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Accessory to War

The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military
Length: 18 hrs and 38 mins
Categories: History, Military
3.5 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An exploration of the age-old complicity between skywatchers and warfighters, from the best-selling author of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.

In this fascinating foray into the centuries-old relationship between science and military power, acclaimed astrophysicist 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, scrutinize 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.

©2018 Neil deGrasse Tyson and Avis Lang (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"DeGrasse Tyson reads the introduction, and he does a terrific job. He has a silky, deep voice, and he paces himself well. He could credibly read the entire work himself, but instead he hands off the audiobook to Courtney B. Vance, whose voice is just as deep but more formal, even regal. Vance does a magnificent job continuing the story with a tone that supports Tyson and Lang's words. The result is an audiobook that speaks to all of us, even those who know little about astrophysics." (AudioFile)

"Extraordinary.... A feast of history, an expert tour through thousands of years of war and conquest.... Condenses multiple bodies of work into one important, comprehensive and coherent story of the symbiotic developments of astrophysics and war.... The lesson is not merely a wake-up call for astrophysicists, but for all of us, for anyone with the misapprehension that science somehow marches on separate from the rest of culture." (Jennifer Carson, New York Times Book Review

"Through ample research and nimble storytelling, Tyson and [Lang] trace the long and tangled relationship between state power and astronomy.... Deep and eloquent. (Joshua Sokol, Washington Post)

"Fascinating.... Retells the history of space exploration, and of the Cold War, excelling in bringing forth the entangled advances of science and military interests.... The book’s message rings like a wake-up call. (Marcelo Gleiser, NPR)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A marathon in the form of a book

It's a story about humanity and it's obsession with war.
Only a true lover of Astronomy and a fan of Neil Degrees Tyson can complete this book.
Thought exhausting, it was narrated well, with facts and numbers. That's what makes the book worth reading.

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  • Kevin
  • 17-09-18

Inspiring, educational, patriotic.

Some reviewers claim this book's story is drawn out, perhaps too detailed. To a reader who just wants to experience a conventional Dr. Tyson book about rapid mind blowing space stuff, this book could leave you uninterested at times. However, as a reader who previously and desperately craved to learn about that connection between astronomy and the military, I could not have been more excited to read AND listen to this book. The stories about pivotal moments in history and the hidden heroes who were looking up deep into the sky really furthers my inspiration for serving my country in a way that, until this book, I was quite unsure was possible. I knew the military would be a good way to further one's career in space, but now I'm enlightened in that the military doesn't just empower a career in space, but deeply relies on those individuals for innovations to establish supremacy in the new frontiers of science. Thank you Dr. Tyson!

15 people found this helpful

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  • John Bergmann ERP Consultant
  • 21-03-19

More political than I’d hoped

I was less informative on science than I expected. I’d say 50/50 on politics and science. I found the political bent made it hard to finish for me.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Morten N.
  • 28-01-20

This is NOT read by Tyson! Very misleading

This claims to be read by Tyson and one other person and the sound sample is by Tyson. However Tyson ONLY reads a short few minute intro, despite he's featured in the audio sample. This is incredibly misleading!

1 person found this helpful

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  • stanK
  • 18-07-19

good book didnt care for the narrator

the content of the book was great but i would have preferred Neil DeGrasse to narrate himself. the guy who reads it has an infliction like hes reading a list the entire time. :/

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  • paul d.
  • 14-05-19

Eve opening but Boooooring

learned a lot from this audiobook. but my golly the narration can't be more boring.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 15-10-18

Comprehensive, but basic look at the relationship!

I thought they put together a lot of information from many different sources together in order to fit the agenda of Science before Defense. I think they missed a huge opportunity to recognize the many government and military members that progress science by means of defense (I.e. the humans in the loop, not just the system). Many of them are just as passionate about our science agenda as NDT... We are in this together Mr. Tyson and Mr. Lang.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-10-18

An amazing book. Makes you think.

Blazed through the book. It contains amazing facts, Well reasoned arguments and makes you think about the direction that we should all start to work towards in everyday life, given the past and the direction that are currently on.

