Read: November 2023

Inspiration: Came across on Amazon’s bestseller list; listened to Neil deGrasse Tyson on many podcasts and didn’t realize he was an author as well


Written with the help of ChatGPT, below is a brief summary to understand what is covered in the book.

“Starry Messenger”, published in 2022 by astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson, brings deGrasse Tyson’s cosmic perspective to civilization on Earth. The book shines new light on the crucial fault lines of our time–war, politics, religion, truth, beauty, gender, race, and tribalism–in a way that stimulates a deeper sense of unity for us all. With crystalline prose, deGrasse Tyson walks us through the scientific palette that sees and paints the world differently. From insights on resolving global conflict to reminders of how precious it is to be alive, Tyson reveals, with warmth and eloquence, an array of brilliant and beautiful truths that apply to us all, informed and enlightened by knowledge of our place in the universe.

Unedited Notes

Direct from my original book log, below are my unedited notes (abbreviations and misspellings included) to show how I take notes as I read.

1600s Galileo and Sir Francis Bacon pioneer the scientific method, test hypothesis and form opinion with strength in proportion to evidence, Royal Society of London founded in 1660 as world’s oldest indep scientific academy with motto “take nobody’s word for it”, scientific truths, personal truths, and political truths, personal are held internally but hard to convince others without force b/c just feels right (religion), political is via indoctrination since not inherent or scientific, cosmic effect is the term those who go to space experience when all gets put into perspective as see earth from above, broad rule where can look back in 30 year increments to an unrecognizable society to understand pace of innovation since industrial revolution essentially, smartphones may be the greatest invention ever—0 pre-2007 and 2020 3bn smartphones in a world of 8bn people, end of 19th century society could not fathom improvements in transportation beyond trains—flight invented only a few years later early in 20th century, resistance to space exploration can be countered with analogy to caveman remaining in cave—did not need to fully explore every inch of cave to go outside, same for debating earth vs space exploration, and to note may find new resources/elements in spaces to advance earth, views of 2050 surely all wrong given any prior 30 year window POV, Degrasse guess for 2050: all EV self driving with separate track for “old cars”, cancer cured via antiviral serum, mental illness no longer exist via neuroscience developments, space as an industry (not requiring tax funding), personalized medicine with no bad effects, ability to regrow limbs/organs, Hubble Telescope can resolve a walnut at 100 miles, also note most space travel to orbit have gone 250 miles above sea level (can drive 250 miles in 4 hours but now going up), in many ways the Apollo missing 1968-73 sparked a new relationship and perspective of earth and new environmentalism acceleration followed suit, when analyze tradition red/blue political tropes from data POV it paints a complicated and reversed picture often, anti tax red states comprise those who benefit most from federal funding programs (ie receive more from gvt than contribute via taxes, blue states contribute most and then redistributed to red), red states seen as racist yet it was the red presidents who appointed black sec of states, SCOTUS, etc, anti vax views best countered with thought experiments to question foundation, the greatest pain to human nature is the pain of a new idea, studies discussing increased risk of cancer by 15% refer to increase vs baseline risk rate which may be 4.3% so 15% increase is 4.9% then but not presented clearly, framing of risk and potency in mind is key—why spent billions post 9/11 (and entered war) but spend little on road safety despite 3x annual deaths (35k+), not always about quantity of lives in reality—emotion drives decisions even if more lives technically can be saved otherwise (ex. if all self driving cars, then will eventually save 35k lives but may have 1k deaths as cars work out software kinks, these deaths viewed in media much worse b/c tech than normal traffic deaths), as far as vegetarian debate goes—key is really local sourcing, vegetarian can be more environmentally damaging if not aware of sourcing, meat industry is very efficient as far as sourcing goes, full moon gets its light from the sun (contrary to vampire narrative can’t be out in the “sun”), vegetarianism draws line at animals closest to human—could even view plants as living if take a step back but no issue killing, disrupt ecosystem there, no concern with suffering of ants despite relatively more sophisticated brain vs certain animals defend, milk and honey are true “suffering-free” foods (besides minerals), skin color is determined by proximity to equator, from alien POV the divisive issues/qualities of humans make no sense, narratives crafted on white supremacy can be flipped to black supremacy—all depends on data you seek, Thomas Huxley: “the great tragedy of science—the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact”, legal justice system reliant on trial by peers to be fair but simultaneous is attorneys on both sides who are trained to argue regardless of truth/data—debate teams in high school train students to argue without knowing which side of topic they will be on, in the US generally about 13% of pregnancies are aborted medically, but also 15% of known pregnancies are aborted spontaneously in uterus—i.e. “god” aborts more than humans do, also note pro life states almost all pro death penalty, humans are intelligent as dictated by humans—98% of DNA of human is same as chimps, so how consequential is that 2% really to claim intelligence vs others are not, other animals can do things superior to humans, humans can’t communicate with any other species on earth so why would we be able to communicate with aliens, also we have built communicate that essentially outthink humans in all respects so how intelligent are we—and still early in computational intelligence, most deadly animal vs humans in mosquitos which kills 500k per year, humans do murder each other (non war) 400k per year, 100bn people have ever been born (8bn of which alive today)

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