Before the Big Bang: The Prehistory of Our Universe

Before the Big Bang: The Prehistory of Our Universe

by Brian Clegg
     
 

According to a recent survey, the most popular question about science from the general public was: what came before the Big Bang? We all know on some level what the Big Bang is, but we don’t know how it became the accepted theory, or how we might know what came before. In Before the Big Bang, Brian Clegg (the critically acclaimed author of

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Overview

According to a recent survey, the most popular question about science from the general public was: what came before the Big Bang? We all know on some level what the Big Bang is, but we don’t know how it became the accepted theory, or how we might know what came before. In Before the Big Bang, Brian Clegg (the critically acclaimed author of Upgrade Me and The God Effect) explores the history of this remarkable concept. From the earliest creation myths, through Hershel’s realization that the Milky Way was one of many galaxies, to on-going debates about Black Holes, this is an incredible look at the origins of the universe and the many theories that led to the acceptance of the Big Bang. But in classic scientist fashion Clegg challenges the notion of the “Big Bang” itself, and raises the deep philosophical question of why we might want to rethink the origin of the universe. This is popular science at its best, exploratory, controversial, and utterly engrossing.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Clegg follows the footsteps of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, Steven Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and Timothy Ferris’s Coming of Age in the Milky Way. He shares his predecessors’ enthusiasm, eloquence and ability to explain complex ideas but provides a bonus by covering startling developments of the past decade. Anyone looking for an introduction to or a refresher course in cosmology need look no further." - Kirkus, Starred Review

"Indeed, the existence of so many things, from dark matter to black holes to wormholes all has to be inferred. The Big Bang, too, is only provisional and seems to be waiting for a more graceful model to replace it. In Clegg’s words, the Big Bang theory “has the feeling of something held together with a Band-Aid. Whether what came before our universe was another universe or nothing, or something else yet unconsidered, for now the most accurate answer might be: We just don’t know." -Anthony Doerr Boston Globe, July 19

Publishers Weekly

The title of well-known science writer Clegg's newest is a bit of a teaser: as Clegg (A Brief History of Infinity) himself admits: "we may never have a definitive answer to the question, "What came before the Big Bang?" But there are lots of theories running around waving their hands to be noticed and get funding. Clegg devotes the first half of his book to the problems that face big bang theorists (when did the bang happen? How big was it? what caused it?). He then gives equal time to those who are looking to send that theory the way of phlogiston. Many alternative origin-of-the-universe theories postulate either that there have been cyclical universes-each ending in a Big Crunch, followed by another Big Bang, or that our universe really exists in a giant black hole,or that universes can bud off one another.Most astronomy and science fiction buffs will bl familiar with this material, but Clegg's relatively jargon-free style makes for a good introduction for general readers, even if it leaves them still wondering what did come before the big bang. (Aug.)

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Kirkus Reviews
Excellent popular history of how humans understand the universe. Primitive cultures defined it simply as the earth and the sky. Early astronomers realized some heavenly bodies were more distant, and the ancient Greeks settled on a universe that encompassed the solar system-the sun and planets. European astronomers long suspected stars were more distant, but it was William Herschel (1738-1822) who described the Milky Way. Herschel theorized that our galaxy was one of many, but it took another century for astronomers led by Edwin Hubble (1889-1953) to prove it. British science writer Clegg (Upgrade Me: Our Amazing Journey to Human 2.0, 2008, etc.) excels in recounting the struggle over our universe's origin, which most-but not all-agree lies in a vast primeval expansion known as the Big Bang. Readers may roll their eyes as brilliant scientists propose explanations of how the Bang led to the universe we see today, only to confront new, unsettling astronomical phenomena-dark energy, dark matter-that create questions faster than they can be answered. The author emphasizes that, unlike relativity or evolution, Big Bang cosmology is not a coherent system backed by overwhelming evidence but a clumsy, ad hoc premise whose gaps are plugged with theoretical band-aids or simply left open to frustrate scientists. Clegg follows the footsteps of Carl Sagan's Cosmos, Steven Hawking's A Brief History of Time and Timothy Ferris's Coming of Age in the Milky Way. He shares his predecessors' enthusiasm, eloquence and ability to explain complex ideas but provides a bonus by covering startling developments of the past decade. Anyone looking for an introduction to or a refresher course in cosmology need lookno further. Agent: Peter Cox/Redhammer

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312385477
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
08/04/2009
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.76(w) x 8.62(h) x 1.11(d)

Meet the Author

BRIAN CLEGG is the author of A Brief History of Infinity, The First Scientist: A Life of Roger Bacon, and Light Years: The Extraordinary Story of Mankind’s Fascination with Light, and Upgrade Me: Our Search for Human 2.0. He holds a physics degree from Cambridge and has written regular columns, features, and reviews for numerous magazines. He lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and two children.

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