1 person found this helpful

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  • John Rubenstein
  • 02-10-18

Tyson's best book yet

Lang's voice is similar enough to Neil's you'll forget the he's the one reading even. Fantastic look at the development of astrophysics and its use by the militaries throughout history. I learned a lot. Often Tyson's books are rehashes of Cosmos with a slightly different spin each time imo. This book is original and thoughtful.

5 people found this helpful

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  • FATSHADOW
  • 21-09-18

Faster read than I thought it would be.

I went into this book expecting it to take me about a month between reading and listening to the audible version while driving.

It took less than a week at about a 60/40 split.

It was a fast read and the at 1.25x speed the audio version was perfect.

The material is light like NDT’s last book, you dont need to be a physics buff to enjoy it. This book is just longer form.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Catherine Puma
  • 21-09-18

Excellent Reference for a New Perspective

Most space exploration initiatives and atmospheric technology has been funded by military departments and budgets. Most of the motivation behind putting monitoring devices and people into space has been driven by the desire to show military prowess. These two realities are the main points made by Tyson's Accessory to War, but the book goes into tremendous detail as it explains the different discoveries and times during the development of the field of astrophysics.

Technology that we do not necessarily associate with astrophysics, such as the compass or the spyglass, have been extremely valuable to defense as well. Lenses that can be pointed up at the stars to learn more about them can also be put up into orbit to spy down on neighboring countries. Successful missions in space are tied to national pride in a fascinating way that other scientific endeavors are not.

This is such an interesting topic, and Tyson communicates it so well. Be aware if you listen to the Audible audiobook, however, for Tyson himself only narrates the Prologue. I wish he had narrated the whole thing, but oh well, Vance does a pretty good job too.

I would recommend this to ANYONE interested in astrophysics, the military, the space race, international cooperation, space exploration, rockets, missiles, military spending, the department of defense, astronauts, and power competitions between nations. An excellent reference for this topic; one that can be revisited again and again.

3 people found this helpful

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  • tom bunge
  • 03-11-18

long chapters increase speed

struggled to finish. had to increase reading speed to avoid boredom. very long chapters which made it difficult to follow

1 person found this helpful

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  • Istvan Homoki
  • 23-12-19

Not for me

As much as I love and respect Mr Tyson, this book was not for me. I listened many books including Neil Degrasse Tyson on Audible, and I enjoyed them all. But when I try to listen to this book, I keep catching myself wondering away. I think the language of this book is way too academic (try hard) and therefore I conclude that it wasn't written to average people like me, but to a few that like to masturbate over the most difficult parts of the English vocabulary. Maybe by talking difficult the writers try to overcompensate for a boring content.

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  • Timothy Raymond Whitaker
  • 25-10-18

I liked it for a one time run through

hmmm it's ok gives a good historic story line but I'm constantly bugged by the continuous lists which keep getting reeled off which seed to drag on

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  • Nick
  • 19-11-18

Intriguing look at linka between science and war

I found this book quite interesting though at times I did slip off on tangents. If you're looking for highly specific data this probably isn't the book for you, but more of a broad brush overview of how science and physics concepts have been applied to, or derived from our unsavoury taste for war.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-09-19

it's a seriously great book

10 outta mudda pucking 10, have a listen and enjoy its one of the best audio books I've heard.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 18-11-18

Disappointing

How do you make a book about astrophysics and war boring? By making it all about politics and not about astrophysics and war. Sounds to me like NDT is gearing up for a presidential run.

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  • Niall Cunniffe
  • 15-11-18

Sadly Not a great book

Half Hearted Book
Completely misses the drama of discovery from the pioneers of science
Struggled to finish it
I can't recommend it

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-10-18

a great book but felt stretched at times

this was a great book as usual from Neil deGrasse Tyson, a great story line outlining all the details of the space race and relation between military and space. but at times it felt like the story has been stretched for too long and the details which are not necessary are repeated again and again.

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  • Dan
  • 12-01-19

Good but the last one was better

It was good and interesting, but I definitely preferred Niels first book a lot more.