October 29, 2009

Death By Black Hole

I'm reading just as much as I ever have--maybe even more, but not much in the way of books. Many research articles, papers, and web-related reading. Grad school is going to eat up a huge chunk of the next six months, so I don't see it changing much.

So thank goodness for Neil deGrasse Tyson's book of essays! I've been sipping these down for the last few months and it's a delightful collection. If you're a big reader of Natural History, then you've probably already run into a few of these, because this is a collection of his essays for that magazine. I think it lends itself to the occasional dipping in because he does use some of the same examples more than once, but by spreading these out I never felt bothered by this aspect of the collection.

He is a man of far-ranging interests, a clear writer, and entertaining as well. You'll read about what it would feel like to be ripped apart atom by atom by a black hole in a process which has a great technical term: "spaghetti-fication." Nice. But there is much more. The Oort Cloud, extremophiles, and one of my favorites: Lagrangian points. These are perfectly balanced points in space between objects such as the Earth and the Moon in which we could dump tons of building materials for future space stations without worry of their drifting away. Then again, there are plenty of cheery essays about "all of the ways the cosmos wants to kills us" that are fun as well.

Science popularizations are becoming more and more important. I've run into staggering amounts of science illiteracy lately in encounters with allegedly educated adults recently and don't even know how to broach the subject with them. As part of my media committee duties, I was asked to read this early reader chapter book, Andrew Lost #9: In Time because there was a concern. Apparently the concern is that the book reiterates the scientific fact that the universe is billions of years old bothers some. I don't know what else to say other than: Tough.