Review: Astronomy Saves the World: Securing our Future Through Exploration and Education
Just because he is busy preparing his scientific payload to fly in a SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft on the upcoming CRS-10 mission for NASA, doesn’t mean Dan Batcheldor, Ph.D., doesn’t have other irons in the fire. One of these is his new book, Astronomy Saves the World: Securing our Future Through Exploration and Education.
Batcheldor was asked what motivated him to pen the book, one would expect the answer to be tame. However, the driving force behind this book is far more profound.
Batcheldor told SpaceFlight Insider: “First, I think I always had the ambition from an early age to do so [write], as I was greatly influenced by the writings of Hawking, Thorne, Clarke, Asimov, Adams, and indeed Sagan to pursue a science career. If I can, I’d like to try and do the same for other young people.
“Second, the more I taught at the university level, the more I realized that there is a failing in the K-12 education system: students are arriving at college more and more deficient in basic reasoning and critical thinking skills. It is as if they are being taught WHAT to think rather than HOW to think. I think this phenomenon is fueling my third motivation: the rising tide of anti-intellectualism in both the general public and in the government.
“Over the years, I came to realize that the subject of astronomy includes the need to understand basic reasoning, critical thinking, mathematics, and physics, and gives people a much better reality based world view that makes for a more sympathetic and empathetic approach to life itself.”
As is the case with most labor-of-love type projects, Batcheldor said he pulled some long hours on the book, with his work starting in October 2013. Given his background in education, Batcheldor worked to ensure that his literary efforts did not interfere with his job at the Florida Institute of Technology.
“I hit my mid-30s and began to realize the type of world that my two young kids might be left with is something that my generation might be ashamed of,” Batcheldor said. “Typically, I wrote from 9:30 p.m. to midnight most nights and added a few hours at the weekends while my kids were napping. Combined with my job hours, I was basically working 80–90 hour weeks for several years.”
The intent that drove the book’s production was a simple one: use the wonder that flows naturally from astronomy and space science, and use that as a fuel to inspire them to want to learn more.
“Astronomy is a compelling subject that is relatively easy to understand, and it can have a dramatic impact on the way people think about our world and the future of our species,” Batcheldor said. “If taught as part of a K-12 core curriculum, in a few generations we could see a dramatic shift in the approaches our species takes to ensure our sustained existence in our universe.”
The book went on sale Dec. 9 through Amazon. The e-book edition will be available early next month (January 2017) and will retail for $11.99. For those seeking a platform that best suits their needs, Batcheldor will be recording an audible version around that time. The hardback version is available now, has around 250 pages, and retails for $26.99.
With the public increasingly questioning scientifically-obtained data, books of this nature are not just welcome – they’re needed. Astronomy Saves the World makes the case that astronomy should be as much a part of what is taught in schools as reading, writing, and math.
Life on Earth could end tomorrow courtesy of a rock from space. Conversely, the problems we’re facing today, those stemming from overpopulation, dwindling natural resources, and pollution could also be alleviated, if not resolved, thanks to science, space exploration, and – by extension – astronomy. Batcheldor does an exceptional job of conveying his ideas through this book.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.