If you have ever wondered how we get from the awesome impersonality of the Big Bang universe to the point where living creatures can start to form, and evolve into beings like you, your friends and your family, wonder no more. Steve Miller provides us with a tour through the chemical evolution of the universe, from the formation of the first molecules all the way to the chemicals required for life to evolve. Using a simple Hydrogen molecule – known as H-three-plus - as a guide, he takes us on a journey that starts with the birth of the first stars, and how, in dying, they pour their hearts out into enriching the universe in which we live.
Our molecular guide makes its first appearance at the source of the Chemical Cosmos, at a time when only three elements and a total of 11 molecules existed. From those simple beginnings, H-three-plus guides us down river on the violent currents of exploding stars, through the streams of the Interstellar Medium, and into the delta where new stars and planets form. We are finally left on the shores of the sea of life. Along the way, we meet the key characters who have shaped our understanding of the chemistry of the universe, such as Cambridge physicist J.J. Thomson and the Chicago chemist Takeshi Oka. And we are given an insider’s view of just how astronomers, making use of telescopes and Earth-orbiting satellites, have put together our modern view of the Chemical Cosmos.
About the Author
Steve Miller is Professor of Science Communication and Planetary Science, at University College London- Science and Technology Studies. Steve trained in chemistry at Southampton University (BSc 1970; PhD 1975), carrying out several years of postdoctoral research in physical chemistry. He spent six years as a political journalist, from 1980-86, before re-entering academic life at UCL, specializing in spectroscopy applied to astronomy and planetary science. Steve has written for the general media, as well as popular science magazines such as Astronomy Now, and on explaining astronomy on British television and radio. He runs the European science communication network, ESConet, which is responsible for training hundreds of Europe’s leading scientists to communicate with their fellow citizens, directly and through the mass media. Steve’s love of Hawaii comes from his time spent observing the heavens from Maunakea, and from his wife, who is Hawaiian.
Table of ContentsPrologue.- Purple haze: introducing our guide.- The early universe: the source of chemistry – and of our guide.- Shooting the rapids: the life, and death, of the earliest starlight.- Interlude - how our guide is hooked, lost and caught again.- Heading downstream and cooking by starlight.- Fishing for molecules.- Branching out: in the land of the giants and dwarves.- Interlude - trawling for our cosmic guide.- In the delta: exoplanets - worlds, but not as we know them.- Towards the sea of life.- Epilogue.- Annotated references and further reading to chapters.- Some useful numbers.- Index.