Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Astrophysicist Tyson (Starry Messenger) and Walker, senior producer of Tyson's StarTalk podcast, provide a vivid look at the universe and the scientists who have changed how humans understand it. Though Galileo's observations confirming that the Earth isn't the center of the cosmos and Isaac Newton's work on planetary orbits receive expected mentions, the focus is on the contributions of lesser known scientists, such as physicists Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, who in 1964, while working on improving satellite communication, detected a constant microwave signal throughout the universe that turned out to be the remains of "the first light ever emitted," confirming the big bang theory. The abundant trivia surprises; for instance, Venus, at 900 ˚F, has a hotter surface temperature than Mercury (which can reach temperatures as low as -300 ˚F "inside its deep shadowed valleys"), despite being farther from the sun, because of the high concentration of carbon dioxide in Venus's atmosphere. The authors also provide amusing corrections to "Hollywood science," noting that the devastating dust storm on Mars that traps the astronaut protagonist of the 2015 film The Martian would in reality "feel like a gentle breeze" because of the planet's low atmospheric pressure. Buoyed by eye-popping photos of supernovas and distant galaxies, this is equal parts entertaining and informative. Photos. (Sept.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
A synthesis of the latest thinking and research on space exploration, it sets out the meaning for humanity. Tyson is the presenter of the award--winning StarTalk podcast and author of numerous books on popular science, including Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, and Walker is the senior producer of the series. This book, linked to a special mini-season of the podcast, features astonishing astronomical photographs as well as useful explanatory illustrations. The theme is how humanity began to explore space, although there are many interesting detours into questions, including the real color of the sun, the difference between a vacuum and a void, and the formation of black holes. The authors examine each of the planets in the solar system, drawing on novel research material gathered by the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft, as well as orbital telescopes. Many of these subjects have been discussed in-depth elsewhere, but deGrasse and Walker find new things to say, and they have a knack for using anecdotes to explain complex phenomena and scientific issues. They have a good time deconstructing the technology that appears in various sci-fi movies and TV shows, pointing out the problems of faster-than-light travel, the real effects of a lack of gravity, and the dangers of unregulated excursions through time. Worrying matters, certainly, but the tone is generally optimistic, and the authors clearly love the concept of space exploration. They also note that things once considered beyond the bounds of plausibility are now commonplace, and they conclude this engaging, accessible work with further optimism: "Scientific thinking always leaves the door ajar for the seemingly impossible. So perhaps we exaggerate--but only just a little--when we declare that infinity is only a moment's pause on the way to unlimited destinations that await us." This is a book that makes you want to go out and look up at the night sky. Buzz Lightyear would be proud. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.