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About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang [Hardcover]

by Adam Frank
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 27, 2011 1439169594 978-1439169599 First Edition
The Big Bang is all but dead, and we do not yet know what will replace it. Our universe’s “beginning” is at an end. What does this have to do with us here on Earth? Our lives are about to be dramatically shaken again—as altered as they were with the invention of the clock, the steam engine, the railroad, the radio and the Internet.

In The End of the Beginning, Adam Frank explains how the texture of our lives changes along with our understanding of the universe’s origin. Since we awoke to self-consciousness fifty thousand years ago, our lived experience of time—from hunting and gathering to the development of agriculture to the industrial revolution to the invention of Outlook calendars—has been transformed and rebuilt many times. But the latest theories in cosmology— time with no beginning, parallel universes, eternal inflation—are about to send us in a new direction.

Time is both our grandest and most intimate conception of the universe. Many books tell the story, recounting the progress of scientific cosmology. Frank tells the story of humanity’s deepest question— when and how did everything begin?—alongside the story of how human beings have experienced time. He looks at the way our engagement with the world— our inventions, our habits and more—has allowed us to discover the nature of the universe and how those discoveries, in turn, inform our daily experience.

This astounding book will change the way we think about time and how it affects our lives.

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About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang + The Constant Fire: Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"'Time' is the most used noun in the English language, yet we still don't really understand it. Adam Frank tells the fascinating story of how humans have struggled to make sense of time, especially in the context of the universe around us. From prehistory to the Enlightenment, through Einstein and on to the multiverse, this is a rich and inspiring tour through some of the biggest ideas that have ever been thought." (Sean Carroll, author of From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time)

“An eloquent book.” (Nature)

“A fascinating and comprehensive survey of how technology - from farming to railways to telegraphy to the internet - has changed our everyday concept of time. [Frank] is excellent at showing how our ideas of human and cosmic time have evolved hand-in-hand… Frank's thesis that our notions of cosmic and human time are braided together is compelling.” (New Scientist)

"A phenomenal blend of science and cultural history.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

"Frank (astrophysics, Univ. of Rochester; The Constant Fire: Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate), cofounder of NPR’s 13.7: Cosmos & Culture blog and frequent contributor to Discover and Astronomy magazines, here endeavors to reconstruct our understanding of time—both what he calls human time and cosmological time—with the contention that we are poised for a new definition or experience of time. He begins by ushering readers from the prehistoric to the modern era, showing how the cycles of nature and the sky became integrated into human culture over time. Next, he discusses cosmological time and lays out his proposal for a new “order” of time. The narrative is punctuated with vignettes, some of them amusing, designed to highlight and enrich various points of the narrative. VERDICT This will fascinate anyone curious about the nexus of astronomy and history and, of course, time. Recommended."
(Library Journal)

"University of Rochester astrophysics professor Adam Frank explains how our experience of time has been repeatedly rejiggered throughout the millennia. Archaeological evidence of ancient lifestyles and routines indicates that Paleolithic hunter-gatherers “lived through time as an unbroken whole,” he writes. But once humans settled down to farm, that changed. “The farmer lived within a time marked by daily rounds of animal husbandry, home maintenance, and village life.” Then came the clock, then the industrial punch clock and then synchronized time, which further altered how human beings perceived, used and organized the moments of a day. All the while, these changing notions of time altered how people understood the cosmos. Theories about the beginning of time gradually shifted from a mythological Eden to the universe-generating big bang. Frank ponders fresh ideas in cosmology, such as string theory and the multi-verse, and how the human perception of time will change in the future." (Washington Post)

“This one is a must-read! ...Culture of Science regulars are going to love About Time. The book does a wonderful job weaving together the story of human history and time in the context of the universe. From the Big Bang to the Renaissance to cell phones to the multiverse, he takes extremely complex ideas and makes them easily digestible, endlessly fascinating, and fun. About Time will make you think. And be assured, you’ll find yourself revisiting chapters again with new questions as you continue. It may even change the way way you perceive your place in the world.” (Culture of Science)

About the Author

Adam Frank is Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Rochester and a regular contributor to Discover and Astronomy magazines. He has also written for Scientific American and many other publications and is the co-founder of NPR's 13:7 Cosmos & Culture blog. He was a Hubble Fellow and is the recipient of an American Astronomical Society Prize for his scientific writing.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (September 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439169594
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439169599
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #398,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book Worthy of Your "Time" January 30, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang by Adam Frank

"About Time" is the interesting book about time, both cosmic and human and how they relate to each other. Astrophysicist Adam Frank takes us on a journey of the human quest to find out what happened at that very moment of creation at the beginning of the Big Bang. He provides us with an understanding of how we got to the Big Bang and a provocative look at how cosmology has evolved and the looming alternatives. This 432-page book is composed of the following twelve chapters: 1. Talking Sky, Working Stone and Living Field, 2. The City, the Cycle and the Epicycle, 3. The Clock, the Bell Tower and the Spheres of God, 4. Cosmic Machines, Illuminated Night and the Factory Clock, 5. The Telegraph, the Electric Clock and the Block Universe, 6. The Expanding Universe, Radio Hours and Washing Machine Time, 7. The Big Bang and a New Armageddon, 8. Inflation, Cell Phones and the Outlook Universe, 9. Wheels Within Wheels: Cyclic Universes and the Challenge of Quantum Gravity, 10. Ever-Changing Eternities: The Promise and Perils of a Multiverse, 11. Giving Up the Ghost: The End of Beginning and the End of Time, and 12. In the Fields of Learning Grass.

