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Death by Black Hole Introduces readers to the physics of black holes, examines the needless friction between science and religion in the context of historical conflicts and assails the movie industry's feeble efforts to get its night skies right. Full description


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  • Broché: 384 pages
  • Editeur : W. W. Norton & Company; Édition : Reprint (27 novembre 2007)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0393330168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393330168
  • Dimensions du produit: 14 x 2,5 x 21,1 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
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If you've ever seen a talk by Dr Tyson, you'll know what an engaging and charismatic science communicator he is. Well, his obvious passion definitely comes through in this book. This will get you thinking, laughing, and maybe a bit scared, but I think mostly in awe of our universe and with a deeper appreciation for science.
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Les choses les plus complexes sont exposées avec beaucoup de simplicité et le cheminement, bien étudié, conduit à une lecture agréable et prenante.
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195 internautes sur 201 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Explores theories of the universe from the Big Bang to the Final Whimper 4 février 2007
Par Roy E. Perry - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
An astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History, where he serves at its world-famous Hayden Planetarium, Neil deGrasse Tyson has written a popular account of the evolution of the universe: its past, present, and future--from its beginning with a big bang to its ending with a whimper.

In Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries, Tyson sees the universe "not as a collection of objects, theories, and phenomena, but as a vast stage of actors driven by intricate twists of story line and plot."

Each of the book's 42 chapters first appeared, in one form or another, on the pages of Natural History magazine under the heading "Universe" and span the 11-year period of 1995 through 2005. In spite of modest editing of the essays, there remains some overlapping and repetition of information.

Tyson divides his work into seven sections: "The Nature of Knowledge," "The Knowledge of Nature," "Ways and Means of Nature," "The Meaning of Life," "When the Universe Turns Bad," "Science and Culture," and "Science and God."

He discusses, respectively, the challenges of knowing what is knowable in the universe, the challenges of discovering the contents of the cosmos, the challenges and triumphs of knowing how we got here, all the ways the cosmos wants to kill us, the ruffled interface between cosmic discovery and the public's reaction to it, and when ways of knowing collide.

Tyson introduces a diverse company of actors who perform on the universal stage: galaxies, solar systems, stars, quasars, black holes, supernovas, planets, moons, comets, asteroids and meteorites. These cosmic thespians emerge as a strange, bizarre, mind-boggling, awesome and dangerous cast of characters.

Along the way, we meet some of the big names in the history of astrophysics: Nicolaus Copernicus, whose De Revolutionibus (1543) placed the Sun instead of Earth at the center of the known universe; Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler, who extended the Copernican revolution; Sir Isaac Newton, whom Tyson calls "one of the greatest intellects the world has ever seen," and whose Principia (1687) described the universal laws of gravity; Albert Einstein, whose special theory of relativity (1905) and general theory of relativity (1916) postulated that space-time is warped in the presence of massive gravitation fields; Max Planck. the founding father of quantum mechanics; and Werner Heisenberg, proponent of the infamous uncertainty principle.

A recent speculation about how the universe works is string theory, which seeks to unite the apparent contradiction between how the macrocosmos works (determinism) and how the microcosmos works (indeterminism). Like many of the quandaries that baffle physicists, the jury is still out on string theory.

Tyson is deeply committed to the scientific method. He is an empiricist, pragmatist, skeptic and, one suspects, an agnostic. In "The Perimeter of Ignorance," the final section of his book, Tyson fulminates against the 17th- and 18th-century view of a "clockwork universe" and its modern version, "intelligent design," which is itself a disguised version of so-called Creation Science.

Far from being a clockwork universe, Tyson argues, the cosmos is actually a chaos. "The invisible light picked up by the new telescopes," he writes, "shows that mayhem abounds in the cosmos: monstrous gamma-ray bursts, deadly pulsars, matter-crushing gravitational fields, matter-hungry black holes that flay their bloated stellar neighbors, newborn stars igniting within pockets of collapsing gas . . .galaxies that collide and cannibalize each other, explosions of supermassive stars, chaotic stellar and planetary orbits."

One doesn't have to venture into the outer reaches of space to find such mayhem: "Our cosmic neighborhood--the inner solar system--turns out to be a shooting gallery, full of rogue asteroids and comets that collide with planets. Occasionally, they've even wiped out stupendous masses of Earth's flora and fauna. The evidence all points to the fact that we occupy not a well-mannered clockwork universe, but a destructive, violent, and hostile one."

Tyson's conclusion? "Science is a philosophy of discovery. Intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance. . . . It doesn't belong in the science classroom." He deplores the prospect that we Americans might just sit in awe of what we don't understand, mesmerized by a pious allegiance to "the God of the gaps," while our science and technology loses ground and we watch the rest of the world boldly go where no mortal has gone before.

