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Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth...and Beyond [Kindle Edition]

Lawrence M. Krauss
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $28.99
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $19.00 (66%)
Sold by: Hachette Book Group


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Book Description

The story of matter and the history of the cosmos from the perspective of a single oxygen atom, told with the insight and wit of one of the most dynamic physicists and writers working today. Through this astonishing work, he manages to stoke wonder at the powers and unlikely events that conspired to create our solar system, our ecosystem, and us.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This meticulously detailed, if partly speculative, account of an oxygen atom's life is aimed at a broad audience, but Krauss (The Physics of Star Trek, etc.), the department chair of physics at Case Western Reserve University, is likely to alienate some of his Trekker fans with his ungainly discussion of quantum mechanics. Several billions of years ago, the protagonist of this tale emerged from a dazzling explosion that resulted in a slight imbalance between matter and antimatter. Although it is unclear how this disparity came about, it produced all the matter that exists in the universe today. Deciphering what occurred amid the resulting primordial soup to fuse quarks into protons and unite them with neutrons and electrons will prove a strenuous task for the lay reader, but Krauss's muddled prose becomes much more lucid as his oxygen atom grows older, flitting in and out of emerging stars and young planets. The atom bears witness to many cosmic phenomena before settling into the hot, carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere of a budding Earth. Through an exploratory discussion of how life may have unfolded, the author's ripe imaginative powers and literary prowess come into play. Krauss presents a wealth of information that covers a range of disciplines (such as geophysics, biology and paleontology) and concludes with a glimpse of the future, where the forces that spawned life will destroy it. Although physics fans may rush to pluck this one off the shelves, they will find that the book's virtues lie in its vivid descriptions of an evolving planet rather than its scholarly discussions of particle physics. (Apr. 11)Forecast: Despite its flaws, this will sell, thanks to Krauss's visibility (he's a contributing editor of Discover); the book has been optioned for a PBS series.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Scientific American

Starting with one atom of oxygen that arises as an effect of the big bang, Krauss, chairman of physics at Case Western Reserve University, weaves a tale that reads as compellingly as a good novel. He traces the atom's travels from the early moments of the universe to its participation in life on Earth and then considers what might become of it after life on Earth ends. The result is nothing less than a history of the cosmos.


Product Details

  • File Size: 776 KB
  • Print Length: 394 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0316499463
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (April 11, 2001)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FA5SO8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #365,099 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing new, but well told March 31, 2001
By A Customer
The idea of following the adventures of an atom from the Big Bang to far future certainly isn't new. David Darlings "Deep time: The Journey of a Subatomic Particle from the Moment of Creation to the Death of the Universe - and Beyond" (Delacorte, 1989) was there a decade ago. Still, Krauss tells a good yarn and has a chatty, user-friendly style that never lets his reader get too lost in the physics of this cosmic trek. Not perhaps for those who keep well abreast of the latest science, but a painless introduction to cosmology, quantum physics and the evolution of life for the neophyte.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Oxygen Atom Tells It All! March 29, 2001
Lawrence M. Krauss showed in _The Physics of Star Trek_ that he could nimbly handle the exposition of big ideas in physics. He has now picked perhaps the biggest assignment a science writer could tackle: the cosmos from beginning to end. In his audacious new book, Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth... and Beyond (Little, Brown and Company), Krauss has hitched onto an oxygen atom from the very beginning and perhaps even to the end of it all, showing the history and destiny of matter. It is an exhilarating ride.
To take the start of the atom requires, of course, that Krauss explain about what went before. His explanation of Big Bang weirdness is as clear as one can get. He goes on to explain how both quarks and antiquarks were formed, with quarks in an almost inconsequential majority but enough to make all the matter we see around us now. It was an accident that things turned out so, and Krauss's history is a list of strings of accidents to produce a world we can't help but see as full of design and consequence. It is no surprise that throughout his pages he has exclamation points; his own surprise at all he describes is refreshing and sincere.
The oxygen atom which is the focus of this big story has to be traced to quarks, and then to the eight protons and eight neutrons that would make up its nucleus. The protons and neutrons in the oxygen atom weren't close originally. They may have been galaxies apart in the hydrogen and helium atoms that constituted all of the original universe, and that clumped together to make stars. These nuclear furnaces started churning out heavier elements, include our oxygen atom, which joined with a couple of hydrogens on a snowball traveling around our solar system.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Monumental New Work April 4, 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a monumental new book which should become a science classic. It is ambitious and broad ranging, yet lyrical and accessible at the same time. It a remarkable piece of science writing by a well known scientist. The scale and breadth of the topics covered compares favorably to Sagan's Cosmos, while the cultural references that help add a human touch are reminiscent of Bronowski's books. This is a story that captures our place in the cosmos by focussing on the life history of a single oxygen atom. In so doing, it personalizes a truly cosmic tale that goes well beyond physics, covering much of modern science. It is certainly Krauss' best book to date, even better than The Physics of Star Trek. The reviewer who indicated it is not new is also off base. Comparing it to books written a dozen years ago is silly. Much of the science discussed here was not even speculated about a dozen years ago!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the Big Bang to The End April 13, 2001
Lawrence Karuss' "Atom" does a masterful job of reporting all the amazing numbers that govern the size and evolution of the universe, from Big Bang to Life on Earth to The End. He reports them in language that made me appreciate how big a number with a lot of zero really is. He follows one atom, from the Big Bang all the way through Life and beyond. He makes a lot of comments that give perspective on cosmic history and are funny too. His book encompasses physics, the development of the planets, and the causes of the origin of life -- an unusually large sweep for a book, but he pulls it off.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breath easy - excellent primer March 30, 2001
This book is a biographical look at the oxygen ATOM. The book takes the reader from the pre element stage during the matter-antimatter battle that many physicists believe led to the Big Bang through current theories and future speculations. The tome is well done and written for more than just the Ph.D. in physics as it tries to explain complex particle and quantum theories to a wider public. The oxygen atom's story really takes off once the primordial soup spills into the making of the universe.
This is an excellent primer that contains some sections with difficult understanding for the average non-science oriented reader and areas of guess work by Lawrence M. Krauss to fill the knowledge gaps without offering contrary theories. Still, anyone wanting to grasp the cross-discipline nuances between the Big Bang and the Big Crunch will find Mr. Krauss' homage to the life cycle of the oxygen ATOM an overall entertaining and insightfully easy book to read.

