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Letters from an Astrophysicist

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The natural follow-up to the phenomenal bestseller Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has attracted one of the world’s largest online followings with his fascinating, widely accessible insights into science and our universe. Now, Tyson invites us to go behind the scenes of his public fame by unveiling his candid correspondence with people The natural follow-up to the phenomenal bestseller Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has attracted one of the world’s largest online followings with his fascinating, widely accessible insights into science and our universe. Now, Tyson invites us to go behind the scenes of his public fame by unveiling his candid correspondence with people across the globe who have sought him out in search of answers. In this hand-picked collection of one hundred letters, Tyson draws upon cosmic perspectives to address a vast array of questions about science, faith, philosophy, life, and of course, Pluto. His succinct, opinionated, passionate, and often funny responses reflect his popularity and standing as a leading educator. Tyson’s 2017 bestseller Astrophysics for People in a Hurry offered more than one million readers an insightful and accessible understanding of the universe. Now, revealing Tyson’s most candid and heartfelt writing yet, Letters from an Astrophysicist introduces us to a newly personal dimension of Tyson’s quest to understand our place in the cosmos.


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The natural follow-up to the phenomenal bestseller Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has attracted one of the world’s largest online followings with his fascinating, widely accessible insights into science and our universe. Now, Tyson invites us to go behind the scenes of his public fame by unveiling his candid correspondence with people The natural follow-up to the phenomenal bestseller Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has attracted one of the world’s largest online followings with his fascinating, widely accessible insights into science and our universe. Now, Tyson invites us to go behind the scenes of his public fame by unveiling his candid correspondence with people across the globe who have sought him out in search of answers. In this hand-picked collection of one hundred letters, Tyson draws upon cosmic perspectives to address a vast array of questions about science, faith, philosophy, life, and of course, Pluto. His succinct, opinionated, passionate, and often funny responses reflect his popularity and standing as a leading educator. Tyson’s 2017 bestseller Astrophysics for People in a Hurry offered more than one million readers an insightful and accessible understanding of the universe. Now, revealing Tyson’s most candid and heartfelt writing yet, Letters from an Astrophysicist introduces us to a newly personal dimension of Tyson’s quest to understand our place in the cosmos.

30 review for Letters from an Astrophysicist

  1. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    Yes, the universe wants to kill us. But on the other hand, we all want to live. So let’s find a way together to deflect the asteroids, find the cure to the next lethal virus, mitigate hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanoes, etc. This can only be enabled by the efforts of a scientifically and technologically literate public. Therein lies a hope on Earth far greater than ever promised by the act of prayer or introspection. It can be a bit of a challenge when talking about Neil deGrasse Tyson, deciding Yes, the universe wants to kill us. But on the other hand, we all want to live. So let’s find a way together to deflect the asteroids, find the cure to the next lethal virus, mitigate hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanoes, etc. This can only be enabled by the efforts of a scientifically and technologically literate public. Therein lies a hope on Earth far greater than ever promised by the act of prayer or introspection. It can be a bit of a challenge when talking about Neil deGrasse Tyson, deciding just where to start. Overall, one would have to say that He is the public face of space, this side of fiction, anyway. And speaking of fiction, he was cast in a recent Neal Stephenson novel, SevenEves, albeit with a nom du plume. He has published 14 books, hosted several science-focused TV series, including Cosmos, Star Talk, Origins, the Pluto Files and more. He is only the fifth ever head of the New York Planetarium, served on presidential science advisory councils, has been awarded NASA’s highest non-government-employee award. He is the teacher you wished you had for science, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and encouraging, and with a wonderful sense of humor. Neil deGrasse Tyson - image from his site And if that is not enough, he is a remarkably charming guy, and a wonderful writer. In a recent Late Show interview with Whoopi Goldberg (at 7:21 of the clip), when Stephen Colbert asked her who her favorite ever guest was, she said Tyson, because he could talk for three hours straight, and they would all be wonderful, informative hours. And if Whoopi loves spending time with the guy, really, who are we to argue? How do you defend yourself when you have received a letter that proclaims you a “pooh-pooh head” for your role in downgrading Pluto to dwarf-planet status? What can you say to people who challenge you on religion, God, philosophy, who see responsibility for the 9/11 assaults in celestial alignments? This book consists of NDT’s responses to about 75 letters he’s received over the years, on a wide range of subjects. He also writes about some personal feelings and events, like his relationship with his father, or more ethereal considerations of nature. And some are just for fun, like his selection of the most scientifically BS movies of all time, or a museum visitor picking up a display information error that had been there for a very long time, and which NDT had had a hand in approving. Oopsy. There are some very heart-warming passages in which he encourages young learners. He opens with a look at his early exposure to NASA, not as the inspiration it was for so many, but as consistent excluder of people like him. He writes a birthday note to NASA, which was born the same month as he was. …you should know that among my colleagues, I am the rare few in my generation who became an astrophysicist in spite of your achievements in space rather than because of them. For my inspiration, I instead turned to libraries, remaindered books on the cosmos from bookstores, my rooftop telescope and the Hayden Planetarium. NASA moved forward in its employee selection with time, and Tyson would serve as an advisor to America’s space agency. He looks at extraordinary claims, the Cosmos, science denial, philosophy, matters of life and death, his experience with 9/11, religious faith, school issues, and parenting. A chapter titled “Rebuttals” is reserved for special smackdowns. Some chapters are more potpourri than focused. There is a fair bit of overlap among the chapters in subject material, but not enough to negate the structure of the book. Some notions are repeated maybe a time or two too often, but that is a small blemish. Tyson, above all, defends science as the way to understand the workings of the world and the universe. And castigates those who would substitute scriptural revealed truths for the objective, testable approach science offers. His correspondents include men, women, children, prisoners, celebrities, folks of diverse political stripes and religious persuasions. He responds to scientists, teachers, athletes, and morons. All with charm, knowledge, and wisdom. The incoming letters are querulous, admiring, and sometimes hate-filled. Tyson offers some surprising observations on things like the value of IQ, the best books to read, and an actual diamond in the sky. He remembers some people he admires. There is occasional snark in his replies, but, IMHO, not nearly enough. He offers a moving message to a fan who is about to lose a dying mother, and tells how Richard Holbrooke’s interest in science informed his diplomatic work. Like Whoopi says, listening to Neil for three hours is perfectly fine, and I expect you will find the time you spend with him in the pages of this book to be just as rewarding. Not only is NDT great at what he does, which is working to educate Americans about science, he is very warm, human company, who is blessed with a gift for explaining science, and an ability to write that smooths that educational element even more. In that interview Stephen Colbert did with Whoopi, she notes that after spending time with Tyson, she remembered more, of the science things he had been talking about, than she’d expected. Maybe you will too. It most certainly won’t hurt to try. And you have any questions, you could always just send the guy a letter. Review posted – October 4, 2019 Publication date – October 8, 2019 I received an ARC of this book from Norton in return for a review that would stand up to scientific scrutiny. =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages It would be redundant to add here the vast number of links one could use to connect with Tyson’s various activities. His primary site, at the Planetarium, offers those in abundance.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Boissonneault

