Category Archives: Reading

Welcome to the Universe: An Astrophysical Tour

By Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael Strauss, and Richard Gott

Do you have a question about astrophysics? Any question at all? You can probably find some of the most up-to-date answers in this book, which covers…pretty much everything in the universe, and some things potentially beyond the limits of the universe. This book explores the known universe starting with our very own solar system, and moves outward to greater and greater distances and greater and greater unknowns. Stops along the way include the general operating principles of stars (including our own sun), what happens when stars die, a general survey of the galaxy, and a broad overview of the anisotropies across the entire observable universe and what they mean. Additional topics include how to measure such distances, what forces come into play (from the miniscule and unbelievably strong electromagnetic force, to the local impact of Newton’s gravity, to Einstein’s multidimensional gravity influencing curved spacetime), and a host of complicated equations that tell us exactly how to measure all of the above. And of course, what exploration of the universe would be complete without talking about time, the origin of the universe, and what fate might potentially await us hundreds of billions of years in the future. This truly is a tour through the cosmos!

“Welcome to the Universe: An Astrophysical Tour” started as an idea. Three leading experts in their respective fields were asked to put together an introductory course for students with majors unrelated to astronomy. After a few years of teaching the class (to great acclaim), they decided to put out a book covering the same topics addressed in the class. Hence, “Welcome to the Universe.” This book, published in 2016, shares all the highlights of astronomy, physics, and cosmology as had been discovered at the time of publication. The book is arranged sequentially so that each chapter builds on the information covered in the preceding chapters, which is why the book starts closest to home and gradually expands out beyond the limits of the known universe. The authors do what they can to illuminate each theory they discuss, and theories are further explained by charts, maps, images, and illustrations, and breaking down equations step-by-step and explaining each variable, but sometimes even that isn’t enough to explain some of the most abstruse concepts. This book is an excellent resource for your astrophysical questions, but sometimes you may have to read and reread (and reread again) pieces of it in order to understand what they are talking about.

I loved this book. I certainly struggled to grasp some of the concepts, particularly the later concepts that throw a wrench in my understanding of the fundamental properties of time, the universe, and everything, but my overall takeaway was a sense of excitement, possibility, and wonder.In a field that changes so quickly, recent information is the best information, and I learned a lot (SO MUCH) from reading this book. I absolutely recommend this book, just be sure to set aside enough time for it.

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It Didn’t Start With You

By Mark Wolynn

Sometimes people who struggle with anxiety, depression, mysterious somatic complaints, and other chronic problems have no clear idea where these problems come from. Sometimes even a doctor can’t diagnose the root of the symptoms. Without knowing where a problem comes from, how do you fix it? Sometimes the root of the problem doesn’t lie with us personally, but it something we have inherited from someone else in the family. From his personal experience and professional work, Wolynn describes the ways in which family trauma, when left unspoken and unaddressed, often passes from generation to generation through identifiable patterns. These patterns can be uncovered by paying attention to the language someone uses to describe their situation, particularly language that seems out of character or unusually emotionally charged. Wolynn emphasizes the importance of the core complaint, core descriptors, core sentence, and core trauma as a pathway to discovering what part of family history is currently being played out. Greater awareness and insight of how current difficulties reflect historical family problems often allows people to release their unexplained ailments and find a sense of peace and acceptance. Trauma will continue to impact subsequent generations until it is acknowledged and addressed.

The full title of this book is “It Didn’t Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle.” Wolynn offers a variety of highly compelling case examples demonstrating the importance of language, and how attention to language can also lead to healing. For example, Wolynn shares the story of a teenage boy who suddenly began struggling with insomnia, anxiety, and a sense of never being warm enough was able to connect his experience with an uncle who froze to death during a snowstorm at the same age, yet the boy had never even heard of the uncle until he started asking questions. Much of Wolynn’s work also relates to other therapeutic approaches, including the problems that can stem from early disruptions of attachment, how to change the language we use to change the story of our lives, and that classic “that which we resist, persists.” By sharing so many examples of his work with clients and offering detailed descriptions of core language, core complaint, core sentence, and core trauma, Wolynn walks readers through his process in a step-by-step fashion that ensures each reader finds something to connect with. Whether or not you think this book applies to you, Wolynn shows you it does apply to you.

As someone who regularly seeks out books on trauma because I have a bizarrely strong passion for it, I found a lot of relevant material in this book. He explains his process in clear steps that are easy to understand, and encourages self-reflection by giving writing exercises throughout his book. I was a little less than thrilled with how strongly he relies on traditional gender roles (and particularly the role of the mother), but generally found this book informative and occasionally even innovative. I recommend this one.

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