Albert Einstein has been called many things: a genius, a pioneer, a Nobel prize winner. Neil deGrasse Tyson just calls him a badass.
“I think it fits, right? It’s not a stretch,” he tells Guardian Australia before his appearance in Melbourne on Saturday night. “The dude’s a badass.”
This description of the father of modern physics is one of many notable turns of phrase in Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, the latest book from the astrophysicist and host of the StarTalk podcast. He is currently touring Australia with Think Inc to promote the book and talk about the science of the universe, with shows in Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Sydney.
The book has had an extraordinary global reception, placing in the top five of the New York Times’ bestseller list for 10 weeks. Its success reflects a broader appetite around the world for science told with passion and conviction, outside of high school textbooks.
Tyson stresses, though, that if you’re not in a hurry you really shouldn’t buy it.
“If you’ve found time to read other books on astrophysics, you’re not in a hurry,” he says. “Put this book down and read the other stuff. I’m very serious about this: don’t buy the book if you’re not in a hurry.”
The book is not quite astrophysics for dummies; while it is simplified, it is not simple. It is more a collection of the best and most thrilling moments; astrophysics’ greatest hits.
“It’s astrophysics handpicked for the most mind-blowing things that exist in the universe,” Tyson says.
It is also the first time Tyson has recorded an audiobook; those in a hurry, after all, don’t always have time to sit down and read. One particular benefit of this, he says, is to make the book available for those stuck in traffic in Los Angeles – and also for those stuck in traffic in Australia, a situation he nevertheless finds highly improbable.
“Why there is traffic in Australia, I have no idea,” he says. “Hardly anybody lives…