This is fantastic look at the history of astrophysics and its intersection with warming, much more thorough and well-sourced than most of Dr. Tyson's writing. It's aimed at an audience that wants to get into the weeds, so not those in a hurry.
The first few chapters were interesting, but mostly in the realm of things I had heard before. The message came across as: "Psst, some technologies developed for war are also useful in science and vice versa". Not exactly earth-shattering. The technologies are telescopes/optics, navigation aids and calendars, and development of technologies using the electromagnetic spectrum. It gives context to the discussion but isn't worth a book in and of itself.
The second half of the book is much more eye-opening. From a detailed look at 20th century technology (the world wars) to present-day issues, it examines the space force we have, its tasks and background, and how the line between military and civilian work is very thin indeed. There are places where I can feel the authors pushing a thesis about how astrophysical work benefits civilization as a whole and national security in general. There is an aspect of addressing some scientists disdain of human space exploration (you can do so much more science on a lower budget with robots) and arguing that humans in space benefits science as a whole. There are warnings about the dangers, as yet unrealized but not unimaginable, of space-based warfare. There are reviews of the space programs of Russia and China, as well as our allies in Europe and elsewhere, and a case for collaboration in science leading to peace in politics. This book is roomy enough for several large messages. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of science (specifically physics) and will recommend this to my students. To borrow a phrase from another book from a few years ago, this could be called Astrophysics for Future Presidents. Or maybe So You Think You Can Space Force.
There are a few faults. A few of the chapters get very weedy and lose the conversational tone that the book begins and ends with. He tries valiantly to separate astrophysicists and physicists, treating them as from entirely different fields with entirely different motivations and foci, and I have trouble buying that -- it comes off as a little strange. But it's a great read and I'll be recommending it for a long time.
I got a copy to review from the publisher through Edelweiss.
- Hardcover: 576 pages
- Publisher: WW Norton & Co; 1 edition (11 September 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393064441
- ISBN-13: 978-0393064445
- Product Dimensions: 16.8 x 3.8 x 24.4 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 953 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)