Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe

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9780007162208: Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe

We've all heard of the Big Bang, and yet few of us truly know what it is.

Renowned for making difficult ideas much less difficult than they might first appear, Simon Singh is our perfect guide to explaining why cosmologists believe that the Big Bang is an accurate description of the origin and evolution of the universe.

This highly readable and entertaining book tells the story of the many brilliant, often eccentric scientists who fought against the establishment idea of an eternal and unchanging cosmos. From such early Greek cosmologists as Anaximander to recent satellite measurements taken deep in space, Big Bang is a narrative full of anecdotes and personal histories. With characteristic clarity, Simon Singh tells the centuries-long story of mankind's attempt to understand how the universe came to be, a story which itself begins some 14 billion years ago (give or take a billion years). Simon Singh shows us that it is within the capability of all of us -- in his expert hands -- to understand the Big Bang: the fundamental theory in all of science, and a high point -- perhaps the high point -- of human achievement.

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Review:

A baffling array of science books claim to reveal how the mysteries of the universe have been discovered, but Simon Singh's Big Bang actually delivers on that promise. General readers will find it to be among the very best books dealing with cosmology, because Singh follows the same plan he used in his brilliant Code Book: he puts people--not equations--first in the story. By linking the progression of the Big Bang theory with the scientists who built it up bit by bit, Singh also uncovers an important truth about how such ideas grow.

Death is an essential element in the progress of science, since it takes care of conservative scientists of a previous generation reluctant to let go of an old, fallacious theory and embrace a new and accurate one.
As harsh as this statement seems, even Einstein defended an outmoded idea about the universe when an unknown interloper published equations challenging the great man. Einstein didn't have to die for cosmology to move forward (he reluctantly apologized for being wrong), but stories like this one show how difficult it can sometimes be for new theories to take root. Fred Hoyle, who coined the term "big bang" as a way to ridicule the idea of a universe expanding from some tiny origin point, strongly believed that the cosmos was in a steady state. But Singh shows how Hoyle's research, meant to prove the contrary, added evidence to the expansion model. Big Bang is also a history of astronomical observation, describing the development of new telescopes that were crucial to the development of cosmology. Handwritten summary notes at the end of each long chapter add a charming, classroom feel to this revealing and very readable book. --Therese Littleton

About the Author:

Simon Singh received his Ph.D. in particle physics from the University of Cambridge. A former BBC producer, he directed the BAFTA Award-winning documentary film Fermat's Last Theorem and wrote Fermat's Enigma, the best-selling book on the same subject. His best seller The Code Book was the basis for the BBC series The Science of Secrecy.

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