Book Review: Death by Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson

This is a good book for the layperson interested in outer space. It was originally conceived as a series of essays Tyson wrote for the magazine NATURAL HISTORY, and as such treads a fine line between technical and jokey. The tone for the most part is light, with lots of humorous asides.

Some of the essay’s subjects are a bit questionable: a few cover such basic topics that anyone with a passing interest in astronomy would know about them, while others are so advanced it was tough at times to understand the physics he goes into. But for most of it Tyson hits the nail on the head and writes bits both very interesting and very educational. It does occasionally retread similar territory over and over again, but considering the compositional process for this book, it’s forgivable.

Wisely, Tyson keeps most of the focus on astrophysics, but much like Carl Sagan in Cosmos, he eventually makes his way to the history of science, and while he doesn’t talk anywhere near as much about it as Sagan, he still suffers for it. It is a bit ironic that someone so eager to dispel some scientific misconceptions so readily accepts some historical delusions, such as the Alexandria library and the dark ages (which, as anyone fascinated by history should know, really weren’t that dark). Still, this is limited to 2 or 3 of the essays, and the rest is great.

I recommend it to anyone with an interest in outer space. Just keep in mind he studied Physics, not History.

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