    Letters from an Astrophysicist is a collection of letters and replies from Neil deGrasse Tyson to his fans and other inquirers, collected over a span of more than two decades. The topics range across science, religion, philosophy, politics, ethics, education, and more, with Tyson doing his best to impart his cosmic wisdom to his often ill-informed interrogators. You might ask what benefits can be derived from reading this collection of letters, rather than reading Tyson’s other works or watching Letters from an Astrophysicist is a collection of letters and replies from Neil deGrasse Tyson to his fans and other inquirers, collected over a span of more than two decades. The topics range across science, religion, philosophy, politics, ethics, education, and more, with Tyson doing his best to impart his cosmic wisdom to his often ill-informed interrogators. You might ask what benefits can be derived from reading this collection of letters, rather than reading Tyson’s other works or watching his videos or podcasts. I think there are three: 1. Using the examples as a crash course in the art of letter writing for the purpose of being able to express your thoughts more clearly and concisely. 2. Learning how to answer a series of stupid questions with patience and understanding while cultivating a skeptical mindset in your audience. 3. Understanding the approach of a scientist and educator whose primary goal is the education of the public. I used to think that Tyson was overly evasive when it came to questions of god and religion and that his reticence to take a stand on political and religious topics was timid and non-confrontational (especially in comparison to someone like Richard Dawkins). While I still feel that there is a need for people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, I’ve since come to appreciate Tyson’s very different but still admirable approach. Tyson doesn’t want to shove his beliefs down your throat, unless you ask. He’s not interested in converting you to atheism or anything else, or telling you which politician to vote for. He wants to give you the facts, to tell you how to reason appropriately and think responsibly, so that whatever conclusions you come to you’ve come to on your own. Tyson’s only real agenda appears to be the fostering of independent thinking skills in his audience. As for the letters themselves, they are mostly edifying and often amusing. You may find yourself disagreeing with his approach on some topics, but his replies are typically well-thought out and researched. The letters to Tyson, however, can be monotonous and at times terrifically stupid (one person insists that they’ve found the secret to building a perpetual motion machine while another insists that Tyson should take Big Foot more seriously). Tyson’s replies seem to boil down to a few principles that are repeated over and over. Here are the primary ones: - A little bit of education is dangerous. People often know enough about a topic to think they’re right about some theory, but not enough about the topic to know they’re wrong. If you think you can build a perpetual motion machine, for instance, don’t bother Neil deGrasse Tyson; build the machine, submit your discoveries to peer-reviewed science, and win the nobel prize. More than likely, though, you’re just wrong; remember, education is largely the discovery of how little you actually know. - The argument from ignorance underlies all superstitions and conspiracy theories. As Tyson said regarding the claim that UFOs are alien spacecraft, “Once you confess to not knowing what you are looking at, no logical line of reasoning allows you to then declare that you know what you are looking at.” The “U” in UFO stands for “unidentified,” and just because you can’t identify it doesn’t automatically make it an alien spacecraft. Similarly, that you can’t understand how the universe came into existence doesn’t mean that “God did it.” - Eyewitness testimony is the least reliable evidence. Scientists and psychologists know that eyewitness testimony is the least reliable type of evidence available, especially when the event in question is several years old and reliant upon an also unreliable memory. All accounts of “supernatural” phenomena rely exclusively on this type of evidence, so if you’ve experienced something you can’t explain, for example, you should ask yourself whether it’s more likely that you’ve witnessed a suspension of the laws of physics or that you’re simply mistaken. Remember, the gold standard of science is peer-reviewed controlled experiment, to which no supernatural claims have ever held up. - The belief in extrasensory perception has a basic psychological explanation. Fortune tellers and psychics are compelling to people because people tend to remember the hits and not the misses. Take the example of prophetic dreams. You have multiple dreams every night regarding events that never transpire, which you quickly forget. But the one dream you have regarding an event that comes true—among thousands of meaningless dreams—will be the one you remember and use as “proof” of your prophetic powers, when it’s statistically guaranteed that you will eventually dream of something that actually happens. - Those who are determined to be offended always will be. There is nothing worse than someone who overreacts to an edgy joke. Every time Tyson Tweets something mildly controversial he gets bombarded by people who are destined to take offense on behalf of themselves or others or the country. We should all lighten up, not be so sensitive, and find something better to do with our time than police the internet for offensive material. - Epistemologically, religion is the enemy of science. While Tyson is more conciliatory when it comes to religion than others (perhaps too much so?), he understands that the discovery of truths via revelation, miracles, or faith—all unreliable methods subject to the whims of the individual— is the antithesis of the epistemological approach of science based on observation, experiment, and logical analysis. - The search for meaning outside of yourself is misguided. A number of questions fielded by Tyson revolve around the meaning and purpose of life and the belief in a higher power, whatever that phrase is supposed to mean. As Tyson said, regarding the question as to why we are all here: “I never think much about ‘why.’ Why implies a purpose set by external forces. I have always felt that purpose is not defined outside of ourselves, but from deep within. My purpose in life is to lessen the suffering of others; advance our understanding of the universe; and enlighten others along the way.” While Tyson is generally on point, I do take some issue with his dismissive stance on philosophy. In fact, most of what Tyson does himself is not science; he discusses and interprets the findings of other scientists and advocates for a particular epistemological view. This is, in many ways, mainly philosophical, whether explicitly stated or not. Personally, I don’t think it is possible to divorce philosophy from science, and history bears this out. Isaac Newton considered himself to be a “natural philosopher,” and his systematization of the universal laws of motion and gravity was largely a purely intellectual endeavor, not one based on simply running experiments and getting back data. The same can be said for Albert Einstein, whose theories of relativity began as thought experiments only later to be codified in mathematical terms and confirmed via experiment. There is always an interplay between experiments, data, and interpretation, and philosophy is a big part of that equation. Tyson’s views here seem to be very intellectually narrow-minded. Many physicists, for instance, such as Lee Smolin, believe that our next breakthrough in our understanding of quantum mechanics will be conceptual and philosophical. We already have the data, but no one can make any sense of it, or figure out which additional experiments can shed more light on the problem. It’s interesting to note that elsewhere Tyson suggests, in support of government funding of varied priorities, that “the most innovative solutions to problems commonly come from outside of the field—from people inspired by different priorities.” He also speaks of “cross-pollination of the disciplines” as being beneficial, yet maintains a dismissive stance towards a discipline that has throughout history been closely allied with science. In one of the letters to Tyson, an individual insists that philosophy is a useless endeavor, and that only science is useful, entirely oblivious to the fact that his very assertion of the uselessness of philosophy is itself a philosophical position that cannot be confirmed or denied via experiment. The fact is, we can’t escape philosophy; we can only decide whether we practice it poorly or well. Overall, this is an entertaining and intimate look into the mind of one of our best science educators. You’re guaranteed to learn some useful facts and gain exposure to a more enlightened perspective. But if you find yourself disagreeing with Tyson, that’s exactly what he would want, because it shows you’re still thinking.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Abhishek Desikan

