The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos

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In this strikingly original book, a world-renowned cosmologist and an innovative writer of the history and philosophy of science uncover an astonishing truth: Humans actually are central to the universe. What does this mean for our culture and our personal lives? The answer is revolutionary: a science-based cosmology that allows us to understand the universe as a whole and our extraordinary place in it.
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The View From the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos

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Overview

In this strikingly original book, a world-renowned cosmologist and an innovative writer of the history and philosophy of science uncover an astonishing truth: Humans actually are central to the universe. What does this mean for our culture and our personal lives? The answer is revolutionary: a science-based cosmology that allows us to understand the universe as a whole and our extraordinary place in it.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Dr. Joel Primack is a world-renowned astrophysicist; one of the most cited researchers in his field. Nancy Ellen Abram is a philosopher of science, an artist, and a lawyer. In The View from the Center of the Universe, they couple their talents to present a compelling picture of the universe as a coherent and spiritually significant entity. Drawing on both recent scientific research and ancient metaphors, the authors offer a resonant response to the cold silence of infinite space.
Publishers Weekly
If greeting card poet Susan Polis Schultz wrote about physics and the universe, this is the book she would produce. Filled with simplistic observations ("In their hearts most people are still living in an imagined universe where... we humans have no special place and often feel insignificant") as well as romantic cheerleading ("We need to overflow with gratitude that our universe... is filled with light and possibilities"), it offers cosmology disguised as a self-help guide to the universe. The authors-Primack is a physicist at UC-Santa Cruz, and Abrams is a philosopher of science-contend that Newton's picture of the universe as shapeless and endless left humans feeling cosmically homeless, but in response they articulate a Peter Pan physics in which humans are intimately related to the universe because we are made of stardust, i.e., we're an integral part of the cosmos. Our place in the universe is extraordinary, they claim, because the universe will never be in this moment of time again, and we have a responsibility to take care of the Earth since there is still time to solve some of our cosmic problems. Attempting to weave science and spirituality into one cosmic fabric, the authors satisfy the reader in neither realm. B&w illus. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The strength of the married writing team of Primack and Abrams is their complementary perspectives on a fascinating subject: he's a well-known cosmologist (physics, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz); she's a writer with a background in the history and philosophy of science. Drawing on the latest findings in astrophysics and cosmology, their readable, lyrically written new book examines the past, present, and future of our understanding of the universe. In an intriguing meld of history, philosophy, anthropology, physics, ecology, and global politics, the authors offer a beautiful balance of scientific fact and theory, challenging readers to learn, to question, and, ultimately, to "think cosmically, act globally." This terrific book will appeal to people who are interested in what's "out there," regardless of their background (or lack thereof) in the sciences. Highly recommended for science collections in all but the smallest public libraries and all academic libraries.-Denise Dayton, Jaffrey Grade Sch., NH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The universe is a big, lonely place. But don't feel too small: Here's a book that reassures us that we all have a part in it. Cosmology asks Big Questions: What is the universe made of? How old is it? Does it have an end? Will it end? Are we all alone on this watery rock, whirling around Sol with no particular place to go? Such questions, raised for a popular audience, beg for the charms of a Jacob Bronowski. Noted cosmologist/astrophysicist Primack has no end of scientific credentials; yet, tempered by the humanities-tending interests of mythologist/philosopher Abrams, the science here tends to go hortatory ("To act wisely globally, we must think cosmically") and sometimes a touch fuzzy ("All young people today are moving as a group up the worldline of Earth's lightcone," whatever a worldline of a lightcone is). Still, there are illuminating views to be found here of how the universe behaves and what it consists of: Think a mix of 70 percent "dark energy," 25 percent "cold dark matter" and a smattering of "visible atoms" and life-enabling gases, and it's small wonder that many people felt lost when the old cosmologies of Egypt, Babylon and Greece gave way to the impersonal talk of Big Bangs, red giants, black holes and the like. Primack and Abrams grapple gently with those who feel it unacceptable "even to think of having a cosmology based on science" while taking their narrative into some odd corners of science: It may comfort some readers to know, for instance, that extraterrestrials are likely to resemble us thanks to "simple scaling relations," but others will simply be puzzled by the notion of the "Cosmic Uroboros" and the magical workings of a sprinkling of stardust atop the"Cosmic Density Pyramid."The scientifically inclined will prefer a more rigorous explanation of why things are as they are.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594489143
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 4/6/2006
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.36 (d)

Meet the Author

Joel R. Primack is one of the world's leading cosmologists who helped to create the "Standard Model" of particle physics. He was also one of the principal originators of the Cold Dark matter theory.

Nancy Ellen Abrams is a lawyer and writer with a long-term interest in the history, philosophy, and politics of science.

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Table of Contents

1 Wrapping your mind around the universe 15
2 From the flat Earth to the heavenly spheres 39
3 From the center of the universe to no place special 67
4 What is the universe made of? : the cosmic density pyramid 89
5 What is the center of the universe? : the cosmic spheres of time 122
6 What size is the universe? : the cosmic uroboros 156
7 Where do we come from? : the cosmic Las Vegas 179
8 Are we alone? : the possibility of alien wisdom 206
9 Think cosmically, act globally 239
10 Taking our extraordinary place in the cosmos 269
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2006

    Cosmology for Human Beings

    I teach astronomy at a local college. My interest in science started years ago in the discovery of Isaac Asimov and his infinite interests. He won my heart with his ability to explain difficult subjects in terms that allowed me to keep reading, going to the mathematics later if I were so inclined. When I got through with an Asimov book I felt I knew the subject at an educated layman's level. Remember back a decade or so when Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time' appeared on every coffee table? Few that I met could converse about it, assuming they had been able to finish it. Explaining science is a different art than doing it. With this book I felt that I had returned to my youth. Primack and Abrams have delivered an important work that is readable to the depth you desire. TVFCU, to abbreviate it, makes science, in this case cosmology, the concern of everyone. They explain the concepts of the Big Bang and its implications not only to the universe in general but to us in particular. They find that normal language is not sufficient for the task and rely instead on metaphor. They show how mankind, from the beginning, has explained things in this fashion and we would do well to emulate them. Metaphor gives examples that are easy to remember and pass on to everyone. Mathematics, valid in scientific depth, limits the audience. When you get done reading you have a good idea of the reality of the universe and terms with which you can think about it, helping you to find your place in this infinity. Rather than being overwhelmed, one might find cause for happiness in being a human being at this period of the cosmic age. The one drawback I have is the number of index notes. Almost a quarter of the book consists of these notes, many of them integral to understanding the material. I would like to have seen more of these notes incorporated into the main text and other lesser information put in footnotes, leaving the back of the book with citations of authors quoted. It's difficult to read a book flipping back and forth several times per paragraph. Word is, the paperback version is due in several months and I will be getting some as gifts for friends who specialized in the humanities. I recommend this book highly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommend

    I won't even attempt a review. Many of the concepts were difficult to wrap my head around but even so it was one of the most fascinating books I've ever read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2007

    Chicken little view of the world

    The only good parts of this effort are the chapters which review the current state of cosmological research. The rest is simply another 'be afraid be very afraid' exposition of how bad things are. The scientist of the pair apparently had to accomdate the 'song writer' partner in order to keep peace in the family. The is also a danger here in that the citations, which are resonably developed to suport the authors views, are not described or categorized as all having a slanted and negative view of the world

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 26, 2013

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    Posted January 18, 2010

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    Posted July 12, 2010

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    Posted December 19, 2010

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