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Letters from an Astrophysicist

Written by: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Length: 5 hrs and 35 mins
Categories: Science & Math, Physics
5 out of 5 stars (19 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has attracted one of the world’s largest online followings with his fascinating, widely accessible insights into science and our universe. Now, Tyson invites us to go behind the scenes of his public fame by unveiling his candid correspondence with people across the globe who have sought him out in search of answers. In this hand-picked collection of 100 letters, Tyson draws upon cosmic perspectives to address a vast array of questions about science, faith, philosophy, life, and of course, Pluto. His succinct, opinionated, passionate, and often funny responses reflect his popularity and standing as a leading educator.  

Tyson’s 2017 best seller Astrophysics for People in a Hurry offered more than one million readers an insightful and accessible understanding of the universe. Now, revealing Tyson’s most candid and heartfelt writing yet, Letters from an Astrophysicist introduces us to a newly personal dimension of Tyson’s quest to understand our place in the cosmos. 

The full list of narrators includes Victor Bevine, Gabriel Vaughan, Lauren Fortgang, Neil Hellegers, Kevin Free, Vikas Adam, Nick Sullivan, Gabra Zackman, Allyson Johnson, Brandon Rubin, and Piper Goodeve.

©2019 Neil deGrasse Tyson (P)2019 Audible, Inc.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Tina Gundy
  • 2019-10-14

Dear Neil...

Letters from an Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson held my interest and is one you should give a listen to. It’s uplifting, sometimes sad, and at times gives you something to ponder.

What’s it about? It consists of letters or emails written to Neil with a question or comment pertaining to a certain subject, his response, and some of his life experiences (breakdown below). His answers occasionally contain data and at other times are his personal thoughts on the subject (how to deal with bullying, he’s agnostic, thoughts on Hollywood movies, etc.). You may get a chuckle, learn something, or potentially lose hope with society (hope’s a funny thing isn’t it Neil?). It never ceases to amaze me how one person can inspire others or how frank kids can be.

The reason I give it four stars all around? I didn’t find this was something I had to listen to, but did enjoy it overall. Sometimes I wanted a little more details on the response or the subject. Also would have liked to have a little more personal experiences mixed in. The narration was good, my only gripe is the children voices. Neil- if you do another book similar to this, when a child has written a question, please get a child to voice the question. Please.

The breakdown:
Introduction: a little about his background
Part One: Ethos
Chapter 1: Hope~ Coma, Fear, Losing My Religion, On Being Black, On IQ, 100 mph, If I Were President
Chapter 2: Extraordinary Claims~ ET Phone Home, Aliens Aliens, UFO Sightings, A Glowing Pattern in the Sky, End of the World, Time’s Up, Psychic Teleportation, Parallel Universe, Moons of Mars, Perpetual Motion, Dogon Predictions, Bigfoot, Sixth Sense
Chapter 3: Musings~ Complexity, Spirals, Roots, BC/AD, Skies Over Iraq, Seeing Stars, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, I’d Rather Direct, Worst Ever, A Viral Blunder, Breaking Up is Easy to do
Section Two: The Cosmos
Chapter 4: Hate Mail~ An Apology, An Appeal, Moon Lover, We Suck at Science, I’m Not Paying, Feed Christians to the Lions
Chapter 5: Science Denial~ Middle School Skepticism, More Harm Than Good, Evolution vs. Creationism, Qur’anic Verses, Evidence for God, Where’s the Proof
Chapter 6: Philosophy~ Alien Homicide, Truth or Meaning, How, Why, Yin & Yang, I Think Therefore I Doubt, Express Yourself
Section Three: Pathos
Chapter 7: Life and Death~ Remembering Holbrooke, Deadman Talking, Farewell, The Cosmic Perspective, Soul Searching, Hurricane Katrina, Curing Disease, Semper Fi (This is my favorite chapter.)
Chapter 8: Tragedy~ Neil’s experiences/thoughts during and after September 11, 2001 (he lived blocks from The World Trade Center), Heavy Metal, Symbolism Myth and Ritual
Chapter 9: To Believe or Not to Believe~ The Eye of God, Thinking for Yourself, God and the Afterlife, Seeing Eye to Eye, The Bible Tells Me So, A Piece of Pie, Buddhist, Open Mind, Proof, Meaning of Life
Section Four: Kairos
Chapter 10: School Days~ Space Cadet, Elementary Curiosity, Look but Don’t Touch, To Know, Stigma, Not a Shadow of a Doubt, Gifted Students, Accuracy
Chapter 11: Parenting~ Doing Time, On Pretending, Starry Starry Night, Home School, Scary Smart, Half Black, Bible Stories, First Telescope, Happy 30th Anniversary
Chapter 12: Rebuttals~ Making the Grade, B.o.B. and the Flat Earth, A Horse’s Ass to a Physicist, Don’t Have a Cow, Keep Off deGrasse, Hollywood Nights
Epilogue: A Eulogy, of Sorts (letter to his father)
Acknowledgments
*Some letters contain postscripts.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Hope is all you have when you realize your not entirely in control of outcomes but without it how else do we cope with the challenges of life?”
“Striving to do what is right without regard to who takes notice should be a model for us all.”
“Flying saucers don’t need runway lights.”
“Any two people in the world have a common ancestor depending on how far back you look. The line we draw to establish family lineage is entirely arbitrary. When I wonder what I am capable of as a human being, I don’t look to relatives, I look to all human beings.”
“Substance matters more than labels.”
“We now live in a world where differences of opinion lead to fights rather than conversations.”
“The only thing to fear is loss of ambition.”
“Even when on the field, I’m thinking about science.”
“A reality exists independent of our perception of it.”
“The headline we never see is psychic wins lottery again.”
“You can be awed by the complexities manifested in the world or you can instead be astonished at how simple it is.”
“If faith is a personal construct then there can be no agreed upon book of answers.”
“Active scientists do not run around declaring science can explain everything.”
“Life here on Earth is nothing more than a phase.”
“At times, the challenges to success can seem endless.”