    I have followed Neil deGrasse Tyson for a long time. YouTube, books, Star Talk podcasts, a live talk, Cosmos, etc., are some of the ways I've become accustomed to his style and views on all things under the sun (pardon the pun). In spite of that, this book was a refreshing change, as perhaps for the first time, we get to see the personal, empathetic side of the man, who is exceptionally rational most of the time. The book is precisely what the title suggests - a compendium of various letters I have followed Neil deGrasse Tyson for a long time. YouTube, books, Star Talk podcasts, a live talk, Cosmos, etc., are some of the ways I've become accustomed to his style and views on all things under the sun (pardon the pun). In spite of that, this book was a refreshing change, as perhaps for the first time, we get to see the personal, empathetic side of the man, who is exceptionally rational most of the time. The book is precisely what the title suggests - a compendium of various letters written by him, in response to the multiple questions he received over the past few decades, or for a newspaper editorial. One marvels at his communication and writing skills while we also recognize how he has impacted scores of people in his role as a science educator. Neil, of course, is consistent throughout in his responses - always respectful and courteous, whether it's appreciation or hate mail. He repeatedly invokes the "cosmic perspective" and is unapologetic of his views on religion, particularly Christianity. His deep care for the future of the country and the universe stand out, as he explains the importance of education and critical thinking for the next generation. A couple of letters stood out to me - A soldier in Iraq who scoured the night sky using his telescope after reading his book while being on duty; The couple who noticed a mistake on a plaque in AMNH and Neil's affable response; more than one concerned person asking if science and religion can co-exist, a grandma asking what that object was in the sky.. But the most touching was his recounting of the 9/11 attacks a day after the event. That recollection was so vivid that one feels like they witnessed the tragedy live. I wouldn't call this book a "must-read," but it's definitely a delightful read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mustafa Jawad

