The Sky is not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist
© 2004 Neil deGrasse Tyson
How does a young black kid from the Bronx become a world-famous astrophysicist, Director of the Hayden Planetarium and the second coming of Carl Sagan? The Sky is Not the Limit is Neil deGrasse Tyson’s semi-autobiographical account of how he came to be seduced by the study of the night sky, one that doubles as a light work of popular science, promoting informed, critical thinking and asserting that yeah, science is cool. Subtitled Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist, Tyson’s memoir reveals that anyone can take joy from studying the stars, even if their view of the sky is washed out from city lights and their ambitions discounted by everyone they meet. The biography-turned-essay collection is Tyson’s most effective attempt so far to convert his gift for communicating science in public lectures into written form. Though his being seduced by heavenly bodies takes center stage, one essay (“Dark Matters”) sees Tyson make a rare comment on race. Although he received support from his parents and guidance from remarkable individuals like Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov, Tyson had to overcome the obstacle for race: at every step along the way of his education people questioned his choice of occupations, from patronizing whites doubting his intelligence (“Why don’t you just play basketball?”) to patronizing blacks who thought astrophysics was too white and that an intelligent black man should be helping the race by being a social activist instead. He persevered, however, and eventually became a celebrity scientist, the first black man (to his knowledge) to be interviewed on television and asked for his professional opinion on something outside of race or civil rights. The Sky is not the Limit covers astrophysics, math, skepticism, telescope stargazing as a first date (not successful), and September 11th, 2001. Those looking for an entertaining science read should find this attractive.
- Dr. Tyson hosts a weekly podcast called “StarTalk Radio“, which is ridiculously awesome. He always hosts with a comedian, includes interviews, and fields questions from listeners about science and popular culture. The last show featured an interview…Buzz Aldrin, one of the first two men on the moon. Tyson has also spoke with Dr. Ruth (that “Dr. Ruth”) and frequently features authors like Mary Roach and Neil Chaikin.
- An interview with Dr. Tyson about the book on Point of Inquiry