Cosmic Queries Lib/E: Startalk's Guide to Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We're Going

By Neil deGrasse Tyson, Lauren Fortgang

555 ratings - 4* vote

... more

Book details

Audio CD, 0 pages
March 2nd 2021
1665011351 (ISBN13: 9781665011358)

Community Reviews


I pre-ordered the book and then went to the bookstore and found a random copy of the book 4 days early...this wasn't planned but I ended up buying the book and canceling my order. From what I've read so far, it's a great summary of the history of astronomy, the origins of the universe, and our possible future while still being enjoyable to read. It's not too technical so I would say beginners to this subject would love this book.

La Crosse County Library

Cosmic Queries: StarTalk's Guide to Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We're Going (2021) is based on Neil deGrasse Tyson's Q & A science podcast StarTalk. I found this book to be engaging, fun, and conversational, almost as if the reader was sitting across from physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and talking about the big questions of our place in the universe.

The biggest strength of this book for me is that it made big ideas, such as how the universe started, how life emerged on Earth, and the potential for life on other planets, accessible to a general audience outside of the science professions. Not to mention, the photography featured in each chapter was breathtaking and the graphics extremely helpful in trying to visualize say, the multiverse theory or basically any of the mind-bending concepts of theoretical physics or quantum mechanics!

A must-read for all who are curious about our place in the universe!


Find this book and other titles within our catalog.


Let me start with the most striking feature - Gorgeous photography. Neil DeGrasse Tyson has a way of explaining hard subjects with analogies that makes it easier to relate.
I knew what a dark matter was (saying that I understand or KNOW this subject especially for a non physicist, is a stretch. Lets just roll with it) but i did not understand how it helped form visible matter, later galaxies and slowed down the expansion. Tyson explained this is analogous to a bag of marbles dumped on a tabletop with deep holes in it. Matter falls into the holes forming clumps around the holes. The holes is a metaphor for the gravitational pull that is exerted by dark matter.
Learning about extremeophiles like Tardigrades living in extremes all over earth and tube worms in the deep sea vents, was something new as well.
His quip at Aristotle for saying 'Nature abhors a vaccum' was unexpected.
Overall, I think this book summarizes interesting topics for those who are willing to ask Cosmic Queries.

Jack Deighton

Modern Physics can be a daunting and impenetrable subject to those unfamiliar with it (even to those who study it or for whom it is their life’s work.) Quantum mechanics is especially difficult. Richard Feynman once said that nobody understands it.

This book is an attempt by the authors to explain modern Physics concepts to (I assume) the general reader in ten chapters exploring our place in the Universe, how we know what we know, how did the Universe become what it is, its age, what it’s made of, the nature of life, whether we are alone in the Universe, how it all began, how it will end, and what does nothing have to do with everything. I would say it succeeds admirably. Footnotes or headnotes are cleverly disguised by setting them off with yellow lines so that they do not appear to be footnotes or headnotes, as are occasional examples of Tyson’s dated and timed historical tweets on various subjects. (My favourite, “Don’t Give up on us yet. Americans are inching towards the metric system.”)

Tyson and Trefil adopt an informal style, the feeling is as if they are having a conversation with the reader. As far as I recall there are only two equations rendered as such, that for Hubble’s law and of course Einstein’s most famous. (Another Tyson tweet, “You Matter. Unless you multiply yourself by the speed of light squared. Then you Energy.”)

The book is gorgeously illustrated with both historical and modern diagrams/pictures and photographs. One of these is a quite stunning “plan” view of the Milky Way showing its prominent spiral arms and the sun’s place in it.

Striking to the British reader is that temperatures are always quoted in Fahrenheit (before the Celsius figure is given in brackets.) This just seems very backward to someone from a country where the former temperature scale - and the imperial weights and measures system - was superseded around sixty years ago.