    When I give a book 5 stars, I ask myself: Did I not want to stop reading? Was I turning the pages as time seemed to fly by? Did I feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment after completion? This book matches my criterion. The letters are short, witty, quick, and an excellent source of bite sized, intellectual eloquence. This book is far more pragmatic than say," Astrophysics For People In a Hurry." It has all the personality and heart that neil tyson intended to pour into this book. If you When I give a book 5 stars, I ask myself: Did I not want to stop reading? Was I turning the pages as time seemed to fly by? Did I feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment after completion? This book matches my criterion. The letters are short, witty, quick, and an excellent source of bite sized, intellectual eloquence. This book is far more pragmatic than say," Astrophysics For People In a Hurry." It has all the personality and heart that neil tyson intended to pour into this book. If you are a fan of neil tyson, this is a must read. And if you are not a fan of his, well that may change after reading this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrienne

    Great companion for Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. This book is a compilation of letters that the author received from strangers as well as letters he wrote to everyone and as opinion pieces. The letters are filled with curious questions about science, complaints, and well-meaning fans just wanting to know where the author stands in topics that the letter-writers feel strongly about. Advance reading copy provided by the publisher.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Whether he is getting deep into scientific explanation or into something more personal, whether his responses were informative, funny, a sick burn or mic drop, or insightful and thought provoking...I enjoyed every letter he included and how he responded to them all.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Víctor Álvarez

    If a spacecraft could survive the temperatures on the surface of the Sun, it would be cold compared to the burns delivered by Neil deGrasse Tyson. This books offers a look to the inner workings of the mind of Dr Tyson.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mansoury

    Disappointed that it’s mostly not about astrophysics From a massive NDT fan, I was disappointed to find that it’s not a book about astrophysics but just random thoughts and stories. I thought the title was misleading because I sadly expected this book to be a merging of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry and Brief Answers to the Big Questions, which was also a compilation of letters and responses by Stephen Hawking.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Merek Smith

    A wide array of subjects with awesome answers from Neil. This was a refreshing book to listen to (audiobook read by Neil). It was very fun getting little bits of random knowledge. I think Neil does a fantastic job answering so many different questions. He has a very special way of responding, never making the person look or seem to be stupid or completely wrong. He takes all the questions seriously and provides thoughtful answers. I very much enjoyed listening to this and already listened to A wide array of subjects with awesome answers from Neil. This was a refreshing book to listen to (audiobook read by Neil). It was very fun getting little bits of random knowledge. I think Neil does a fantastic job answering so many different questions. He has a very special way of responding, never making the person look or seem to be stupid or completely wrong. He takes all the questions seriously and provides thoughtful answers. I very much enjoyed listening to this and already listened to parts of it over again.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dan Graser

    This wonderful brief volume is an excellent follow-up to his equally brief and equally potent, "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry," in that you get a varied glimpse into the ebulliently enthusiastic workings of a great mind. Here, the story is told through the dying art form of letters (mostly, though of course there are some "open letters" and extended Facebook posts included) in which NdGT talks with fans, to open audiences, to folks challenging his views, and to a wide swath of the public on This wonderful brief volume is an excellent follow-up to his equally brief and equally potent, "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry," in that you get a varied glimpse into the ebulliently enthusiastic workings of a great mind. Here, the story is told through the dying art form of letters (mostly, though of course there are some "open letters" and extended Facebook posts included) in which NdGT talks with fans, to open audiences, to folks challenging his views, and to a wide swath of the public on many issues. Given the wide range of topics covered, from a school principal's misguided notions of calculus class admission to the efficacy of studying physics for a police officer, this is somewhat scattershot-type reading. However, the cumulative effect of these vignettes is to illuminate a guiding principle that he has reinforced several times that what matters most from an education and development as a thinker is that, "Knowing HOW to think empowers you far beyond those who only know what to think." This is wonderfully lucid reading that I commend to all with a passing interest in any number of scientific fields.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rafael

    “Letters from an Astrophysicist” by Neil deGrasse Tayson This is my Second book by the always masterful Neil degrades Tyson and i completely loved it! Is brilliant and even though there is a lot of questions for this great science man all of them have a unique and masterful response, Neil Could easily do a mic drop with every answer, this book is full of knowledge, answers and powerful stories. I always pick Neil books on audible when he is the narrator is priceless to listen to him reading his “Letters from an Astrophysicist” by Neil deGrasse Tayson 🔭 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This is my Second book by the always masterful Neil degrades Tyson and i completely loved it! Is brilliant and even though there is a lot of questions for this great science man all of them have a unique and masterful response, Neil Could easily do a mic drop with every answer, this book is full of knowledge, answers and powerful stories. I always pick Neil books on audible when he is the narrator is priceless to listen to him reading his own book I have always been a science enthusiast and Neil is one of my greatest inspirations, him and Carl Sagan, their love for science and outstanding way of thinking gifts of knowledge and curiosity for this generation and many to come. 🌌 🌌 Thank you Neil you are one of the greatest inspirations of our time, keep looking up and teaching the ways of the universe!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tim Williams