Tyson comes across as having an excellent grasp of the current state of astrophysics, cosmology, chemistry, and other scientific disciplines, and, except for a few dense passages, he conveys his knowledge clearly to the nonspecialist, often doing so with ingratiating humor and wit.
66 internautes sur 70 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Accessible and Entertaining Cosmology 26 février 2007
Par Rob Hardy - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Get out your crayons. Make a Sun in the sky. If it is like every Sun you have colored since you were a kid, it is a happy yellow ball. "And I don't care what else anyone has ever told you, the Sun is white, not yellow," writes astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in _Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries_ (Norton). "If the sun were yellow, like a yellow lightbulb, then white stuff such as snow would reflect this light and appear yellow - a snow condition confirmed to happen only near fire hydrants." How do we keep getting this wrong? Why do people think there is no gravity in space, or that what goes up must come down? How come total solar eclipses seem rare, but actually happen every couple of years? And especially important, how do we obtain those data to show us that these assumptions are wrong? Furthermore, what does happen when you step into a black hole, or into a hole that goes clean through the center of the Earth? What is going to happen when the Andromeda galaxy hits our own Milky Way? ("Gas clouds would slam into each other; stars would be cast hither and yon.. our planet could get flung out of the solar system... That would be bad.") And it is going to happen, but a couple of billion years before that happens, the Sun will explode and die and vaporize all the contents of the Earth. But as Tyson observes, "I'd say we have more pressing issues of survival before us."

Tyson's book consists of chapters that appeared as columns in _Natural History_ magazine. There is death and destruction all through it, and yet he writes with buoyant optimism and humor, making even the strangest findings of astrophysics accessible. We have a vast scientific and intellectual tradition, but we have fought against the ideas of one scientist after another who would give us a true picture. At the end of the chapter, Tyson reflects: "What are the lessons to be learned from this journey of the mind? That humans are emotionally fragile, perennially gullible, hopelessly ignorant masters of an insignificantly small speck in the cosmos. Have a nice day." The humor has the ring of truth, but Tyson is no pessimist. We may be slow to learn, but we do know some darned interesting stuff, and his presentation of it, touching on what we know, how we know it, how the universe and the solar system got started and are going to end, and what it all means to humans, is full of admiration for the scientists who got us this far. We are clever, but we are goony. A few years ago, Tyson got a call from a marketing executive who thought it would be a good idea to project her company's logo onto the Moon, and wanted to know how best to do this. Tyson slammed down the phone, but "... called her back and politely explained why it was a bad idea."

Tyson's final chapters have to do with science and religion: "The claims of science rely on experimental verification, while the claims of religion rely on faith. These are irreconcilable approaches to learning, which ensures an eternity of debate wherever and whenever the two camps meet." He does not expressly state his own beliefs, but says the argument is simple: "I have yet to see a successful prediction about the physical world that was inferred or extrapolated from the content of any religious document." People fail to realize that the skepticism scientists show towards religious explanations that, say, the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, that humans were supernaturally created in their current form, or that microbes had to have their propeller tails divinely attached, is the same sort of skepticism the scientists show to scientific pronouncements, too. Look what happened to the chemists who declared they had created cold fusion on their lab table: other scientists wouldn't accept the claim as true until it could be verified, and having tried to reproduce the results, could not. Case closed. The proponents of Intelligent Design, Tyson explains, are absurdly pessimistic in their philosophy "It's too complicated for any human being to figure out. So it must be the product of a higher intelligence." Maybe there is a limit to how much we can understand, he says, but what if, say, Newton had decided no human could figure out the laws of motion? "I don't want students who could make the next major breakthrough in renewable energy sources or space travel to have been taught that anything they don't understand, and that no one yet understands, is divinely constructed and therefore beyond their intellectual capacity." It is as close to polemic as Tyson gets; this hugely entertaining and instructive collection of essays stands as testament to how important it is not to close off curiosity prematurely.
49 internautes sur 51 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Educational AND entertaining. EXCELLENT BOOK. 28 février 2007
Par Kevin Lynds - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
First of all I am not a scientist, but if all science teachers had the wit, confidence and attitude of Mr. Tyson, then we all (non-scientists) would have probably paid more attention in class. I could not put the book down and although I thought it dragged just a little bit in the middle (the re-hashing of the atomic make up and eventual atomic breakdown of stars), the repetetive nature of some of his information was excellent in terms of helping the layperson to retain the information.

