Excerpt from The Milky Way by Moiya McTier, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Milky Way

An Autobiography of Our Galaxy

by Moiya McTier

The Milky Way by Moiya McTier X
The Milky Way by Moiya McTier
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2022, 256 pages

    Aug 2023, 384 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Erin Lyndal Martin
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

Based on what I've seen, your world isn't likely to backslide into antiquity anytime soon. Light pollution won't go away completely, and your species' days of building stone henges to track time are over. I can't guide you in the same way that I did your ancestors, but allow me to explain how you, an average modern human, can benefit from both space research and personally knowing more about the galaxy you should call home.

Take for instance that piece of technology glued to all your hands. Even I can see how much you love your cell phones, and we've already covered that I don't technically have eyes. You use them to communicate with each other, keep track of your appointments, navigate your world, and take your—ugh—selfies. Honestly, you use them for a great deal of the same things your ancestors used to use me for. But you only have those phones because of me.

It's not just that the physical materials used to make your phone were created when my stars died. All of the atoms in the phone—and in you, for that matter—were made in me. That Sagan fellow was correct; you are all made of star stuff. But the technology your phones rely on also exists because of me. Or rather, because of your scientists' fascination with me.

Every time you use your phone to find the nearest coffee shop—seriously, what makes you so tired that you need that much coffee? I make at least five new stars and move ten billion miles every year, but you don't see me chugging caffeine every morning—you interact with satellites. Your phone receives radio waves (which you can't see because your eyes are so tragically small) from multiple satellites at once and uses the slight differences in the signals' arrival times to pinpoint your location.

Are you following, human?

It doesn't really matter. The important thing is that without satellites, you wouldn't be able to navigate your tiny rock. You also wouldn't have high-speed internet, long-distance calls, or—to get back to your oh-so-important coffee—the option to pay for your morning cappuccino with your credit card. And the only reason you have satellites in the first place is that human scientists wanted to study me.

After thousands of years of tracking my movement, your ancestors started to understand how motion, gravity, and light waves work. They used that knowledge to launch machines out of your atmosphere, and now you can call your international friend while simultaneously buying things online with money that you've never actually touched.

Beyond this recent global positioning technology, your broadening understanding of space has introduced other life-altering innovations like digital cameras, wireless internet, and noninvasive security checks like X-ray machines. Even the procedures your doctors use to sterilize hospital rooms so your delicate human bodies can stay free from contamination were originally developed to protect telescopes while they did the vital work of observing me.

You're welcome.

That's enough about you for now. It's time for more important things. It's time for you to learn something about me.

Excerpted from The Milky Way by Moiya McTier. Copyright © 2022 by Moiya McTier. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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