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After an accident in a brilliant young physicist's most ambitious experiment, it appears: a wondrous sphere the size of a basketball, made of nothing known to science. Before long, it will be clear that this object has opened a vista on an entirely different universe, a newborn cosmos whose existence will rock this world and test one woman to the limit: the physicist who has ignited this thrilling adventure.

Only the author of the landmark novel Timescape could so plausibly take...

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After an accident in a brilliant young physicist's most ambitious experiment, it appears: a wondrous sphere the size of a basketball, made of nothing known to science. Before long, it will be clear that this object has opened a vista on an entirely different universe, a newborn cosmos whose existence will rock this world and test one woman to the limit: the physicist who has ignited this thrilling adventure.

Only the author of the landmark novel Timescape could so plausibly take the reader behind the scenes of major scientific research, so boldly speculate about the consequences of paradigm-shifting discovery, and so vividly capture the intense human drama as the forces of academia, government, theology, and the mass media battle for control of a mysterious new reality. COSM is Gregory Benford at his provocative best, exploring ideas at the frontier of mankind's understanding, and posing profound questions about Creation, human destiny, and the riddle of godhood.

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Editorial Reviews

Denver Post
Presents the world of a real scientist in a way that is surprisingly rare in Science Fiction.
Austin American-Statesman
Page-turner. . .good news, fans: Gregory Benford still writes the hard stuff.
Albuquerque Journal
Smart, entertaining and unpredictable. . .COSM is a ride worth taking.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Alicia Butterworth, a talented young black scientist, is elated to be able to try out her experiment in nuclear physics at Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. Things quickly go wrong with the experiment, however. After an explosion occurs, Butterworth finds a mysterious, chrome-colored ball floating in the wreckage. Not knowing what it is but realizing that it's something new to physics, Butterworth violates her agreement with Brookhaven by taking the ball to her own university for examination. There, she and her team of physicists and grad students must simultaneously study the marvelwhich turns out to be a space-time wormholeand fend off Brookhaven's attempts to shut down the project, a variety of religious crazies, environmental know-nothings and, eventually, the federal government. Benford Sailing Bright Eternity is himself a physicist of some repute, and his novel depicts cutting-edge science the way it's actually done in the cluttered, fund-starved laboratories of a modern university. His highly believable characters have little in common with the unrealistic scientists of so much SF. They're complex human beings, each with a full array of strengths and weaknesses, each fighting for time to do good work despite the demands of students, university administrators and friends. This may be the most enthralling science-fictional portrayal of how actual science is done since Benford's own Nebula Award-winning 1980 novel, Timescape. It provides a sterling launch for Avon's new SF and fantasy imprint, EOS. BOMC and QPB alternates; author tour. Jan. FYI: Benford, who, like Alicia Butterworth, teaches physics at the University of California at Irvine, is a recipient of the United Nations Medal in Literature.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380790524
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/28/1999
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384

Meet the Author

Gregory Benford

Gregory Benford is a professor of physics at the University of California, Irvine. He is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and was Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University. and in 1995 received the Lord Prize for contributions to sciences. His research encompasses both theory and experiments in the fields of astrophysics and plasma physics. His fiction has won many awards, including the Nebula Award for his novel Timescape. Dr. Benford makes his home in Laguna Beach, California.

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Read an Excerpt

Alicia was irked, not exactly a rare event. She glared at the thin man across the desk from her and wondered if he was being deliberately irritating, or whether this was just his best-of-the-menu personality.

"A stop order on my experiment?" She repeated his words scorn fully.

"On any uranium run."

"They're gonna stop the whole damn Collider?"

"There's the final A-3 safety review—"


"But not completed and filed."

"What? You want all the paperwork?"

"Hey, I don't wanna rain on your parade . . ."

Had this man actually said rain on your parade? He should be in a museum. "It's the lawyers, right?"

A Long Island judge had leveled a stay order on the Lab, active until yet another environmental impact report got done. Suffolk County was a hotbed of worriers; they had once shut down a five billion-dollar nuclear power plant.

He gave her a smile like wilted lettuce. "I've got to certify on it, then boot it over to Legal, and they certify to the judge."

"I thought that was all a done deal."

Hugh Alcott held up a thick packet of paper. She recognized the safety report from the manila jacket. "There's some technical detail missing."

"The background data? I was told the Lab would pony that up."

"That's your job, I think." He was known as the Safety Nazi for his unshakably banal, hedgehog manner and now he gave her the blank safety operations officer gaze. "I suppose I could check with—"

"The whole damn report was supposed to go through yesterday."

