - Death by Black Hole nevertheless provides quick and simple answers to many questions readers lacking a strong science background will have about physics, space, and the cosmos.

Tyson starts with how humanity views Earth, the solar system, and the universe. Along with this discussion, he gives minor history lessons on the development of different ideas in physics and astronomy - which people came up with what ideas and how the progression led to the development of big theories like string theory and relativity. He continues on to address the crucial steps that led to the formation of the universe and its development over many billions and billions of years, again explaining how it is that scientists know what they do and what instruments were used, as well as the history of who invented and used said instruments.

It is then that Tyson finally turns to the title subject matter in When the Universe Turns Bad: All the Ways the Cosmos Wants to Kill Us. Here he addresses the complex and still relatively unknown subjects of chaos theory, dark matter (which constitutes over 90% of all matter in the universe, though we still know next to nothing about it), and finally black holes. Tyson takes the reader on a hypothetical journey, postulating what would happen if someone were to be sucked into a black hole and how as they approached the event horizon, they would become stretched until the skin's elasticity point was surpassed and the body would be torn into thousands, then millions of little pieces.

With many questions now answered, Tyson then discusses how science is viewed by the media, Hollywood, and people around the world. The final section addresses science and religion, again taking the reader on a historic journey through the evolution of religion and science, and the struggle that has ensued for centuries. It is the perfect ending to a book on science, as Tyson lectures on the importance of supporting fact and reality in a time when many believe based on faith, even when all evidence is to the contrary.

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