The text is a lucid summing up of present knowledge via a trawl through the past - though possibly overtaken by the confirmation of an unexpectedly large wobble of muons which may mean there are at present four forces working on the universe rather than three. This is how science works though, knowledge continually being tested against experiment, and explanations for the detected phenomena updated as a result. I cannot say whether someone lacking a background in Science would find Cosmic Queries as readable as I did but it would certainly act as a good primer for anyone eager to explore the subjects. My copy was very tightly bound, however, making it necessary to hold the pages firmly to keep them open.

Matt Mansfield

To the Ends of the Universe and Back

Pondering our place and fate midway between the micro and macro scales of the quantum and astronomical worlds has been a popular topic in recent publishing.

During the past few years several well-known science theorists have written extensively about this area and been featured on several television shows:

• David Christian (2018 “Origin: A Big History of Everything”)
• Sean Carroll (2019 “Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime”
• Brian Greene’s 2020 (“Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter and the Search for Meaning in the Evolving Universe”).

These contributions also just happen to coincide with the unrelated political assault on the credibility of science relating to the pandemic response. And they remind us how important science is and how much we have yet to learn.

The latest entry is an excellent addition from Neil deGrasse Tyson and James Trefil with their 2021 collaboration, “Cosmic Queries: Star Talk’s Guide to Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We’re Going” published with the National Geographic.

Written and presented in a straightforward style for a broad audience with scientific curiosity, the work is beautifully illustrated with colorful photographs, classic illustrations, renderings and charts that support a trim text. The book is intended to provide a perspective about historical and current findings without intimidation.

These ten chapters are presented from a humanist point of view to address familiar questions as well as current topics such as the Dark Matter, Dark Energy mysteries, the antimatter problem, and “The Multiverse” theory:

• What is Our Place?
• How Do We Know What We Know?
• How Did the Universe Get to be This Way?
• How Old is the Universe?
• What is the Universe Made Of?
• What is Life?
• Are We Alone in the Universe?
• How Did It All Begin?
• How Will It All End?
• What Does Nothing Have To Do With Everything?

Sprinkled throughout are short, pithy observations from the New York Hayden Planetarium’s Tyson with his usual twinkle: “If Pinocchio said, ‘My nose is about to grow?’ I wonder what would actually happen.”

With your family or by yourself, this is a treat to appreciate what we have learned and how much we have yet to know without the tinnitus of political distraction.

Robert Yokoyama

Neil Degrasse Tyson uses two methods to communicate information in the book. Tyson does an excellent job of making science enjoyable through the text and photographs.

The first method Tyson uses to communicate information is through the text. One interesting fact I learned is that there are 100 billion galaxies in the universe and that 10 stars are created each year. Another interesting fact I learned from reading the test is that the planets are classified in three different ways. The Earth, the planet Mars and Venus are rocky planets. Saturn is a gas planet. Neptune and Uranus are icy planets I did not know that the planets could be grouped as such. I learned that dark matter in the field of astrophysics like dark matter and dark energy that need to be explored. Dark matter is a gravitational force that sucks matter in the universe in. The last piece of information I learned from the text is the water is not only liquid that can be used to detect life on other planets The detection of liquid methane and ammonia are two other signs that life is possible on other planets.

Neil Degrasse Tyson uses photographs to communicate information in this book. I like the photograph of an European space probe called Gaia. This probe's function is to photograph all of the stars in the sky. There is a beautiful photograph of the surface of Antarctica. This picture is a reference that meteorites landed on the continent and suggests that Antarctica is an starting point of origin of the earth. There is a beautiful photograph of the sky in Acadia National park in Maine. I like this picture because the natural beauty of Maine is on display here. There is a picture from the movie Star Wars that illustrates the concept of exo sociology. Exo sociology is the practice of human beings interacting with aliens from other worlds. I did know there is a field of study called exosociology. I had fun learning that a scene from a sci fi movie is an actual study. I learned so much about the universe from reading Cosmic Queries.


