Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Origins" by Neil de Grasse Tyson and Donald Goldsmith

I selected this book because I am a fan of Neil de Grasse Tyson, the Director of the Hayden Planetarium. He does a lot of speaking engagements and special projects. He can be found all across the internet, but I had not read a single one of his books.

Summary: As the title suggests, this book is about the beginnings of things. The authors discuss the best theories out there as to the origins of the universe, including the fascinating moments immediately after when the energy of the cosmos begins to form matter. The authors discuss the role of anti-matter and dark matter in our universe as well. They then move to the origins of galaxies and other cosmic structures. Then a focus on the origins of stars, which formed out of the cosmic dust. The stars play an essential role in the creation of heavy elements.

At the beginning of the universe only hydrogen and helium were created when protons and electrons smashed into each other. All the elements heavier than those two were formed in the hearts of stars. In fact, that is where the energy of a star comes from. It is the energy released as the protons clump together and form the periodic table. In fact, most if not all of the molecules in our bodies came from stars that died and exploded these same heavy elements. When the planets formed, they collected this detritus and that is how we have iron in our blood, carbon in our flesh, oxygen in our lungs. As Carl Sagan said, we are star stuff.

The authors also go in detail regarding the origins of life on earth and the possibility of finding it elsewhere in the universe. In short, this book addresses all the big questions and presents the leading answers in the scientific community.

What I Liked: I liked how it went in chronological order and sort of told the story of the universe. It covered all kinds of exciting topics and explained them in a way that made a lot of sense. I learned a lot about this place.

What I Didn't Like: There were a few places where the theories get complicated and the authors do a little hand-waving to avoid overwhelming the reader with math or technical details. I am not a fan of hand-waving, even if it means I get a little confused.

Rating: This is a very good text for any one interested in science.

Also Read by This Author: None.

Published: 2004

Reviewed by: Nick

Special Note: Cosmos A Spacetime Odyssey, is currently being aired on Fox and National Geographic Channel, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I recommend it!

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