I recommend if you are new to Neil or a long time follower. Hopefully two things everyone can take away from this book are people with contrasting beliefs can be friends and it’s OK to discuss these differences.

Parental guidance/trigger warnings: brief mention of ancient civilizations (rip heart out of virgins to appease the Gods, eat flesh of those you conquer to make you stronger), mention of Iraq (soldier writing from Iraq), talk about killing (an alien), religion (he doesn’t attempt to change anyone’s beliefs- it’s questions people are asking), 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and Haiti talk, death (cancer), Jail mention (a couple letters are from people who are incarcerated), depression in a teen with ASD, tooth fairy (how a child can find out/test the truth), mention of a school shooting (not a specific one), Hitler mention (1946 GI Olympics). Language used: n-word x2, two words are bleeped out (f-word and ass), one time it is stated “another county is kicking out ass”.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-10-29

help me to feel as if we were having a conversatio

I loved it felt like we were having a personal conversation as all the letters were relatable and the last chapter rebuttals haha way to fire back

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael Shmilovich
  • 2019-10-15

It’s cute.

Fun book. Not as technical as NdGT’s other books but a reminder how inspiring some people’s stories are and how block headed some people can be. Neil is a gentleman, a scholar and a mensch keeping his cool with gracious responses.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Keith
  • 2019-10-09

at times a sword fight of words. much enjoyed.

the correspondences remind me that in any differences in opinion and arguments of fact it is best to, remain calm, understand differences, present evidence or opinions supported by data to make a point. but above all remain civil...or strive to.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Thaddeus M
  • 2019-11-30

Buying the paperback

I am going to buy the paperback as well just so I can listen and read at the same time, the book is that good

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  • 1 Park Avenue
  • 2019-11-26

Highly Entertaining!

It's like a hundred short stories all in one book! Great idea from a great man! Thank you!

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  • Jad
  • 2019-11-23

Pleasant as always

Neil never ceases to amaze me with his style and content. Such a great publication with a lot of wisdom and a way of thinking I wish everyone could match

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  • Kristi K Anderson
  • 2019-11-22

Farmers / Ham Radio review <br />

I have followed and read most of Neil's works. This was interesting because you get to hear his thoughts about others questions. As a farmer I never miss a chance to stop at night and look up at the wonderful universe. I have sent radio messages into that vastness hoping for a reply some day. Please keep up your good works Neil our planet inhabitants needs you wisdom.

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  • Joa
  • 2019-11-20

Answers to my questions..Amazing!!

I just love it love love it...the precision, the noble way in which he answers each letter but yet with an unexpected discrete punch & truthful statement. His voice is adorable. I love this guys & his entire contribution to the many questionable & unquestionable subjects that one might have. People ask & others dont, perhaphs some like myself might not even know how to ask the question & here is a bright way of getting to those minds like mine. Thank you Neil!

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  • Utilisateur anonyme
  • 2019-11-17

A good book, but a credit might be too much for it

I certainly think that this book it's very informative and funny at times and I love the classic Neil deGrasse Tyson. but for a full credit I don't think it's worth it 100%.