Origins: The Lives and Worlds of Modern Cosmologists

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9780674644700: Origins: The Lives and Worlds of Modern Cosmologists
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Origins reveals the human being within the scientist in a study of the philosophical, personal, and social factors that enter into the scientific process. Twenty-seven active cosmologists--including Stephen Hawking, Roger Penrose, Steven Weinberg, Vera Rubin, Allan Sandage, Margaret Geller, and Alan Guth--talk candidly about their childhoods and early influences, their motivations, prejudices, and worldviews. The book's lucid introduction traces the explosion of new ideas that has recently shaken cosmological thinking. Origins explores not just the origin of the universe but also the origins of scientific thought.

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About the Author:

Alan Lightman is Professor of Science and Writing and Senior Lecturer in Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also a Research Scientist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Review:

It's the very messiness of life in the trenches of cosmology that makes Origins so useful. Forced to face the limits of science, many of [the authors'] interview subjects speak revealingly about the prejudices, the beliefs, and the aesthetic preferences that help shape their views of the universe...When asked: What kind of universe would you design, if you could have any kind at all? Most of the cosmologists suddenly sparkle. (James Gleick The Atlantic)

There is no better way to understand the current confusions of the world's top cosmologists than by reading this timely and admirable anthology. (Martin Gardner Washington Post Book World)

A fascinating, surprisingly accessible and altogether human collection of conversations with today's leading cosmologists...Origins is composed of a lucid 49-page introduction to the field of cosmology, followed by question and answer interviews with 27 prominent cosmologists...Concepts...may stagger the average reader on first impact. Lightman is perfectly at ease with them. Arcane cosmic phenomena...are meat and drink to him. Readers lucky enough to sit near him at this intellectual banquet table will share the physicist's exquisite pleasure in the feast. (John Wilkes Los Angeles Times)

Origins...consists mainly of interviews with 27 of the world's leading cosmologists, who talk about their childhoods, early influences, their college careers, and their discoveries. They also give their opinions on recent developments in cosmology, such as inflation theory and quantum gravity. These interviews are...colorful and give considerable insight into the lives of the cosmologists...A charming a delightful book to read. (Choice)

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Alan Lightman, Roberta Brawer
Published by Harvard University Press (1990)
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