September 26th, 2020

Book 17 - 2019

Book 17: Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance between Astrophysics and the Military by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Avis Lang - 549 pages

Description from
In this fascinating foray into the millennia-long relationship between science and military power, acclaimed astrophysicist and "the world's best science communicator" (Times Literary Supplement) Neil deGrasse Tyson and writer-researcher Avis Lang examine how the methods and tools of astrophysics have been enlisted in the service of war. "The overlap is strong, and the knowledge flows in both directions", say the authors, because astrophysicists and military planners care about many of the same things: multi-spectral detection, ranging, tracking, imaging, high ground, nuclear fusion and access to space. Tyson and Lang call it a "curiously complicit" alliance. "The universe is both the ultimate frontier and the highest of high grounds", they write. "Shared by both space scientists and space warriors, it's a laboratory for one and a battlefield for the other. The explorer wants to understand it; the soldier wants to dominate it. But without the right technology-which is more or less the same technology for both parties-nobody can get to it, operate in it, scrutinise it, dominate it or use it to their advantage and someone else's disadvantage."

Spanning early celestial navigation to satellite-enabled warfare, Accessory to War is a richly researched and provocative examination of the intersection of science, technology, industry and power that will introduce Tyson's millions of fans to yet another dimension of how the universe has shaped our lives and our world.

I really really wanted to like this book more, but man did it drag on. I was super excited when I discovered this book as the topic is closely aligned to the subject matter I want to do my PHD in. I was then amused to discover that my brother, currently undertaking his PHD in Military History, had purchased the same book. And the subject matter is interesting. It's just that the layers of detail and the step-by-step journey through the development of astrophysics related military technology makes this book feel a thousand times longer than it is. Somehow it feels like Tyson and Lang have taken a subject that is otherwise really cool and made it dull. Putting that aside, this book does lay out the history of the military and astrophysics in exacting detail, highlighting the fact that this relationship has existed for centuries, and that in many ways one cannot exist without the other. Perhaps a little preachy towards the end (talking about Trump, of course!), it nonetheless points out the value that ridiculous military budgets represent to science, though of course this is fraught with danger. I think if you're more into the military side of the equation here, this book is totally up your alley. If you're writing or super interested in the subject matter, again, really interesting read. If you're a casual observer, maybe not for you.

17 / 50 books. 34% done!

4239 / 15000 pages. 28% done!

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