by Richard Sherman
Cosmic Queries by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Hardback $19.49 on Amazon
Well-known author and personality Neil deGrasse Tyson authored (or co-authored) his 14th book this year, titled Cosmic Queries. The book is published by National Geographic, so the images and page layouts are slick, and the writing is clear and concise. It is one of those books that touches on everything—from the cosmic microwave background to black holes, from dark matter to quarks, and from how our star/solar system/universe started to how it will end. The topics addressed in Cosmic Queries were extracted from questions and conversations from the author’s StarTalk multi-cast (podcast, etc.).
So here is what I liked about the book:
- Concise and clear explanations. I especially like concise writing.
- Lots of good analogies and deGrasse Tyson has a knack for helping the reader understand the scale of astronomical topics. For example: “Earth’s moon is five times more massive than Pluto,” and “If a football field were a timeline of cosmic history, cavemen to now spans the thickness of a blade of grass in the end zone.”
- There are lots of good facts, figures and historical information in the “callout” boxes.
- The book’s structure is logical. It doesn’t start with the Big Bang and end with the Big Rip, but instead the chapters build on the knowledge and science of the preceding chapter(s).
- It is a heavy, well-built book with thick pages, and lots of high-quality images—and it costs less than $20.
Here are a few things I didn’t like:
- The author shares a lot of his tweets in other boxes on the page. There are probably too many of them and most add little to the chapter’s topic.
- There were a couple topics that I expected him to address in a comprehensive astronomy book, but deGrasse Tyson skipped several of them. For example, he discusses evolution of intelligent life and the conditions likely needed to achieve it (as well as a dive into the Drake Equation), yet he does not address the critical role our moon has played in helping to sustain such conditions.
In summary, Cosmic Queries is a beautiful book well-suited for the beginner to intermediate hobbyist, but probably not the right book for an advanced amateur astronomer who has assuredly read several other books like this.