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How It Began: A Time-Traveler's Guide to the Universe

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Posted January 21, 2013

    Book Review: ┬┐How It Began┬┐ by Chris Impey, W.W. Norton & Co

    Book Review: “How It Began” by Chris Impey, W.W. Norton & Co., 434 p., 2012.

    Review by Mark J. Palmer
    Associate Director
    International Marine Mammal Project
    Earth Island Institute
    Berkeley, CA

    Chris Impey has written nothing less than the history of the universe in his new book, “How It Began: A Time-traveler’s Guide to the Universe.”

    This is an excellent layman’s guide to cosmology in all its facets, told in a breezy, interesting style.  Impey not only covers what we know about the universe and its history, he also includes a history of astronomy, showing the various evolving theories about the universe through many decades of changing ideas, often brought on by changes in technology in allowing us to see more and more of the universe as well as advances in subatomic structure.

    Impey also discusses what we don’t know – what the nature of dark matter and dark energy is, for example, or why the universe’s expansion is continuing to accelerate when gravity should be slowing down the expansion.

    And Impey manages to throw in an occasional anecdote about his own personal history as an astronomer, having used telescopes all over the world for various experiments.  

    His writing blends all these viewpoints into a seamless narrative that evokes a nice, informal conversation with an astronomer.

    A number of black and white illustrations and graphs help explain the various concepts Impey covers.  He avoids most math.

    He also adds in a science fiction-like introduction and ending to all his chapters, imagining himself physically (or mentally?) being in the middle of various stages of the universe’s history.  These sections may help the reader view the changes from a personal perspective, but for me, this part of his text really did not work.  It seemed superfluous and disjointed.

    In any event, I highly recommend the book as a great discussion of what is and what is not known about our universe, and how astronomers have learned what we know so far.  They are still searching for more answers, and having read Impey’s book, I’m sure they will find the answers, if it takes until the end of time. 

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  • Posted July 14, 2012

    Fantastic journey ... easy to read!

    I'm almost finished reading this book - and I LOVE it! This is mind-bending, fascinating stuff! 'How It Began' addresses ideas that help the lay person understand the universe, in all of it's infinite glory, without being too technical. It's written for those of us with a limited understanding of physics yet it does not talk down to the reader. Rather, it's like learning should be ... a story told by an intelligent friend. If you like astronomy, or just want to explore how the universe, and we, came to be, you'll enjoy this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2012

    Challenging story of the beginning!

    This is a comprehensive and challenging book about the
    Universe and its beginnings. You do feel like a time-traveler
    as you read along.Concentrate on the story line and learn!

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  • Posted April 27, 2012

    But not for "Dummies"

    Usually I love reading this kind of book but I'm having a really hard time getting into it... a little too technical for a liberal arts college graduate? Whatever... I keep going back to it but after a few minutes I find I put it down in frustration. Makes me feel like my little porsche SUV - way smarter than me.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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