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What if we could look into space and see not only our place in the universe but also how we came to be here? As it happens, we can. Because it takes time for light to travel, we see more and more distant regions of the universe as they were in the ...
What if we could look into space and see not only our place in the universe but also how we came to be here? As it happens, we can. Because it takes time for light to travel, we see more and more distant regions of the universe as they were in the successively greater past. Impey uses this concept—"look-back time"—to take us on an intergalactic tour that is simultaneously out in space and back in time. Performing a type of cosmic archaeology, Impey brilliantly describes the astronomical clues that scientists have used to solve fascinating mysteries about the origins and development of our universe.
The milestones on this journey range from the nearby to the remote: we travel from the Moon, Jupiter, and the black hole at the heart of our galaxy all the way to the first star, the first ray of light, and even the strange, roiling conditions of the infant universe, an intense and volatile environment in which matter was created from pure energy. Impey gives us breathtaking visual descriptions and also explains what each landmark can reveal about the universe and its history. His lucid, wonderfully engaging scientific discussions bring us to the brink of modern cosmology and physics, illuminating such mind-bending concepts as invisible dimensions, timelessness, and multiple universes.
A dynamic and unforgettable portrait of the cosmos, How It Began will reward its readers with a deeper understanding of the universe we inhabit as well as a renewed sense of wonder at its beauty and mystery.
Part I Proximate
1 Separated at Birth 3
2 Planetary Zoo 23
3 Distant Worlds 45
4 Stellar Nursery 71
5 The Edge of Darkness 95
Part II Remote
6 Island Universe 121
7 Cosmic Architecture 143
8 Nuclear Power 167
9 The Growth of Galaxies 189
10 Light and Life 215
Part III Alien
11 Big Bang 239
12 White Heat 265
13 Something Rather Than Nothing 289
14 Unification and Inflation 311
15 Multiverse 337
Illustration Credits 417
Posted January 21, 2013
Book Review: “How It Began” by Chris Impey, W.W. Norton & Co., 434 p., 2012.
Review by Mark J. Palmer
International Marine Mammal Project
Earth Island Institute
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.
Posted July 14, 2012
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 29, 2012
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!
Posted April 27, 2012
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 28, 2012
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