What I Happen to Be Reading At the Moment

"A thirteen-year-old is a kaleidoscope of different personalities, if not in most ways a mere figment of her own imagination. At that age, what and who you are depends largely on what book you happen to be reading at the moment.”

 

While not 13 anymore, the desire to read almost anything and everything in order to read for fun and for experience is still around. I'm currently working on my PhD in a physical science, but I love to read and books are one of my non-science hobbies.

The Sky Is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist

The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist - Neil deGrasse Tyson Neil DeGrasse Tyson is possibly the coolest astrophysicist to have ever lived. Unfortunately this means that I have no idea what his research is about (since even this autobiography of sorts breezes through his grad school years) but that I do know he's one of the great modern popularizers of science. The Sky is Not the Limit shed light both on his astrophysical and personal life and gives more detail beyond his Daily Show persona.

From beginnings, including going up to the roof with a telescope and occasionally having the police called to investigate the person with the long, thin object on the top of a NYC building roof, to his continuing themes of Pluto and inaccuracy in movies (sorry "Gravity" folks, this was a thing years before he pointed out every inaccuracy), Tyson tells stories with his usual charm and humor. Really, if it's any hint to other scientists out there, adopting more of Tyson's wonder at the universe and making it obvious to others is a great way to start doing some outreach.

Other, less run of the mill topics included Tyson's experience during the 9/11 attack on New York, including evacuating with his daughter. Also, a chapter about his experiences as black man in modern America were particularly interesting, especially since the discussion occurred at a conference for African American physicists (who had all very similar experiences with the police and shopping mall cops--interesting too in light of the Henry Lewis Gates, Jr.'s run in with local cops not too many years ago). The experiences of both being an astrophysicist (which of course I am interested in as I am working on a PhD in a subfield of astrophysics) and being an underrepresented minority (also applicable) were interesting as both an insight into how scientists think but also how they develop.

One thing missing that I very much wanted to hear about was Tyson's graduate school experiences. He alludes to issues at his first institution as a reason for finishing his master's there and taking some time off, and I was very curious to learn more about it. I'm not trying to pry, but my very new position as a graduate student has made me curious about others' experiences. NDT has been a scientific role model for me for years, so I was hoping to glean some advice about how to get that PhD without going nuts.

Still, the range and interesting nature of Neil deGrasse Tyson's observations throughout his life and career were fascinating, and it's well worth the read especially for non-scientists, because more than a few times Tyson is spot on about how the minds of us scientists work.

Currently reading

Native Son
Richard Wright
The Great Glass Sea
Josh Weil
The Elder Edda
Anonymous, Andrew Orchard