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Accessory to War

The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military

Accessory to War

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.

Extraordinary. … A feast of history, an expert tour through thousands of years of war and conquest.

Jennifer Carson
New York Times Book Review

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Publisher details


September 2018
W. W. Norton & Company
576 pages


September 2019
W. W. Norton & Company
592 pages


September 2018
W. W. Norton & Company
4 MB


September 2018
Random House Audio
18h 38m