Excerpts from “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry”

This is my second time reading this book by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I have decided I was in a more distracted state during my first pass, as I recall having to reread paragraphs regularly. That is less common during this round two.

And it isn’t that the passages themselves are overtly complex, I think it was my ability to focus. In fact, the author does an incredible job of using analogies and other literary tools to make it understandable.

I finished the chapter 8, “On Being Round”, earlier today and found it so rich in these literary tools, that I had to share some of them. All of these are direct quotes:

  • … Earth, as a cosmic object, is remarkably smooth. If you had a super-duper, jumbo-gigantic finger, and you dragged it across Earth’s surface (oceans and all), Earth would feel as smooth as a cue ball.
  • The stars of the Milky Way galaxy trace a big, flat circle. With a diameter-to-thickness ration of one thousand to one, our galaxy is flatter than the flattest flapjacks ever made.
  • To picture a pulsar, imagine the mass of the Sun packed into a ball the size of Manhattan. If that’s hard to do, then maybe it’s easier if you imagine stuffing about a hundred million elephants into a Chapstick casing.
  • Under such conditions, a neutron star’s mountain range needn’t be any taller than the thickness of a sheet of paper for you to exert more energy climbing it than a rock climber on Earth would exert ascending a three-thousand-mile-high cliff.
  • There’s a variation of the ever-popular multiverse idea in which the multiple universes that comprise it are not separate universes entirely, but isolated, non-interacting pockets of space within one continuous fabric of space-time—like multiple ships at sea, far enough away from one another so that their circular horizons do not intersect.

As I said, that is from one chapter of about 13 pages. Pick up a copy of the book and give it a try. Or if you find visuals helpful, try the show Cosmos.

The universe we live in is endlessly fascinating. Which makes sense, as we don’t know whether the universe has an end, or if the laws of physics merely prevent us from seeing this limit.

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