Ryan’s notes

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir


My friend Avi recommended this novel to me. I don’t usually read fiction, but I trust Avi, so I brought this book along on a family vacation and I’m glad I did.

Someone once drove me around in a Porsche Boxster S and said “Ryan, you know how in engineering there’s a set of trade-offs to consider with every decision? Well, with this car, the value used to make decisions was fun. When faced with a decision, the designers asked themselves: 'what will be more fun?'” The same must have been true for Andy Weir writing Project Hail Mary: the whole novel is an exercise in play. The premise, the plot arc, and especially the dialogue make this story so damn fun!

One thing I particularly loved about this novel is that it’s chock full of applied science. The gist of the plot is that a biology teacher (Grace) wakes up on a spaceship from an induced coma and realizes that he’s been tasked to save humanity from a sun-eating microbe orbiting around Venus. He makes hypotheses, designs clever experiments, and works through problem after problem—applying material science, thermodynamics, relativity, biology, you name it—until you want to shout “Science is so cool!”. If I were a high school science teacher, I’d assign this as required reading. “Mr. G, when are we ever going to need to use this stuff?” Well kids, only when it comes time for you to save everyone you’ve ever known and loved.


  • my students all have eyes and they were still amazed when I told them “x-rays,” “microwaves,” “Wi-Fi,” and “purple” were all just wavelengths of light.

    • Something to remember!

  • They don’t know about time dilation. Rocky doesn’t realize that Erid experienced a whole bunch more time than he did on that trip. They don’t know about length dilation. The distance to Tau Ceti will actually increase as you slow down relative to it—even if you’re still going toward it.

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