- Hardcover: 576 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st Edition edition (September 11, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393064441
- ISBN-13: 978-0393064445
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 75 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military Hardcover – September 11, 2018
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“Extraordinary....A feast of history, an expert tour through thousands of years of war and conquest....Condenses multiple bodies of work into one important, comprehensive and coherent story of the symbiotic developments of astrophysics and war....The lesson is not merely a wake-up call for astrophysicists, but for all of us, for anyone with the misapprehension that science somehow marches on separate from the rest of culture”
- Jennifer Carson, New York Times Book Review
“Through ample research and nimble storytelling, Tyson and [Lang] trace the long and tangled relationship between state power and astronomy....Deep and eloquent.”
- Joshua Sokol, Washington Post
“Fascinating....Retells the history of space exploration, and of the Cold War, excelling in bringing forth the entangled advances of science and military interests....The book’s message rings like a wake-up call.”
- Marcelo Gleiser, NPR
“Archimedes and Leonardo worked for their Departments of Defense, and when the telescope was invented it was an immediate instrument of war. Why do astrophysicists even have jobs? asks Neil deGrasse Tyson. Now you can see the inside story, from early times to the cold war, the Apollo program, spy satellites and the Hubble Space Telescope, the Iraq war, and perhaps asteroid mining. A wonderful book and a fascinating read, full of amazing stories, all backed up with deep scholarship.”
- John Mather, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics
“A sweeping panoramic overview of the enduring alliance between astrophysics and the military―from the Greeks to Galileo to GPS.”
“Accessory to War is a phenomenal work that should be required reading for policy makers everywhere.”
- William E. Burrows, author of Deep Black: Space Espionage and National Security and This New Ocean: The Story of the First Space Age
“This is an indispensable, mind-blowing account about a necessary near-future that is, tragically, not inevitable: that the disciplines of astrophysics and politics unite to forge a new frontier―not through ‘Rumsfeldian-Trumpian truculence,’ or by fattening the military while now starving science and the humanities, or by allowing China to continue to lead the U.S. in ‘worldwide research and development spending.’ These have already killed a supposed American Century. Beautifully combining a clear account of cutting-edge astrophysics and politics with a 3000-year historical perspective, this book deserves not only to be read, but to become a guide for those who hope for a better, survivable, near future.”
- Walter LaFeber, Tisch Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, Cornell University
“Throughout history, wars tend to be won by nations that are at the forefront of science. Thus astronomers and physicists have, since ancient times, benefited from an uneasy alliance with the military. This enlightening book explores the history and current implications of this partnership between space science and national security.”
- Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and professor of history, Tulane University
“Accessory to War is not just about astrophysics. It is a readable account of the intersection between science and security policy, complete with historical background and personal insights and anecdotes from America’s most-trusted scientist. This is a much needed read for both policymakers and the public, who in 'normal' times know and care too little about science, but in today's political climate increasingly show disdain for scientific principles that fail to fit their philosophical reality or political goals. Astrophysics is too often perceived as 'not touching me or my life,' but this book artfully explains otherwise.”
- Joan Johnson-Freese, professor of national security affairs, Naval War College
“A wide ranging and provocative set of observations on the two-way relationship between science-based knowledge and national power, especially power of the military variety, replete with trenchant insights. Tyson and Lang’s hopeful concluding message is on-target―that knowledge-based dominance, either in space or on Earth, is not possible in today’s interconnected world, and that cooperation in the use of our knowledge is the necessary path to planetary well-being.”
- John M. Logsdon, professor emeritus, Space Policy Institute, George Washington University
About the Author
Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History, director of its world-famous Hayden Planetarium, host of the hit radio and TV show StarTalk, and the New York Times best-selling author of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. He lives in New York City.
Avis Lang is a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium. For half a decade, she edited Tyson’s Natural History magazine column, Universe, parts of which became the basis for his Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, and later edited his anthology Space Chronicles. She lives in New York City.
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The first few chapters were interesting, but mostly in the realm of things I had heard before. The message came across as: "Psst, some technologies developed for war are also useful in science and vice versa". Not exactly earth-shattering. The technologies are telescopes/optics, navigation aids and calendars, and development of technologies using the electromagnetic spectrum. It gives context to the discussion but isn't worth a book in and of itself.