    NDT has a very eloquent and thoughtful response to each one of the letters contained here. In places where he could take the low road when someone challenges him on religion - or in more extreme cases when someone insults him - he provides unexpected insights and responds in a way that opens up your mind and hopefully the letter writer’s to different ways of looking at the same thing. As he says, it’s more important to know how to think than to simply know things. Recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nikolaos

    This book touches on an array of subjects giving you a glimpse into Dr. Tyson's mind over the years. Perhaps "the universe is under no obligation to make sense to [us]," but these letters help you reach closer to it. Don't treat this book as a novel; rather, imagine it as a buffet of ideas to which you can come back to for advice, hope, motivation, and--yes--imagination., for Dr. Tyson's words permeate the blunt scientific language of academia.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mary J Starry

    Huge fan of Tyson so no surprise I really enjoyed this book. The book is a collection of letters Neil has written in response to some of the many questions he has been asked through the years. Some replies are humorous, some very thoughtful, and all leave me wishing I could respond as humanely and intelligently as he does.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tina Gundy

    Dear Neil... Letters from an Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson held my interest and is one you should give a listen to. It’s uplifting, sometimes sad, and at times gives you something to ponder. What’s it about? It consists of letters or emails written to Neil with a question or comment pertaining to a certain subject, his response, and some of his life experiences (breakdown below). His answers occasionally contain data and at other times are his personal thoughts on the subject (how to deal Dear Neil... Letters from an Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson held my interest and is one you should give a listen to. It’s uplifting, sometimes sad, and at times gives you something to ponder. What’s it about? It consists of letters or emails written to Neil with a question or comment pertaining to a certain subject, his response, and some of his life experiences (breakdown below). His answers occasionally contain data and at other times are his personal thoughts on the subject (how to deal with bullying, he’s agnostic, thoughts on Hollywood movies, etc.). You may get a chuckle, learn something, and potentially lose a little hope about people (hope’s a funny thing isn’t it Neil?). It never ceases to amaze me how one person can inspire others or how frank kids can be. The reason I give it four stars all around? I didn’t find this was something I had to listen to, but did enjoy it overall. Sometimes I wanted a little more details on the response or the subject. Also would have liked to have a little more personal experiences mixed in. The narration was good, my only gripe is the children voices. Neil- if you do another book similar to this, when a child has written a question, please get a child to voice the question. Please. The breakdown: Introduction: a little about his background Part One: Ethos Chapter 1: Hope~ Coma, Fear, Losing My Religion, On Being Black, On IQ, 100 mph, If I Were President Chapter 2: Extraordinary Claims~ ET Phone Home, Aliens Aliens, UFO Sightings, A Glowing Pattern in the Sky, End of the World, Time’s Up, Psychic Teleportation, Parallel Universe, Moons of Mars, Perpetual Motion, Dogon Predictions, Bigfoot, Sixth Sense Chapter 3: Musings~ Complexity, Spirals, Roots, BC/AD, Skies Over Iraq, Seeing Stars, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, I’d Rather Direct, Worst Ever, A Viral Blunder, Breaking Up is Easy to do Section Two: The Cosmos Chapter 4: Hate Mail~ An Apology, An Appeal, Moon Lover, We Suck at Science, I’m Not Paying, Feed Christians to the Lions Chapter 5: Science Denial~ Middle School Skepticism, More Harm Than Good, Evolution vs. Creationism, Qur’anic Verses, Evidence for God, Where’s the Proof Chapter 6: Philosophy~ Alien Homicide, Truth or Meaning, How, Why, Yin & Yang, I Think Therefore I Doubt, Express Yourself Section Three: Pathos Chapter 7: Life and Death~ Remembering Holbrooke, Deadman Talking, Farewell, The Cosmic Perspective, Soul Searching, Hurricane Katrina, Curing Disease, Semper Fi (This is my favorite chapter.) Chapter 8: Tragedy~ Neil’s experiences/thoughts during and after September 11, 2001 (he lived blocks from The World Trade Center), Heavy Metal, Symbolism Myth and Ritual Chapter 9: To Believe or Not to Believe~ The Eye of God, Thinking for Yourself, God and the Afterlife, Seeing Eye to Eye, The Bible Tells Me So, A Piece of Pie, Buddhist, Open Mind, Proof, Meaning of Life Section Four: Kairos Chapter 10: School Days~ Space Cadet, Elementary Curiosity, Look but Don’t Touch, To Know, Stigma, Not a Shadow of a Doubt, Gifted Students, Accuracy Chapter 11: Parenting~ Doing Time, On Pretending, Starry Starry Night, Home School, Scary Smart, Half Black, Bible Stories, First Telescope, Happy 30th Anniversary Chapter 12: Rebuttals~ Making the Grade, B.o.B. and the Flat Earth, A Horse’s Ass to a Physicist, Don’t Have a Cow, Keep Off deGrasse, Hollywood Nights Epilogue: A Eulogy, of Sorts (letter to his father) Acknowledgments *Some letters contain postscripts. Some of my favorite quotes from the book: “Hope is all you have when you realize your not entirely in control of outcomes but without it how else do we cope with the challenges of life?” “Striving to do what is right without regard to who takes notice should be a model for us all.” “Flying saucers don’t need runway lights.” “Any two people in the world have a common ancestor depending on how far back you look. The line we draw to establish family lineage is entirely arbitrary. When I wonder what I am capable of as a human being, I don’t look to relatives, I look to all human beings.” “Substance matters more than labels.” “We now live in a world where differences of opinion lead to fights rather than conversations.” “The only thing to fear is loss of ambition.” “Even when on the field, I’m thinking about science.” “A reality exists independent of our perception of it.” “The headline we never see is psychic wins lottery again.” “You can be awed by the complexities manifested in the world or you can instead be astonished at how simple it is.” “If faith is a personal construct then there can be no agreed upon book of answers.” “Active scientists do not run around declaring science can explain everything.” “Life here on Earth is nothing more than a phase.” “At times, the challenges to success can seem endless.” I recommend if you are new to Neil or a long time follower. Hopefully two things everyone can take away from this book are people with contrasting beliefs can be friends and it’s OK to discuss these differences. Parental guidance/trigger warnings: brief mention of ancient civilizations (rip heart out of virgins to appease the Gods, eat flesh of those you conquer to make you stronger), mention of Iraq (soldier writing from Iraq), talk about killing (an alien), religion (he doesn’t attempt to change anyone’s beliefs- it’s questions people are asking), 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and Haiti talk, death (cancer), Jail mention (a couple letters are from people who are incarcerated), depression in a teen with ASD, tooth fairy (how a child can find out/test the truth), mention of a school shooting (not a specific one), Hitler mention (1946 GI Olympics). Language used: n-word x2, two words are bleeped out (f-word and ass), one time it is stated “another county is kicking out ass”.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    I like Neil DeGrasse Tyson so it was not asurprise that I liked the book. However, I was not enthralled with it. It seemed like a mishmash of ideas, sometimes repetitive. But, I like his thinking, his views on god, religion, learning. I look forward to his next book, no matter the subject matter.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Free Fallin’ Reader