The amount of subject matter explained in this book is pretty heavy for a non-scientist, yet Mr. Tyson is able to get the points and information across in witty and entertaining way. I did feel that I learned a lot from reading this, from him talking about the smallest of structures such as antimatter, positrons, atoms, etc. to him explaining the largest of structurs and how they work (the universe). Theories on the Big Bang are explained as is the theories and probabilities of other life in the universe. What it would be like to be sucked into a black hole is described as is what it will happen when our Sun will eventually expand, destroying Earth, then die. How about what will happen when our solar system collides with our closest neighboring solar system, the Andromeda Galaxy? It is explained. Mr. Tyson has a talent for making the end of the universe, the eventual extinction of human-kind and our own insignificance sound as entertaining as a movie drama, and he does it with enthusiasm. This book is scary if you were to sit back and ponder the very distant, and maybe not so distant future (did you know there is an asteroid as big as the Rose Bowl that in 2029 will come so close to Earth that it will pass underneath some of our satellites AND if its path travels through certain spot or "keyhole" by Earth, its orbit will fluctuate enough to send it on a collision course with Earth in 2037 - hitting somewhere in the Pacific between Hawaii and California? Shouldn't someone be working on this worse case scenario?). It was eventual that with all the information presented, he was going to touch on the science vs. religion debate. His explanation of where religion and science have crossed paths in the past and where they are clashing now is very well explained, but it is still presented in his fact rich, confident, pro-science tone.

There is too much in the book to cover in a review. But I would say that to truly enjoy it, you would have to read some of it, then go outside at night and look up at the stars. Then read more of it and go look through telescope, read more of it and look up pictures from the Hubble Telescope online. The book, to me, was an informative doorway that opened up my eyes to the universe around and our place (and insignificance) in it.
19 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Succeeds at making the complex knowable. 31 mai 2007
Par M. Strong - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I've read a decent number of "popular" science books, all aimed at making truly complex scientific concepts digestible for lay people. As I read Tyson's offering, I began thinking that he was covering ground that was far less complex than some books I'd read earlier. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Tyson was actually tackling some pretty challenging subject matter and simply doing a really nice job of describing the concepts in plain English.

Tyson discusses nuclear fusion, the birth and death of stars, the likelihood of life existing elsewhere in the universe, threats to the earth's existence and much more. To keep the pace fast and fun, he makes references to scientific movie goof-ups and other pop-culture science gaffs. Tyson even thoughtfully discusses intelligent design and religion as it relates to science.

If you've never read a science book written for the layperson, this is a great place to get your feet wet and see if you want to read more in the genre. If you're an old hand at this stuff, you'll like this one but may find it less challenging than other books in the same vein. Either way, it's a fun read and you'll learn a lot too.
10 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Gould for the Common Man? 17 mai 2008
Par Reviewer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Neil deGrasse Tyson is the current director of the hayden Planetarium and an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History. His picture shows a portly African-American with a wry smile, wearing a vest with astonomical figures perhaps cut from a wizard's robe discarded by Hogwarts. Most likely half of America knows better what he looks and sounds like than I do, since he appears frequently on TV, on the Daily Show and various Fox blathergrounds. I heard him talking about comets for a few minutes on my car radio, and found him very quick, very amusing.

A comparison with Stephen Jay Gould is almost inevitable. This book, like most of Gould's, is a selection of Tyson's columns for the magazine Natural History. Tyson has a lighter touch and will be easier going for people without much background in science. He is nowhere near as encyclopedic or allusive as Gould, which will come as a relief to many. Gould wrote, increasingly so over the years, as a Harvard Don, which all the rhetorical flourishes of a man who expects his readers to be very erudite. The danger of such writing is pomposity and condescension. Since I almost became a Harvard Don myself, I have a high tolerance for pomposity, but I find Tyson's writing style delightfully relaxed.

Tyson's subject in Death by Black Hole is the astronomical zoo of gravitationally caged objects - stars, planets, comets, asteroids, and Anomalous Flying Objects - in what we still call the Universe, although the name seems less and less appropriate. Tyson back-fills as needed with tidbits of history but his central purpose is to make us acquainted with current observational astronomy. People who "already know all that" will enjoy his witty delivery, while the rest of us will learn quite a lot, quite painlessly.

One of the Identified Flying Objects Tyson describes is the asteroid Apophis, which ought to be of maximum interest for anyone under 40 years old. Tyson writes: "On Friday the 13th of April, 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup, will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites ...If the trajectory of Apophis at close approach passes within a narrow range of altitudes called the Keyhole, the precise influence of Earth's gravity on its orbit will guarantee that seven years later in 2036...the asteroid will hit earth directly, slamming in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii." You knew that, didn't you, and you've already made reservations for the observation grandstand on Mt. Whitney? What a show! But Tyson continues: "The tsunami it creates will wipe out the entire west coast of North America, bury Hawaii, and devastate all the land masses of the Pacific Rim." Oops. I'd better warn my grandchildren to sell my house in SF before it's too late.
Tyson doesn't mention it, but there's an upside to Apophis -- no need to worry about global warming after all.

In fact, Tyson is not all levity about Apophis, or about the inevitable fate of civilization. Later in the book, he discusses what "we" should be doing about our self-preservation in a universe that is far from anthropically perfect for human life, or any kind of life at all. Read it and quake - from laughter as well as fear.
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