The second half of the book is much more eye-opening. From a detailed look at 20th century technology (the world wars) to present-day issues, it examines the space force we have, its tasks and background, and how the line between military and civilian work is very thin indeed. There are places where I can feel the authors pushing a thesis about how astrophysical work benefits civilization as a whole and national security in general. There is an aspect of addressing some scientists disdain of human space exploration (you can do so much more science on a lower budget with robots) and arguing that humans in space benefits science as a whole. There are warnings about the dangers, as yet unrealized but not unimaginable, of space-based warfare. There are reviews of the space programs of Russia and China, as well as our allies in Europe and elsewhere, and a case for collaboration in science leading to peace in politics. This book is roomy enough for several large messages. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of science (specifically physics) and will recommend this to my students. To borrow a phrase from another book from a few years ago, this could be called Astrophysics for Future Presidents. Or maybe So You Think You Can Space Force.
There are a few faults. A few of the chapters get very weedy and lose the conversational tone that the book begins and ends with. He tries valiantly to separate astrophysicists and physicists, treating them as from entirely different fields with entirely different motivations and foci, and I have trouble buying that -- it comes off as a little strange. But it's a great read and I'll be recommending it for a long time.
I got a copy to review from the publisher through Edelweiss.
It's not a badly written book, or poorly researched. On the contrary, but good penmanship and thorough journalistic rigor cannot make up for the lack weight of the thesis behind the book.
Today’s prospects for the role and uses of space, especially around Earth, are quite different according to Neil deGrasse Tyson and Avis Lang’s 2018 collaboration, “Accessory to War: the Unspoken Alliance between Astrophysics and the Military”.
As the authors report, at the core of the debate is the complicated entangled relationship between astrophysicists exploring the visible and invisible aspects of our universe for general learning and the military organizations developing tools of offense and defense at the direction of their political leadership.
The national priorities are clearly expressed in their estimated current global funding: astrophysics less than $3 billion while military spending over $1.7 trillion. The point is: regardless of who initiates the research, at some point the learning is likely to be repurposed into military use and possibly weaponized. Could be GPS systems, could be thermonuclear bombs. They mention the entire US Department of Defense 2019 proposed funding would equal the entire NASA funding for its history.
This relationship between astrophysics and the military is complicated not only currently but also historically. With that in mind, the book is divided into two sections:
• Situational Awareness: four chapters covering primarily the earlier advances in science and technology underpinning the current state of affairs
• Ultimate High Ground: five lengthy chapters going through more recent development and its applications for use in space as well as very helpful definitions for terms like radar, laser, maser, CCDs (pixel), ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance), NEOs (ear Earth objects) and PHOs (potentially hazardous objects)
The amount of detail is overwhelming and probably sufficient for anyone who wants to find support for whatever his or her particular view about national priorities is. Some facts cannot be ignored:
• Some 20,000 pieces of space junk are orbiting Earth, like our own rings of Saturn, with destructive potential.
• Accuracy of using weapons from space on Earth surface targets is simply not feasible now for a variety of reasons.
• The recently touted Space Force as a concept is probably original to Donald Rumsfeld and possibly even before him.
• US has been relying on Russian rockets and Soyuz capsules for space missions for some time now at a cost of over $80 million per trip.
• US efforts to exclude China from the International Space Station (ISS) have probably pushed China to create and launch its own orbiting space station.
• In 2011 China apparently became the top country for satellite launches followed by Russia, then, the US.
The real current situation assessment can be found in Chapter 8, “Space Power.” There is a very informative summary of the major countries’ current space programs, including China, Russia, India, Japan and Canada as benchmarks. There is also indication the US may be pulling back on some of its previous lofty goals.
One eerie detail is mention of the US Air Force’s description of self-defense, “the 5 D’s of deception, disruption, denial, degradation and destruction.” Seem familiar?
Discussion of cyberwarfare and its potential to disrupt satellite communications and weapons programs is cursory. A more detailed review is available in David E. Sanger’s 2018 book, “The Perfect Weapon” (if it helps, here’s the link to my Amazon review: https://www.amazon.com/review/R1JI3Q6OMI76VN/ref=cm_cr_srp_d_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8 )
The first section of “Accessory to War” has a conversational popular history tone somewhat like Frederick Lewis Allen’s 1931 work, “Only Yesterday” about the 1920s. The second section shifts to straight ahead chronicling of information but more summary analysis could have helped the points and flow.
The book title seems ambivalent about what the authors think the relationship between astrophysics and the military should be, especially regarding the use of space. Is it a good thing or bad? Worth the investment? What and whose motives are prevailing? For that reason reading the book may be a different experience than what one might expect from the cover.
Beam me back, Scotty.