    Rather than a formal review, I’d like to share a few quotes and sections that stood out to me. Since this is a nonfiction book, I do not consider this to be a spoiler, however, if you’re wanting to read this book without any insight into its contents, refrain from reading further. First, a recommended reading list. As a bookworm, when someone I admire shares a recommended reading list, my nerd heart begins to pitter pat with giddiness! “Books that should be read by every intelligent person on Rather than a formal review, I’d like to share a few quotes and sections that stood out to me. Since this is a nonfiction book, I do not consider this to be a spoiler, however, if you’re wanting to read this book without any insight into its contents, refrain from reading further. First, a recommended reading list. As a bookworm, when someone I admire shares a recommended reading list, my nerd heart begins to pitter pat with giddiness! “Books that should be read by every intelligent person on the planet.” 1. The Bible, “to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.” 2. The System of the World by Isaac Newton, “to learn that the universe is a knowable place.” 3. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, “to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth.” 4. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, “to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos.” 5. The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, “to learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world.” 6. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.” 7. The Art of War by Sun Tzu, “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.” 8. The Prince by Machiavelli, “to learn that people not in power will do all they can to acquire it, and people in power will do all they can to keep it.” On researching your ancestry: “When I wonder what I am capable of as a human being, I don’t look to “relatives,” I looked to all human beings. That is the genetic relationship that matters to me. The genius of Isaac Newton, the courage of Joan of Arc and Gandhi, the athletic feats of Michael Jordan, the oratorical skills of Sir Winston Churchill, the compassion of Mother Theresa. I look to the entire human race for inspiration for what I can be – because I am human. I don’t care if I am a descendent of kings or paupers, saints or sinners, the brave or cowardly. My life is what I make of it.” On educating children: “You asked what I teach my children. My answer is - I do not worry about what they know as much as I worry about how they think. This just might be the highest of all pedagogical goals, because the most important moments in life occur at times when how we think will matter more than what we know. Teaching someone how to think is hard, and takes more effort on the part of the teacher and student. Among other things, it encourages them to ask questions. It involves being comfortable with ignorance, if that happens to be our collective state of knowledge at the time. It involves experiment and inquiry.” I highly recommend this and all books by Neil deGrasse Tyson! I have some reading to do!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lee Underwood