Who would have thought that rising raisin bread dough would be the perfect analogy for the expanding universe? Or that dropping a watch off a tall building and then analyzing the broken pieces and parts to try to figure out what is inside of it and how it works, is basically how the Large Hadroon Collider works. These kinds of literal down-to-earth explanations really helped me understand lots of things like: the big bang theory, how we determine how far away things are from Earth, and what will happen when the Sun eventually runs out of juice. Now, I will say the details of some things still flew right over my head - namely all the 'elementary particles' like quarks and leptons. Don't ask me anything about them, because I have no clue other than they apparently exist and they come in different 'flavors' with funny names like "strange" and "charm". But overall I thought this book did a great job of explaining a lot of interesting things and I recommend picking it up.

Now, I did also read another book by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, a little over three years ago. So how do these two books compare? Honestly I have no idea because I don't even remember much of that other book, sorry! But I think overall, Cosmic Queries was a lot more 'accessible' to the average non-scientific person like myself, for what that's worth. I do recall being a bit more lost while reading the other book.


Cosmic Queries expands on Neil deGrasse Tyson's StarTalk and aims to answer the big questions about the universe.  Tyson has a way of making these very big and difficult concepts easy to understand, bringing the universe down to earth.  Beginning from how we know what we know in space, measurements and some of the scientists who have led to these discoveries we are then led to ask questions of how the universe got to be how it is, what the universe is made out of, what life is, if we are alone, how this all began and eventually, how it will end. 

Whenever I read a book about space I am always amazed about how much I do not know. I revel in being able to learn and understand more about our world and what is beyond.  Cosmic Queries not only gives me a good foundation to begin to understand the questions posed in the book, but reminds me of how much we don't know about what we don't know as well as the fact that "the most interesting questions are the ones we don't yet know to ask."  As I read through each chapter, the knowledge from previous chapters was slowly built upon, helping to expand my thinking and ask further questions. In addition, I learned about some of the pioneers of astronomy and the risks they took in order to get their knowledge out into the world.  Overall, Cosmic Queries is an excellent read for any curious mind.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 


"Aristotle orders a retsina. Newton orders a stiff mead. Over their drinks, they debate which view is right. Newton proposes a simple test: In his theory, neglecting air resistance, all objects dropped to Earth's surface will fall at the same rate. For Aristotle, a bigger object has more "earth element" than a smaller one, and therefore will fall faster, in proportion to how much earth element it contains." To find out which theory is correct I highly recommend that you read this interesting fast read by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, entitled "Cosmic Queries StarTalk's Guide to Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We're Going."
I have never been so at ease reading a science text in my life. The illustrations were so helpful and the format kept me interested throughout the pages. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s engaging style is what really brought me into the book and kept me glued to its pages. Not only was I able to understand what he was saying, but I genuinely believe I could feel his desire for me to comprehend and analyze his work. Like he had a vested interest in making sure that he is making sense to me.
The book is a fun read and with the entire book broken up into groups of related questions, it’s the kind of book that you can leisurely enjoy, reading a little bit each day. For me, it was two chapters at a time.


My first books I have ever had as a child were the Encyclopedia Britannica sets every family had in the 80's. I loved learning about the vast universe, the unknowns and what is beyond the skies or what it's like in other planets and outer space. I was very curious not just about the cosmos but also about things beyond what we can see with our naked eye.

When I received an opportunity to become one of the early readers for Cosmic Queries by Neil DeGrasse Tyson I was beyond excited. I devoured this book and the beautiful pages with its fantastic and stunning photographs within the book. The illustrations really captures what may be a heavy read into a more pleasant learning experience. The hard copy book is hefty and the pages just gorgeous. This is definitely going to be a star in my collection.

The information presented are for anyone with interest in the science world, curious about astrophysics and have no experience with the lingos of quantum mechanics. So if you ever want to be in the know about Big Bang, the dark matter, and other fascinating queries you didn't even know you wanted and needed to know, this is the book for you.

I highly recommend this book for everyone with curiosity no matter the age.