Origins reveals the human being within the scientist in a study of the philosophical, personal, and social factors that enter into the scientific process. Twenty-seven active cosmologists--including Stephen Hawking, Roger Penrose, Steven Weinberg, Vera Rubin, Allan Sandage, Margaret Geller, and Alan Guth--talk candidly about their childhoods and early influences, their motivations, prejudices, and worldviews. The book's lucid introduction traces the explosion of new ideas that has recently shaken cosmological ...
Origins reveals the human being within the scientist in a study of the philosophical, personal, and social factors that enter into the scientific process. Twenty-seven active cosmologists--including Stephen Hawking, Roger Penrose, Steven Weinberg, Vera Rubin, Allan Sandage, Margaret Geller, and Alan Guth--talk candidly about their childhoods and early influences, their motivations, prejudices, and worldviews. The book's lucid introduction traces the explosion of new ideas that has recently shaken cosmological thinking. Origins explores not just the origin of the universe but also the origins of scientific thought.
A fascinating, surprisingly accessible and altogether human collection of conversations with today's leading cosmologists...Origins is composed of a lucid 49-page introduction to the field of cosmology, followed by question and answer interviews with 27 prominent cosmologists...Concepts...may stagger the average reader on first impact. Lightman is perfectly at ease with them. Arcane cosmic phenomena...are meat and drink to him. Readers lucky enough to sit near him at this intellectual banquet table will share the physicist's exquisite pleasure in the feast.
Origins...consists mainly of interviews with 27 of the world's leading cosmologists, who talk about their childhoods, early influences, their college careers, and their discoveries. They also give their opinions on recent developments in cosmology, such as inflation theory and quantum gravity. These interviews are...colorful and give considerable insight into the lives of the cosmologists...A charming a delightful book to read.
Washington Post Book World
There is no better way to understand the current confusions of the world's top cosmologists than by reading this timely and admirable anthology.
It's the very messiness of life in the trenches of cosmology that makes Origins so useful. Forced to face the limits of science, many of [the authors'] interview subjects speak revealingly about the prejudices, the beliefs, and the aesthetic preferences that help shape their views of the universe...When asked: What kind of universe would you design, if you could have any kind at all? Most of the cosmologists suddenly sparkle.
In these interviews with 27 leading figures in contemporary cosmology, the authors--themselves physicists--reveal a diverse and colorful group. Most interesting are revelations about the scientists' backgrounds: several came from families of modest means and were attracted to science by reading popularizations such as this one. Some interview questions elicit responses that might be too technical for general readers (although the authors provide a concise survey of current cosmology in the book's introduction), and philosophical questions such as, ``If you could design the universe any way that you wanted to, how would you do it?'', are often tedious. Avid readers of science popularizations, science students, and educators, as well as those attracted by the celebrity status of interviewees Stephen Hawking, Roger Penrose, and others will create demand for this book.-- Gregg Sapp, Montana State Univ. Lib., Bozeman
The authors--experienced in cosmology/astrophysics, in the history and social study of science, and as writers about science--have (beginning in 1987) interviewed 27 leadings figures (theorists, observers) in the world of research cosmology. Here they provide a photo of each of the persons interviewed, the brief biographical facts relating to his/her life, and a report (running typically to about twenty pages) of informed and probing discussion of how that scientist came to take up his/her line of research, of major influences, of pressing open questions and predicted future developments. The cosmologists in question emerge as people...interesting people...people of remarkable diversity. A good introductory essay serves effectively to set the stage. Beyond its interest both to students of the field and to the general public, the book is likely to engage influentially the imaginations of young readers. (NW) Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Alan Lightman is Professor of Science and Writing and Senior Lecturer in Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also a Research Scientist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.