Positives:
1. Fantastic book for the laymen. Complex themes that is accessible to the masses.
2. Fascinating topic of cosmology in the hands of an educator.
3. Excellent format. The author introduces each chapter with an amusing vignette and proceeds to his narration.
4. Elegant prose that at times makes you forget that you are reading a science book about cosmology. Science writing at its best.
5. Great use of charts and illustrations.
6. The author was fair and even handed. Very respectful and professional tone.
7.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Popular Science Gem November 18, 2011
Format:Hardcover
The farther I got into this book the more I loved it. The author Adam Frank has done a remarkable job of creating an interesting narrative that explains the history of cosmology up to the very latest theories. It is extremely accessable to lay readers but not dumbed down at all. I simply loved it. The discussion of time and how culture has created our experience of it over the last 10,000 years or so is weaved into all this cosmology. The main theme of the book is that they can't be separated.

I have a hard time imagining anyone interested in science, cosmology, time, or history not enjoying this book. Very highly recommended with both thumbs up.
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43 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Astrophysicist Adam Frank tries to offer a grand tour of physics, history, cultural analysis, and psychology. He argues that throughout humanity's existence there has been a complex (and still overlooked) relationship among cosmology (mythic or scientific), cultural change, time-constrained "material engagement" with the physical world, and our experience and conception of time. The best aspects of About Time are the many interesting details and summaries Frank gives of everything from prehistoric timekeeping to medieval urbanization to time zones to email to, of course, contemporary cosmological theorizing. Unfortunately the overarching project is vague and over-ambitious, and we never get a persuasive or even particularly clear account of the big idea that is supposed to run through these many discussions. About Time deserves 3/5 because it is interesting and worth reading, but it's also a frustrating and disappointing book. Since it is well praised by other reviews here, I will focus on a few criticisms.

Frank makes some very provocative claims that are neither explicated nor defended with the rigour they demand. Here is one from the prologue: "You feel time in a way that nobody did a thousand years ago" (xiv). This is quite radical. If it means anything like what it appears to mean - something about the phenomenology of temporal lapse - it is wildly unsupported by the observations Frank makes about the modern emergence of a globally and precisely specified time, and he makes no contact with any of the large literature on temporal phenomenology. This and similar claims about the "experience of time" are quite vague, and key notions seem to be slippery.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rather sloppy February 9, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have to agree with Lyle Crawford's review. I was quite disappointed by the book. Frank ends up focusing on cosmology in general just as much as on time and conceptions of time, and honestly, he's better on cosmology. When talking about culture, he not only seems not particularly well-informed (like someone who's only read the other popular books on the subject), but he also doesn't even sound that interested, as though he wanted to write a book just on his own work but was pressed into adding some "human interest" material.

Though Frank promises a look at the history of conceptions of time, he ends up repeating a lot of single-source opinions as fact (the prehistoric anthropology section at the beginning of the book is especially weak this way), and on the facts themselves, he doesn't seem to have made too much of an effort to get familiar with the sources. Since the job of a popularizer is to know the subject in and out and just tell you the best bits, this doesn't give me much faith in his skills.

I know a fair bit about the early modern period, and Frank treats Kepler before he treats Galileo, calling Galileo the final step in the Copernican revolution. In fact, Kepler and Galileo were contemporaries, and Kepler was rather a fan of the far more famous Galileo. Galileo rejected Kepler's ellipses (or else didn't even pay attention to them), and Kepler's three laws wouldn't take hold until after Kepler's death. Moreover, Frank seems to think it's odd that Kepler didn't entertain the idea of an infinite cosmos--but in those pre-Newton days, the intellectual infrastructure was a mess. It's amazing that those people got *anything* right.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Interest gives way to frustration
The early chapters trace the development of how time is conceived in the relationship between human culture and the cosmos. Very interesting. Read more
Published 3 months ago by James O. Lee
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book connecting views of the universe with time.
This very readable book first provides a history of time and ends with a summary view of modern cosmology and how the challenges of understanding time complicate understanding... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Peter O Lauritzen
4.0 out of 5 stars For my Grandson.
My Grandson goes to John Hopkins University. I bought this book for him for Christmas. He is working in the lab on the hugh telescope that will be delivered to Chili.
Published 6 months ago by Martha L. Mehrle
5.0 out of 5 stars Science for the non scientist.
I appreciate the authors ability to take complex subjects and render them digestible by the non scientist reader. Read more
Published 9 months ago by D Dn
5.0 out of 5 stars Time : what is it?
This is a very interesting book. I have always been interested in the concept of time.
This book takes you through the historical, social, and theoretical evolution of the... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Harry Kelejian
4.0 out of 5 stars About time
This was a somewhat interesting and highly speculative book on the meaning of time in an expanding universe. Read more
Published 9 months ago by tobias
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
A great read for any one interested in the concept of time from beginning to the big bang and beyond. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Hank Stober
2.0 out of 5 stars It is ok, it is about time
Slow paced account of how human consciousness of time developed and grew over the ages. Unfortunately, it seems to take ages to tell. Read more
Published 12 months ago by J. Shand
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written
Provides an excellent and comprhensive review of time and how human view time has changed as civilaization has evolved and we have become more dependent on accurate knowledge of... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Robert S. Dickinson
4.0 out of 5 stars The History of Time
This is a good and comprehensive book that gives you a basic but solid understanding of the history of time. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Arash Farzaneh
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