    Tyson is a staunch and unrepentant defender of scientific truth. I like that, and relish his quarrels with those challenging scientific truth. But that’s not where he’s at his best. To me, he’s at his best when he’s written through his data and his formulas and his scientific explanations and is left at the end of it all with only sublime astonishment. When his tight and concise arguments turn to poetry. And while he doesn’t simmer in this sublimity as much as Sagan liked to, he does it with a Tyson is a staunch and unrepentant defender of scientific truth. I like that, and relish his quarrels with those challenging scientific truth. But that’s not where he’s at his best. To me, he’s at his best when he’s written through his data and his formulas and his scientific explanations and is left at the end of it all with only sublime astonishment. When his tight and concise arguments turn to poetry. And while he doesn’t simmer in this sublimity as much as Sagan liked to, he does it with a finger on the pulse our modern problems and contemporary cultural issues. Anyway, this book brings Tyson down to earth. He answers (select) letters from people writing to him, and it requires of him a kind of felicity in human communication one does not get to see in his other books. I love the delicious irony of his response to his daughters school principle who would not sign off on her taking AP calculus (in addition to his own education and professional accolades, Tyson’s wife has a PhD in Mathematical Physics). But he doesn’t lead with that. Instead he turns his arguments into a discussion about the state of education, and begs us to question how we see the role of our education system within our larger societal universe. He’s a Dad now. Not an Astrophysicist with all the answers. I liked that. His responses are short and often dry and emotionless. I imagine many of the letter writers receiving his response being dismayed at the terse and humorless tone. But again, his job is to deliver the facts, and when he can’t, he’ll Tell you. It’s a good companion for your Tyson Library.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    523.01092 This 2019 non-fiction volume by author Neil DeGrasse Tyson is a collection of selected correspondence over the past two decades. The collection is an entertaining view of the extent of topics addressed by Tyson. While it demonstrates the breadth of Tyson's knowledge and interests it is more entertaining than educational. Tyson shares 101 letters from people across the globe who have sought him out in search of scientific answers. A luminous companion to the phenomenal bestseller 523.01092 This 2019 non-fiction volume by author Neil DeGrasse Tyson is a collection of selected correspondence over the past two decades. The collection is an entertaining view of the extent of topics addressed by Tyson. While it demonstrates the breadth of Tyson's knowledge and interests it is more entertaining than educational. Tyson shares 101 letters from people across the globe who have sought him out in search of scientific answers. A luminous companion to the phenomenal bestseller Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has attracted one of the world's largest online followings with his fascinating, widely accessible insights into science and our universe. Now, Tyson invites us to go behind the scenes of his public fame by revealing his correspondence with people across the globe who have sought him out in search of answers. In this hand-picked collection of 101 letters, Tyson draws upon cosmic perspectives to address a vast array of questions about science, faith, philosophy, life, and of course, Pluto. His succinct, opinionated, passionate, and often funny responses reflect his popularity and standing as a leading educator.

  20. 5 out of 5

    C.L. McCollum

    So my husband got this audiobook for a roadtrip this last weekend, and while I've enjoyed his books before (ASTROPHYSICS FOR PEOPLE IN A HURRY was a fave), this one was... well it was condescending and insulting as hell in a lot of places, particularly directed at people who write to him grieving and talking about their possible supernatural experiences with their lost loved ones. Like, I get it - he very strongly disbelieves in anything psychic/alien/etc. as a scientist, but there is no need to So my husband got this audiobook for a roadtrip this last weekend, and while I've enjoyed his books before (ASTROPHYSICS FOR PEOPLE IN A HURRY was a fave), this one was... well it was condescending and insulting as hell in a lot of places, particularly directed at people who write to him grieving and talking about their possible supernatural experiences with their lost loved ones. Like, I get it - he very strongly disbelieves in anything psychic/alien/etc. as a scientist, but there is no need to be a condescending dick toward people who are grieving. Period. End of story. It just... really left a bad taste in my mouth. He really could have benefited from the "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" approach on more than one occasion. I mean, if he just could NOT be kind in the responses to these people, then just... don't respond. I don't know how that's a difficult concept. Just yeah, very much a let down compared to his previous books and felt more like a cash grab chance to show off how much smarter he is than the people writing him than an actual book worth reading. And I say that as a fan of epistolary/letter collections in general.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Krishnanunni

    There exist very less number of things in this world which are better at giving certain joy than few hours of Neil Degrasse Tyson talking about the things he cares for. The book is a collection of written correspondences mainly between Neil and his fans. We live in an age where we rely on a bunch of smileys to communicate how we feel about things. I occasionally write long-form letters to my friends about things that matter to me. Maybe that is why I was able to relate to this book. I am really There exist very less number of things in this world which are better at giving certain joy than few hours of Neil Degrasse Tyson talking about the things he cares for. The book is a collection of written correspondences mainly between Neil and his fans. We live in an age where we rely on a bunch of smileys to communicate how we feel about things. I occasionally write long-form letters to my friends about things that matter to me. Maybe that is why I was able to relate to this book. I am really surprised by how many people preferred to write candidly and politely to him about things that matter. Neils language is captivating. But I am pretty sure I wouldn't have gotten far into the book if it weren't for his voice which was performing the book. Some letters had me choking in tears -people really love this man. SPOILER Especially the letter from a Father who was serving his term in Jail. And Neil has very convincing replies for each of his correspondents be it friends or critics.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    When I was in high school, I hated science class. Then in college I took a mandatory biology class from a professor who made everything interesting because she explained things we wanted to know, like why to trees stand tall and how a little tide pool was a whole ecosystem. The reason I like Neil deGrasse Tyson so much is that he explains the wonders of astrophysics in a way that I can understand (at least mostly). But I wasn't as fond of this book as I have been of his others. The reason is When I was in high school, I hated science class. Then in college I took a mandatory biology class from a professor who made everything interesting because she explained things we wanted to know, like why to trees stand tall and how a little tide pool was a whole ecosystem. The reason I like Neil deGrasse Tyson so much is that he explains the wonders of astrophysics in a way that I can understand (at least mostly). But I wasn't as fond of this book as I have been of his others. The reason is that he answered so many questions that were religious or philosophical about issues that I either don't care about (religion) or that I've already resolved (how science helps us to think critically). Because so many of the questions were repetitive, so were his answers. I don't have his patience for dealing with flat-earthers or folks who think that religious texts are the answers to all questions. I like his writing much better when it expands my knowledge of the cosmos and my place in it. In fact, I love to think of each of us as stardust.

