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The Sky Is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist Hardcover – February 15, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (February 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385488386
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385488389
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #850,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Cool, classy, articulate, and brilliant--rarely do all of those adjectives apply at once to an astrophysicist. But Neil de Grasse Tyson is no ordinary scientist; as the director of New York City's Hayden planetarium, his job is to inspire the public with the beauty and grandeur of the universe, just as he was inspired there in his youth. The Sky Is Not the Limit is his memoir of the events leading from his birth to his acceptance of his dream job and beyond, and is a marvelously entertaining look at one man's pursuit of his life's calling. Tyson emphasizes the nurturing roles played by his parents, friends, and teachers, in contrast to the sometimes well-meaning but always disappointing discouragement he experienced from all sides in his quest for his Ph.D.

Of course, it's still shamefully difficult for a black American scientist to merit the same quality of attention as his or her peers, and Tyson's insights into the subtle but still-pervasive racism in academia are enlightening. His description of his own shock at seeing himself on television--a black man sought as an expert on something other than being black--is powerfully moving. But, as with his other books, like the gorgeous One Universe: At Home in the Cosmos, the quest for knowledge is more important than the obstacles, and his spirit, determination, and sense of humor prove that the sky really isn't the limit. --Rob Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

Tyson (see One Universe, reviewed above) directs the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. His pleasant, digressive memoir explains how he got there, what it's like to be a famous astronomer and what he thinks of his work. At first it's a story about how science education can go right. We learn that Tyson, who is African-American, grew up among tall buildings in the Bronx--but his is not a story of triumph over grinding poverty. Young Tyson got a break from the city when his father found a one-year lectureship at Harvard, and as for the electricity required to run one of his first telescopes, "my dentist... happened to live on the nineteenth floor." Tyson's later chapters offer memories, anecdotes and musings on astrophysics, education, politics, popular culture and even wrestling, in which Tyson competed until grad school. Tyson explains how his wrestling skills and knowledge of physics helped him end an Italian traffic jam by lifting a parked car, and how he tried to buy a meteorite but lost an auction to Steven Spielberg. In one chapter, Hollywood's science mistakes raise Tyson's ire (the film Titanic got its night sky all wrong); in the next, he discusses getting stopped by police for "Driving While Black." With sentences like "The universe poured down from the sky and flowed into my body," Tyson may not be his discipline's best prose stylist; neither his essays nor his life match the unpredictable charm of Richard Feynman's. But he comes off very likably, and presents physics with ease and clarity. It's easy to imagine his memoir inspiring young future astrophysicists--and inspiring grownups to help them out. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

I'm glad I read this book as I got to know the person better.
Grandmom
It is easy to understand and appreciate, even if you don't have a degree in astrophysics.
astrochick
This memoir by Neil DeGrasse Tyson is well written and very interesting.
Doris L. Sudduth

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Tyson has written a wonderful memoir that will inspire anyone who reads it to become more interested in astrophysics, how to be a better parent, ways to improve as a mentor, and to seek out an inspirational profession.
The ultimate charm of this book is that Dr. Tyson is a warm, witty, self-effacing, and passionate human being. I seldom get the feeling from reading a book that I would enjoy having the author as a friend, but Dr. Tyson affected me that way.
For young people thinking about a career in science, Dr. Tyson is an excellent role model of how focusing on the joy you feel from the subject matter can evolve into additional joy from the intellectual content. In his description at the end of the book of how the putative Big Bang may have happened, I was enthralled. It was almost like reading poetry. Now, I have read many descriptions of the same subject, and have never been moved by them before.
Dr. Tyson also makes an eloquent case for creating planetary defense capabilities to divert or destroy asteroids or comets that could create catastrophic collisons with the Earth. I came away convinced that this was a worthwhile activity. You may, too.
Dr. Tyson had wonderful parents and mentors. I enjoyed reading about them as much as I did about the main subjects of the book. Anyone will pick up tips for being better at both roles from this book.
He also has a great sense of humor, telling many funny stories in a wonderfully straight way.
Read more ›
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Athena Masson on August 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
The sky is not the limit is a novel that goes deep into the heart of the author, Neil de Grasse Tyson, who started out at a young age shooting for his dream to become an astrophysicist. This book gives the reader a mental view of the objects surrounding us both in space and on earth. Throughout Neil's life he has worked hard pursuing his passion in astrophysics.

I enjoyed this book because it is scientific and also teaches lessons of life that you may not otherwise encounter. I also enjoyed the comedy in his statements. I have learned that if I want to become a scientist like Neil, then I must start training at a young age. This book has opened up my eyes to become aware of many things that I did not notice before.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Barry Marder on February 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
Astronomy is every physicist's first infatuation; which makes "The Sky Is Not the Limit" by Neil deGrasse Tyson somewhat of a love story. But this book is more about him than the object of his affection. It is a rewarding read because it is both general and specific. It provides insight into how all physicists think, while revealing much that is unique to the author. Like him, we physicists usually knew what we wanted at an early age and we share many of his youthful experiences (monthly pilgrimages to the Hayden Planetarium, high school nights spent with a six inch telescope). Despite our high coefficient of nerdiness, we were pretty average kids. The author, however, is not your average scientist. He writes and speaks much better than most of us. He is more famous than most of us. And, he is blacker than most of us. His reflections on being a highly educated minority in a world uncomfortable with both characteristics could constitute another fascinating book.

Dr. Tyson is a worthy successor to the late Carl Sagan who was both a public educator and an advisor to the government on technical issues. The book discusses the author's experiences in both these roles. It also includes his heartbreaking account of witnessing, and inadvertently participating in, the 9/11 tragedy.

Dr. Tyson relates how one can become totally absorbed in pages of equations. Indeed, if astronomy is a physicist's first infatuation, Maxwell's equations are their first true love. The author clearly wants to communicate to his readers the beauty and majesty of these equations, but wistfully acknowledges that impossibility.

After a just-for-fun chapter on the fate of the universe, the book ends with his views on religion, where he succinctly, and thoroughly, covers a topic that has generated countless tomes.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Waylon Piercy on September 25, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Okay, I'm gonna admit something here! I have a man-crush on Neil deGrasse Tyson. It's hard not to like anyone who is so knowledgeable and passionate abotu their chosen field, and when that field is something I am fascinated with myself, well... man-crush. You may have one as well by the time you finish this autobiography! NDT writes in a very personable, easygoing style that is instantly endearing. The way NDT shares his love for astronomy will likely kindle an interest in you by the time you're done reading, if you didn't have any beforehand.
The book is over far too soon, but that's not due to any flaw in the book; you just want to spend more time learning more about NDT and his story. That the reader is so entertained that he or she is left wanting to spend more time reading what the author writes is the surest sign of a successful book of any kind, in my eyes.
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More About the Author

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History, director of the world-famous Hayden Planetarium, a monthly columnist for Natural History, and an award-winning author. He lives in New York City.

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