Review: Death by Black Hole
by Jeff Foust
|In each essay, Tyson uses history, science, personal experience, and more to effectively communicate principles of astronomy in a manner easily understood, and enjoyed, by the layman.|
Death by Black Hole is a collection of essays that Tyson has written for Natural History magazine since the mid-1990s. These essays deal primarily, but not exclusively, with various aspects of astronomy, from the solar system to astrobiology to the title essay (which, as the name suggests, describes what would happen if you were unfortunate enough to stray too close to a black hole.) A handful of essays towards the end of the book deal with the intersection of science with both religion and culture, such as how Hollywood frequently gets the basics of astronomy wrong in movies. In each essay, Tyson uses history, science, personal experience, and more to effectively communicate principles of astronomy in a manner easily understood, and enjoyed, by the layman.
If there is a weakness to Death by Black Hole, it’s that it is a collection of essays rather than a single unified book. While the 42 essays in the book are grouped together in seven sections, there’s little flow from one to the next: each stands on its own, as it did when it appeared in the pages of Natural History. Therefore, there’s no central theme or message that the book builds up, other than, perhaps, that while aspects of the universe may be mysterious to us today, it is not inherently incomprehensible. That is, though, a pretty fundamental message, and there are few people today able to communicate it as effectively as Tyson.