He stirred uneasily in his standard-issue desk chair. She could tell he did not like being seated while she stood, especially since she was taller than he was anyway. He scratched absently at his ear andshe noticed that today's hairpiece was a demure Tom Cruise '95 model. She had seen so much of this guy, he was repeating on rugs.

"I think we've really got to dot the i's on this one."

Alicia turned, crossed her arms, and made herself look out Alcott's window. Eastern Long Island, early spring, grass just peeking out of the brown mud. Truck ruts rather damaged the view of pine trees and soft, cloudy sky. She had lived in the East and a familiar sensation came over her whenever she visited from California: here was a place with its edges worn off. And she preferred edges. Still, she was close to blowing up all over Alcott, so she let five seconds of stony silence go by in hopes that would help. Ever since she had moved out to California, she found it harder to work with East Coast types. Her home campus, the University of California at Irvine, worked in subtly different ways. When she flew back to Brookhaven to work, she had to retune her social responses. She turned back, arms crossed tightly across her blue work shirt, and said clearly, slowly, "Look, I've—we've—planned for years to use uranium on this run."

"Yeah, I know all that, but my point is, this suit—"

"Uranium is the point! The review committee said, 'Put all the details in and we'll get it cleared.' In one shot, they said."

"Then you've got to expect delays."

"But we're ready to run! My team's all set up—"

"That was a mistake by Operations." He blinked owlishly. "Not my department."

"You said this would all be done a month early!"

"That was before the Friends of the Earth filed their suit. Again, not my department."

Not my department, said Wernher von Braun, she thought skittishly. I just shoot them up. Who cares where they come down?

"I have to start running. If I lose my time -"

"You should have anticipated delays in agreeing to your scheduled run time," he said, another standard phrase. "You're getting a one-week window, the only experiment operating, while the big detectors do maintenance away from the beam. You understood—"

"It's your fault, damn it." She bit her lip to stop from saying more, but the tone in her voice had already done the damage.

Alcott's jaw hardened until she half-expected to hear his teeth burst one by one, like enamel popcorn. "It's a poor workman who blames his tools."

"Even your cliches don't make it!"

His lips compressed to a white line. "Look, this isn't about anything else, just regulations, follow-through—"

"What 'anything else'?"

"Your being black, I mean."

Silence for two heart thuds. "I didn't think it was," she said more stiffly than she had intended.

"Good. You're just another facility guest, see? And until your tech detail is complete—"

"I never expected otherwise," she murmured carefully, noting that he said "guest" rather than "user," which was the common term.

"I mean, you got bumped up some because of those minority scientist points that got added to your group's proposal."

"Okay, okay!"

Then she was out of there, before she could say anything more and louse things up even further. Her lab boots clicked on the concrete, tick-tick, wasting time.

Copyright ) 1998 by Abbenford, Ltd.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2007

    Wooden, Didactic, and Cliched

    My understanding of theoretical and practical physics (pick your subdiscipline) is more akin to catching a glimpse of an intricate structure in my peripheral vision than being able to read the architectural plans. But I do know a good book when I read one. Unfortunately, Gregory Benford¿s Cosm was not one of them. If he had wanted to explain to non-academics the differences between experimental and theoretical scientists, or to critique the workings of the scientific community, essays would have been a better milieu for the didactic opinions offered in this book. All of these are representative of the way a large proportion of academics see their work and the world, but a better novel would show the reader how these ideas impact the characters through dialogue and action. The characters are wooden stereotypes alert to racial and sexist discriminations more reminiscent of the 1970s than what actually exists in today¿s universities (the novel is set in 2005). The clichés make an early appearance with ¿This far out from the city, people thought of quality entertainment as a six-pack of Coors and a bug zapper¿ (p. 8) and continue throughout. All of this is mixed in with a bit of environmental angst as characters note suburban sprawl as an ¿upscale fungus¿ and see industrial park developments ¿crouched down, as if ashamed.¿ Benford has made modest attempts at providing glimpses of near-future technological advances. In brief, a particle accelerator experiment of the main character, Alicia, results in the accidental creation of the Cosm, a universe which can be observed (sometimes directly, sometimes not) from inception to death throes. She is (unthrillingly) kidnapped and escapes. She displays rampant narcissism as she disregards authority and alternates between self-doubt and goddess-hood. And she finds love where she never thought to look. For more of my reviews, see my Blogger blog, Shifting to the Godzone.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2010

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    Posted December 23, 2011

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