Man this is one hilarious book, it is a collection of answers to absurd and weird hypothetical questions he has been sent via his website for his comic strip. Having a degree in physics and previously working for NASA before leaving to work on his XKCD comic strip full time leaves Randall in a unique position to answer these questions
There is an assortment of hilarious hypothetical questions such as
- what would happen if the entire human population met at one place and then jumped all at the same time
- From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hits the ground
- Is it possible to build a jet pack using downward firing machine gun
- If a ten metre wide drain opened at the bottom of the ocean how long would it take to drain all the oceans
There are many more hilarious questions many of which he adds his signature stick figure drawing too. He takes the time to detail his research into these questions and walks the reader through the process to find the answer.
Good for a laugh and an informative read, best of both worlds!
Part of me keeps telling myself, to stop buying books just because of there cover. Most of the time the author doesn’t have much say in regards to the cover. So it isn’t always a true reflection of the story nor represent an image that actually takes place in the story. but it can contain powerful images that capture your imagination. I am probably fortunate that for most of the time choosing books by the cover has worked for me.
For the fact that the front cover had an image of a storm in a cars rear view mirror yet the back cover blurb talked of a storm in space, is what really peaked my interest. The book was reasonably priced so i thought why not.
The book starts much like many others in regards to a signal received from space such as contact or species. However the difference here is the signal is not decoded but yet we still reply. I took issue with this. Why/how would we respond to a message when we didn’t know what the message was about. In reality i am sure we would wait until the message was decoded before replying. A signal received from space in essence is a sign of intelligence, it show a lack of intelligence to reply without understanding the message.
The story then moves forward in time. the reason of course is the source of the signal is like 15 light years away, so it takes 15 years for our signal to get there and then 15 years for the response to come back. So just when we thought we would hear a response back the original signal switches off… This is when the cloud is detected. While not wanting to give too much away. It is interesting to note that we always seem to picture a signal from space with allot of fear. Is it just a plot device or do we truly believe that if we hear anything from another civilization that they would be aggressive and want to attack. To be honest this is highly doubtful as the length of time required for interstellar travel is enormous. Its dubious at best that someone would go through the centuries long journey just to attack. what would be the tactical point in that?
It is interesting to note that even in real life we only talk of receiving a signal and not sending. Granted we have sent one signal called the Arecibo message but that was aimed at a target more that 25000 light years away and was more a test of equipment than an actual attempt to communicate. My point is if we are only listening, who’s to say that other civilizations are only listening. If no one is talking how can we hear them. (we can ignore the fact that all our TV transmission are being through space right now)
This story was still a great thrill ride, and has quite a heart pounding race to the last second kind of finish to it. thoroughly enjoyed it, and will keep an eye out for this authors works in the future
I have always had an interest in Astronomy and for awhile there pursued the idea of career in that field. However i choose to go down another path and have moved Astronomy into the hobby area for now. As such any time i come across a book to do with Astronomy or Astrophysics, i’ll buy it. Even though in most cases these books just rehash the same material but just cover it in different ways. This book in that regard is no different. There is no new information discussed, in fact the book itself is just an anthology of all Neil deGrasse Tyson’s previous interviews. I picked this gem up at the super secret Booktopia $1 booksale. as i was moving down the isles i saw his (the authors) name on the spine and that alone was enough for me to buy it
The book starts with the history of Astronomy and more importantly human perception of astronomy, going from the days of craziness where religion decreed we were the center of the universe – to the modern times with a better perception of our place in the cosmos. There is quite alot of focus on the US economy as it plays a heavy role in deciding how much money NASA gets and this in turns impacts what programs are successful or not. Surprisingly there were some interesting insights into this process.
While Neil has an impressive knowledge of astronomy, history and pop culture, he does like to use the same anecdotes and since this book is merely an anthology of previous interviews it becomes apparent as there repetition is seen more easily in this book
Perhaps the most disappointing thing with this book, is you get the feeling it is aimed at the american audience. What i mean by this is there is quite alot of discussion of NASAs budget and comparing it to other US expenditures and government activities . While of course since the US is pretty much the biggest avenue of space exploration, i naturally keep a close eye on what its doing even though i have no interest in the politics behind it since i can have no say in that matter.
The book really hits home when even the author states that sometimes when he is at work trying to understand the intricacies of the universe he can forget ” that uncounted people walk this Earth without food or shelter, and that children are disproportionately represented among them ” quite a powerful message to end a book with. Especially after reading the sections about the US budget seeing that they spend more than 8 times the amount of money on the military than they do on education and double the amount they spend on welfare.
But when all is said and done being an anthology of previous interviews etc, doesn’t diminish this book at all. it is still a great read by a great author and leave you walking away with much food for thought