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

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

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by Chris Impey
     
 

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A majestic account of the most fascinating phenomena in our universe—and the science behind them.See more details below

Overview

A majestic account of the most fascinating phenomena in our universe—and the science behind them.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Impey (How It Ends: From You to the Universe) takes readers on a mesmerizing journey through the “labyrinth” that is our universe, following atoms through generation after generation of stellar cores from the Big Bang onward. Impey’s time travelers are astronomers doing cosmic archeology in which the farther out in the universe one goes, the farther back in time one can see. Impey begins close to home, and closest in time, with the formation of our solar system, displaying both lyricism and wit (“the Moon splashes off the molten Earth. Venus is knocked on its ass such that it rotates opposite to all other planets”). Moving outward in the universe (and back in time toward the Big Bang), Impey discusses how to measure stellar distances and detect planets orbiting other stars. Stretching farther back, Impey explores galactic evolution, relativity, the large-scale structure of the universe, and the Big Bang. Fictional vignettes narrated by a space/time traveler (“The massive galaxy swims into view beneath my feet”) bookend each chapter to personalize the material. Impey vividly illustrates the most complex topics, like string theory and dark energy, bringing a fresh, original voice to a much-told tale, making cosmology pleasurable to all readers. 75 illus. Agent: Anna Ghosh. Scovil Galen Ghosh. (Apr.)
Booklist
“Starred Review. ...readers learn just how many astrophysical mysteries scientists have already penetrated and how many more they hope to unravel with daring new grand unified theories of the universe. But what will especially impress readers is just how entertaining Impey can make science as he regales them with his own piquant experiences as a researcher and translates arcane mathematics into metaphors (guitar strings, apple pies, Tootsie Pops) drawn from everyday life. Readers will never find more intellectual adventure packed into fewer pages.”
Kirkus Reviews
Popular cosmology writers rarely restrain their sense of wonder, but readers who tolerate the science-fiction scenarios scattered throughout this account will not regret it. Impey (Astronomy/Univ. of Arizona; How it Ends: From You to the Universe, 2010) writes that astronomers directly observe the past. Light from the nearest star, 25 trillion miles distant, takes about four years to arrive, so we see it as it was four years ago. Modern instruments detect galaxies whose light has traveled since near the Big Bang 14 billion years ago. Eschewing the usual Ptolemy-Galileo-Newton-Einstein chronology, Impey begins nearby and proceeds to the end of the universe, which means he moves backward in time. Our solar system condensed from the same cosmic dust that formed the sun and stars. That planets form part of the natural order seems likely as the number detected orbiting other stars approaches 1,000. Stars form, age, collapse and explode, filling space with heavier elements that make life possible or disappear into black holes, a process that may emit more energy than an entire galaxy. Until the 1920s, the universe consisted of a single immense system of stars: our galaxy. Then telescopes resolved innumerable hazy spots in the firmament as other galaxies; billions turned up. Subsequent disorienting discoveries revealed that galaxies are receding, carried away by an expanding universe whose matter is mostly invisible, propelled by newly discovered, inexplicable energy. These mysteries remain, despite the latest detectors which make out far-distant, immature galaxies present in a universe 1/20 its present age. An astute tour of the cosmos by a skillful teacher.
Ben Bova
“Chris Impey has achieved the near-impossible: an accurate, up-to-date account of ‘the state of the universe’ that is told in gripping human terms. A great achievement and a ‘must-read’ book.”
Diane Ackerman
“How It Began is the perfect companion to How It Ends—another star-studded tour of the cosmos, full of fascinating ports of call and revealing views of Earth, this time with imaginary voyaging which really brings the journey alive.”
Dava Sobel
“Here is a universe wrapped in a dream of spacefaring for everyone to share. Author Chris Impey combines the vision of a practicing scientist with the voice of a gifted storyteller. He has crafted some of the finest metaphors imaginable for capturing astronomy’s most grandiose concepts. How It Began glitters with a sprinkle of Moon dust.”
Sean Carroll
“The universe is a big place. It’s not easy to pack it all into a single book. Chris Impey takes on this difficult task with gusto, starting in the vicinity of the Earth and gradually moving outwards to the edge of the cosmos. This is a compelling story of science and the human faces behind it.”
From the Publisher
"What will especially impress [listeners] is just how entertaining Impey can make science as he regales them with his own piquant experiences as a researcher and translates arcane mathematics into metaphors drawn from everyday life." —Booklist Starred Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393080025
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/26/2012
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
738,422
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.50(d)

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From the Publisher
"What will especially impress [listeners] is just how entertaining Impey can make science as he regales them with his own piquant experiences as a researcher and translates arcane mathematics into metaphors drawn from everyday life." —-Booklist Starred Review

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