Apr 20, 2010

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Physicist-author Tyson was interviewed one day by Bob Edwards on XMPR and I had to rush to the store and find the book they talked about, Death by Black Hole.

How dare I think I can read something so recondite? As it turns out, non-experts dabbling in subjects way over their heads is a time-honored tradition. Besides, part of the point is that Tyson writes so well that you don't have to be, well, a rocket scientist to follow what he's saying. Even if you don't get all of it (and I certainly didn't), it's really, uh, cool reading.

Tyson is a really cool guy, too, as it turns out. I haven't looked again but when I Googled him after reading this 2007 book, feature articles called him one of New York's most eligible bachelors. Forty-ish, an Olympic athlete, handsome and funny, a leading scientist among the scientists (not just the dabblers like me), and African-American to boot. What a fascinating individual! I wrote him full of praise for his book and he even wrote back a courteous thank you.

By the way, this morning on the Edwards program I heard an interview with author Richard Holmes, whose new book is entitled The Age of Wonder. Turns out he's an authority on Romatic poets, Keats and Shelley, those guys, and he talked about the fascination many of the Romantics had with science. Not everyone, to be sure, but for many artistic types it was quite the thing to be up on the latest discoveries, whether it was something about the outer planets (Jupiter and Saturn, in those days), or what Darwin was finding on Galapagos.

Holmes said we are in a new golden age of popular science writing, as so many brilliant scientists have found they can also write very well. I'd call Neil DeGrasse Tyson a wonderful and welcome case in point.

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