Harriet Klausner
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The long and winding road of oxygen July 31, 2001
I've looked for a book like this one for a long time. The book's scope is fantastic - covering the Big Bang to the evolution of the solar system. The author does an admirable (and detailed) job translating results from simulations of solar system evolution. My main complaint is that sometimes following those oxygen atoms around was confusing and distracting. Overall, though, I recommend this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally we know where we came from.
This is an excellent review of where the earth's makeup originated. This true story was made possible by scientific advances in the last century. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Wayne Wilmot
5.0 out of 5 stars Best science book I've read for a very long time
Begins with an excellent explanation of the early universe and gets better. The description of how the Earth formed, the contribution of comets, the effect of impacts by large... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Tim Samuel
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book
I'm big fan of Lawrence M. Krauss after I read his book Universe from nothing. Now I start purchase and read all of his books, and Atom was the first from the list. Read more
Published 10 months ago by soperedi
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't work on Kindle Paperwhite
Hasn't read it since it can't be read on my Kindle Paperwhite so my rating is about the technical quality, not the contents.
Published 10 months ago by Gunnar Grim
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishingly brilliant
Krauss is a genius and can communicate to laymen like no one else.
The atom's story encompasses most of physics and chemistry.
Published 15 months ago by Rich Kegarise
4.0 out of 5 stars lots of interesting information
The author describes the big bang; then when an oxygen atom is formed, he follows it through the remaining history of the universe. Read more
Published 17 months ago by James Draw
1.0 out of 5 stars Failed Attempt-Stick to Star Trek
I had high hopes for this book, but they quickly evaporated.
The author introduces a device (one that has been tried
before, actually) of following the cosmic history of... Read more
Published on January 19, 2002 by Jake Lorry
3.0 out of 5 stars odd one
This is an odd book. It is another brave attempt to tell the whole story of creation, this time using the oxygen atom as a main character. Read more
Published on September 5, 2001 by ""
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More About the Author

I was born in New York City and shortly afterward moved to Toronto, spending my childhood in Canada. I received undergraduate degrees in mathematics and physics from Carleton University, and my Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982.

After a stint in the Harvard Society of Fellows, I became an assistant professor at Yale University in 1985 and Associate Professor in 1988. I moved in 1993 to become Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics, professor of astronomy, and Chairman of the Physics Department at Case Western Reserve University In August 2008 I joined the faculty at Arizona State University as Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Physics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Director of the University's Origins Initiative. In 2009 we inaugurated this this initiative with the Origins Symposium [] in which 80 of the world's leading scientists participated, and 3000 people attended.

I write regularly for national media, including The New York Times, the Wall St. Journal, Scientific American (for which I wrote a regular column last year), and other magazines, as well as doing extensive work on radio and television. I am strongly committed to public understanding of science, and have helped lead the national effort to preserve sound science teaching, including the teaching of evolution. I also served on Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential campaign science policy committee. In 2008 I became co-chair of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and in 2010 was elected to the Board of Directors of the Federation of American Scientists.

I became a scientist in part because I read books by other scientists, such as Albert Einstein, George Gamow, Sir James Jeans, etc, when I was a child, and my popular writing returns the favor. One of my greatest joys is when a young person comes up to me and tells me that one of my books motivated them to become a scientist.

I believe science is not only a vital part of our culture, but is fun, and I try and convey that in my books and lectures. I am honored that Scientific American referred to me as a rare scientific public intellectual, and that all three three major US Physics Societies: the American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Institute of Physics, have seen fit to honor me with their highest awards for research and writing.

My research focuses on the beginning and end of the Universe. Among my contributions to the field of cosmology, I helped lead the search for dark matter, and first proposed the existence of dark energy in 1995.

When I have the chance, I love to mountain bike, fly fish, and scuba dive. I spend a tremendous amount of time on planes now, alas, and enjoy flying, but hate airports..

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