10 Incredible Things Neil deGrasse Tyson’s New Book Will Teach You About the Universe
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will blow your mind.
This was co-written with Max Rehkopf (who you should follow!)
At Hardbound, we make illustrated stories about the best books in business, history, and science. We recently got early access to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new book — Astrophysics for People in a Hurry — and oh boy, let us tell you: it is awesome. (You should pre-order it!)
When you open the inside cover, you’ll find a little dedication from Neil that perfectly matches our mission at Hardbound:
“For all those who are too busy to read fat books — Yet nonetheless seek a conduit to the cosmos.”
In keeping with that mission, we made a five-minute tap story about the book, that you can read here. But there was so much more to read and learn that we couldn’t help but share ten more things only that only Neil deGrasse Tyson can bring to light.
Let’s dive in 👽
1 The most debated moment in science is one trillionth of a second long. It’s the moment immediately preceding the big bang — and nobody has any clue what happened in this moment. No known laws of physics can quite explain how the universe exploded out of essentially nothing. Einstein’s theory of relativity and our best quantum physics fall short. Our religious friends might claim divine intervention, and, as far is science is concerned, their guess is as good as ours…
2 Prisms do more than make pretty colors. Spectrums of light from prisms contain oodles of information about the light-emitting object. Each element has it’s own unique spectral signature, and these markings have taught scientists about the chemical compositions of distant stars and galaxies. We’ve learned much about far off places by observing light and dark bands hidden within the visible spectrum.
3 There are homeless stars. When galaxies collide, millions of stars break free from the gravitational pull of both galaxies. These stars scatter in all directions and roam aimlessly through space. In our universe, there may be as many homeless stars as there are stars contained in galaxies. Since one roaming star is almost impossible to detect, our universe potentially has twice as many stars as we can currently observe,
4 Weather is weather. The same physical processes that generate snow and rain storms on earth are at play on other planets. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a anticyclone that has been spinning for over 350 years, is governed by the same laws of physics as a twister in Texas.
5 In space, you could high-five a proton. Intergalactic space, or the huge expanses between galaxies, is filled with awesome things, including super-high-energy, fast moving subatomic particles. Most of these particles, protons, are traveling at 99.99% of the speed of light and carry enough energy to smack you across the face.
6 Neutrinos can walk through walls. Every second of every day and night, billions of neutrinos emanate from the sun and pass through the earth as if it wasn’t even there. Neutrinos evaded scientists for over 40 years because they bypass most states of matter, and are thus very hard to capture and study. In 2015, scientists in the south pole captured the first-ever neutrinos from outside our solar system.
7 Earth is pretty smooth. If you’ve ever run your hand across a globe, you’ve probably felt the bumpy topography of our vast mountain ranges. However, if you had a hand big enough to actually wrap around the earth, it would feel as smooth as a cue ball. The largest mountains on earth, the Himalayas, are a dozen miles taller than the lowest point in the sea floor. Compared to earth’s eight-thousand mile diameter, these mountains are blips on the horizon.
8 Uranus was originally named George. Sir William Hershel, the English Astronomer who discovered Uranus originally name it after the King of England. Luckily, to the great fortune of millions of middle-school jokesters, clearer minds prevailed and the name Uranus was adopted to maintain tradition. Besides Earth, all other planets in our solar system are named after ancient Greek and Roman gods and goddesses.
9 Jupiter has been saving our butt for millennia. One of the reasons Earth has enjoyed a long, catastrophe-free, lifespan is because of the massive gravitational pull of Jupiter. Jupiter acts as a proverbial big brother, pulling huge asteroids away from earth and taking the hit for it’s little bro.
10 We find new planets in two ways. First, if a planet is truly huge, the star it orbits will jiggle at regular intervals. This is because planets don’t technically orbit their host star, both bodies effectively orbit their common center of mass. At it’s orbital extreme, the planet pulls hard on the sun and their center of gravity moves ever so slightly. For smaller planets, scientists looking at the host star can observe a slight decrease in brightness when a planet passes in front of the sun. From these observations, we can learn the size of the size and mass of planets, their orbital periods, and the distance from their host star.
But the most important takeaway in the book comes at the very end:
Neil says it best:
“During our brief stay on planet Earth, we owe ourselves and our descendants the opportunity to explore — in part because it’s fun to do. But there is a far nobler reason. The day our knowledge of the cosmos ceases to expand, we risk regressing to the childish view that the universe figuratively and literally revolves around us.”
It’s important for the world to embrace the cosmic perspective. The more people — world leaders and children alike — that grasp our place within the universe, the better chance we have at living here for generations more.
Short, easy to understand books like this one are a great first step in that direction.
While you can’t yet buy Neil’s book, please do share our Hardbound story, and pre-order Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.
The universe is at stake ;)
PS — Want to read our illustrated “tap story” about Neil’s book?
← Check this out.
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