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The Sky Is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist Paperback – May 1 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 203 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (May 1 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159102188X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591021889
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 1.2 x 22.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #59,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Not many teenagers get to hobnob with the likes of the late Carl Sagan or to go on a luxury cruise liner with the world's leading astrophysicists to observe a solar eclipse off the coast of Africa. But from a young age, Tyson single-mindedly pursued his goal of exploring the universe. Today he is the director of New York City's renowned Hayden Planetarium and is well known from his appearances on the evening news, most recently as a leader of the movement to downgrade Pluto from its status as a planet. In this pleasing memoir, Tyson tells of his early adventures in rooftop observation of the heavens, his sister lugging heavy stuff up to the roof of his Bronx apartment building while he carried his precious telescopes. His insistence on the importance of scientific education shines through in the second half of the book, where he explains esoteric subjects like dark matter and the Big Bang without talking down to readers. Tyson argues passionately for the importance of exploring space, since our planet will one day become uninhabitable. The author doesn't spend much time on aspects of his life unrelated to science, though he gives a powerful account of his escape from his apartment near ground zero on September 11. Tyson's recounting of some of the obstacles and misperceptions that he had to overcome as a young person of color to achieve his goals should inspire and inform young readers. But this graceful and thoughtful memoir will also appeal to adults interested in exploring the heavens. B&w photos.
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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Hardcover
Tyson is an astrophysicist and the director of the Hayden Planetarium. He's also black. This unusual juxtaposition provides the grist for this autobiography.
The black part of it is actually not that significant, at least for the most part. Tyson was a gifted and capable student who knew early on that he would go into astronomy. He had a supportive family and encouraging teachers. It would be an insult to Tyson to say he had a charmed life, but certainly he set himself on the right course from the outset (unlike, say, Ben Carson) and had good support along the way.
He goes on to talk about a life in astronomy and some of the technical issues he cares about, from the importance of understanding science and the associated silliness of being terrified of mathematical equations to the dangers of a meteorite striking the earth and destroying human life. He also spends a chapter talking about science, religion, and the fate of the universe. He insists that science and religion are two separate spheres, though without ever explicitly stating his own religious beliefs.
He does devote one chapter to racial issues, pointing out in a low-key way the myriad insults (usually indirect) that he has experienced due to the color of his skin, from police stops to people not realizing that he is as intelligent as he is. It's a sobering chapter and makes me realize how far this country still has to go in terms of eliminating racial prejudice.
Most of the book, though, is about the wonders of the skies and how a young man found his life's calling there. It's well worth reading for anyone but particularly for a young person thinking about making astronomy a career.
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By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Sept. 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.
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By W. Watson on March 13 2000
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading this delightful book of a black scientist's life's journey into the world of astrophysics. It's filled with interesting observations about astronomy, science, education, public life, experiences as a black intellecutal, and his role as director of the Hayden Planetarium. It's also filled with humor and many remarks and comments on astronomy, the universe, God, movie mistakes on astronomical topics, and even cremation vs burial. A very enjoyable read. I'm looking forward to reading some of his other books.
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By A Customer on Aug. 14 2000
Format: Hardcover
Tyson's book is somewhat of a 90s classic masterpiece. He goes from topic to topic about his exeriences and always entertains the reader while doing so. Such as the being black in academia and New York section, to the public's stupidy concering the natural laws of world. He also displays his wide knowledge of astrophysics and anything above the sun. In the end the book entertains, informs, and delights with the sky not being the limit!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 61 reviews
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
by a sixteen-year old Aug. 3 2005
By Athena Masson - Published on Amazon.com
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.
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Heavenly Joys! Sept. 12 2000
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
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. In the process, he gently tweaks the racism that means that black astrophysicists have many confrontations with the police that white ones don't have, errors in popular movies (Jodie Foster will blush after she reads what he has to say about her), and our earthbound perspective that keeps us from appreciating the heavenly beauty above.
Dr. Tyson often appears with Peter Jennings on television. Watch for him, and notice his ties. He likes to wear ones with astrophysical references. He is the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, so you will often see or hear him quoted on the latest space-related issues.
I should admit a bias to you. When the college I attended holds an annual alumni gathering in December each year in Boston, I always go to the astrophysics lectures. The photographs are gorgeous, and the ideas are very exciting. If you have a chance to do the same, you should do so.
After you read this book, ponder his section on science and religion and reconsider how the two areas relate to one another. I found his ideas interesting. Then consider how the two areas could relate to each other better. That's a question hardly anyone asks.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Reflections of a retired physicist on "The Sky Is Not the Limit" Feb. 25 2008
By Barry Marder - Published on Amazon.com
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.
28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Thumbs Up All the Way March 13 2000
By W. Watson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading this delightful book of a black scientist's life's journey into the world of astrophysics. It's filled with interesting observations about astronomy, science, education, public life, experiences as a black intellecutal, and his role as director of the Hayden Planetarium. It's also filled with humor and many remarks and comments on astronomy, the universe, God, movie mistakes on astronomical topics, and even cremation vs burial. A very enjoyable read. I'm looking forward to reading some of his other books.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A fantastic autobiography! Sept. 25 2012
By Waylon Piercy - Published on Amazon.com
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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