  23. 4 out of 5

    AltLovesBooks

    I enjoyed this one so much! I found it equal parts amusing and inspiring, and got a lot out of it that I didn't expect to. The 9/11 chapter I found especially moving, and I'm not usually one to get emotional over the event. The letters he enclosed that he wrote to various individuals were always insightful, and I particularly liked the line he delivered about berevity about halfway in: "Personally, I try to spend twice as much time to make things half as long." I feel like that's applicable just I enjoyed this one so much! I found it equal parts amusing and inspiring, and got a lot out of it that I didn't expect to. The 9/11 chapter I found especially moving, and I'm not usually one to get emotional over the event. The letters he enclosed that he wrote to various individuals were always insightful, and I particularly liked the line he delivered about berevity about halfway in: "Personally, I try to spend twice as much time to make things half as long." I feel like that's applicable just about anywhere, as were many of the quotes I noted down in my reading journal for this book. Highly recommend. One of my new favorites.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    The vast majority of Neil deGrasse's Tyson published books read like smooth drops of honey pouring down their combs, and this work is no exception. With his characteristic warmth and exceptional ardor for engaging with the public, stimulating their intellectual curiosity about the vast universe, Tyson shares this meaningful collection of letter exchanges between his acolytes, admirers, family members, and brutal critics. His remarkable tolerance for scientific ignorance and facile manner of The vast majority of Neil deGrasse's Tyson published books read like smooth drops of honey pouring down their combs, and this work is no exception. With his characteristic warmth and exceptional ardor for engaging with the public, stimulating their intellectual curiosity about the vast universe, Tyson shares this meaningful collection of letter exchanges between his acolytes, admirers, family members, and brutal critics. His remarkable tolerance for scientific ignorance and facile manner of explicating complex topics proves deeply engaging and fascinating, even to those unacquainted with the basics of quantum mechanics and astrophysics.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brian Mikołajczyk

    Neil deGrasse Tyson gathers a collection of letters he has received throughout his work as an astrophysicist and his responses to them. Several are insightful, many have to do with the interaction between science and religion, but many are people thanking him. It would be Tyson to pen such a egocentric work, however I found it quite entertaining. Some of his answers are clearly patronizing, like a lot of his Twitter content, but he is a brillant science communicator and I love to follow his work.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Julie Manthey

    A unique selection of letters to and from Neil deGrasse Tyson that will make you giggle, sigh, and also ponder the universe. Topics vary widely from debates on whether or not Bigfoot exists, to the possibility of parallel universes, a spherical or flat Earth, and what pi and the bible have in conflict. Overall really interesting read with lots of topics. It would make a great book club selection because there are so many conversation points and it's a quick read. Especially great for non-fiction A unique selection of letters to and from Neil deGrasse Tyson that will make you giggle, sigh, and also ponder the universe. Topics vary widely from debates on whether or not Bigfoot exists, to the possibility of parallel universes, a spherical or flat Earth, and what pi and the bible have in conflict. Overall really interesting read with lots of topics. It would make a great book club selection because there are so many conversation points and it's a quick read. Especially great for non-fiction fans looking for some great stories.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael Kress

    This is the third book I've read by Tyson, and by far the best. He's the king of fun facts. What makes this better than the other two is that it appeals in the same way his television persona originally appealed to me. He answers people's questions and responds to their challenges in an articulate, and tactful yet direct, way. For a while, I've had the notion that letter writing might be one of the best forms of communication. There are obvious flaws in comment sections, which often seem like This is the third book I've read by Tyson, and by far the best. He's the king of fun facts. What makes this better than the other two is that it appeals in the same way his television persona originally appealed to me. He answers people's questions and responds to their challenges in an articulate, and tactful yet direct, way. For a while, I've had the notion that letter writing might be one of the best forms of communication. There are obvious flaws in comment sections, which often seem like roast battles where nobody changes their mind or learns anything. And with debate formats, people have to come up with their responses on the spot. In letter writing, you have time to write and edit your responses to be as clear as possible. Tyson doesn't care about winning arguments. He wants to educate. He seldom comes off as very opinionated. (He does, however, give his opinion on the importance of philosophy and Sam Cooke's singing, when asked.) He mostly deals with objective facts. It's puzzling to me that people sometimes find his facts to be controversial. Perhaps they think it's because of how he states them, but it never seems mean-spirited to me, just truthful. This book made a strong defense against any charges of so-called "scientism."

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bakertyl

    The audiobook is excellent, Tyson has a great narrator's voice. These letters range from incredibly personal to ignorantly aggressive, but I think show the range of contacts celebrities gain along with their fame. I've known people who reached out to celebrities, as if someone being famous means they owe you their time or attention, and kudos to Tyson for finding the energy to reply to at least some of them. A short but entertaining read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chad Manske

    A natural follow up to the wildly popular 2017 “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry,” deGrasse Tyson rides his educator popularity by candidly displaying 100 letters he’s received over his career, and his responses. Topics range from science, religion, Pluto, God, 9/11, and many more reveal his humor and straightforward approach to his profession. A short, fast read—especially if you’re in a hurry!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Janet Clark

    This man's perspective and energy are fascinating to me. The book was delightful until he got to 9/11. The images are so powerful they are debilitating and once I set it down--it was difficult to pick the book up again. Overall, a good read. Leaves the reader w/ many interesting things to think about in the middle of the night.

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