Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has written ten books, and is known for his ability to communicate the thrill of science to a general audience. His latest is about the future of space travel. Tyson is director of the Hayden Planetarium (attached to the Museum of Natural History in NYC), and host of PBS NOVA scienceNow. The Norton tumblr features a photo that displays his geeky sense of humor.
Back in August it was announced that Fox picked up a new TV series,“Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey,” a sequel to Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.” Tyson will host the 13-episode series, scheduled to air in 2013.
I was fortunate to hear Tyson speak as part of a lecture series when I was a librarian at Mercersburg Academy, a boarding school in Pennsylvania. It was over 10 years ago, but I still clearly remember just how engaging he was. His talk was riveting (and funny) and the way the students responded to him was amazing.
Adult/High School–The brilliant organization of this book develops what could have been simply a collection of Tyson’s essays, interviews, speeches, and tweets into a nuanced and ultimately persuasive argument for continued research and funding of space travel and exploration. Structurally, the argument falls into three part: “Why,” an interlocking series of claims for space travel for both utilitarian and utopian reasons; “How,” a detailed discourse on the very real scientific and technological problems with long distance space travel; and “Why Not,” an engaged discussion and refutation of a variety of dissenting opinions. Beyond this overall structuring, each chapter benefits from its position in the argument as small points made in one are developed over the course of succeeding chapters. Indeed, some might object to the repetitious nature of some of his arguments (his repeated discussion of the tri-part justification for all great national expenditures, for example), but in fact, these repetitions serve a greater need, as they help the reader to see the same problems from multiple perspectives. What is most refreshing about Tyson’s views is how clear-headed he is about the political, economic, and scientific obstacles the space program faces, even as he makes clear his own tremendous joy and awe in the pure beauty of exploration and discovery. Tyson writes in a breezy style, particularly in the numerous tweets that pepper the text that should be readily accessible to anyone interested in the discussion. And his attitude is so good-natured that even those who disagree with him should find much to like.–Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA