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Before The Beginning: Our Universe And Others (Helix Books) Paperback – September 23, 1998

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Editorial Reviews Review

"Although we cannot observe them (and they may be forever inaccessible), other universes are a natural expectation from current cosmology. Moreover, many features of our universe that otherwise seem baffling fall into place once we recognize this." Sir Martin Rees, the British Astronomer Royal, gives a vivid, occasionally acid tour of current astrophysics and cosmology, with insights into scientific politics, such as the enormous increase in the cost of the space telescope because of its association with the Space Shuttle. He also offers keen observations on personalities such as Subrahmayan Chandrasekhar and Isaac Newton, Yakov Zeldovich and Albert Einstein. Joseph Silk calls Before the Beginning "an unusual blend of wit, asperity and cosmology ... a combination of clarity and conciseness." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Sophisticated instruments and spacecraft expeditions probing deeper into space have all increased our knowlege of the universe and its place in the grand scheme of things. From the theoretical insights to experimental confirmations, this book describes the universe and our quest to understand it. Rees, the well-known cosmologist and director of Cambridge University's Institute of Astronomy, outlines the historic context and explains discoveries and ideas (both his own and those of his colleagues) with clarity and in an engaging style. He successfully avoids jargon and formulas, but numbers, being too important to leave out, are mentioned in the order of magnitude rather than values. What makes this book unique is the radical theory that Rees puts forth. He asserts that there is an infinity of universes, besides our own, that were and are being created. None but our own is observable because of the hostility of the other universes' environment to intelligent life. Rees argues his case eloquently and without invoking theological issues. Essential for academic libraries.?Jayashri Nagaraja, Engineering Lib., Princeton Univ., N.J.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Helix Books
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (September 23, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738200336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738200330
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #327,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By John Peter O'connor on June 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a book about Cosmology from a big perspective. It takes a view on the very existance of our universe. How it may have come into being and what there may be beyond it in time and space.
Of course, these matters are not the subject of simple experiments but it is remarkable that our understanding of nature allows such speculation.
This book is aimed at a non-technical audience and the overall style is clear and the arguments lucid.
The author starts with an introduction that explains our universe as it has been understood through the main developments of physics in the last one hundred years. The sections on gravitation effects, ranging from stellar collapse to massive black holes missing mass and expansion were presented with great clarity.
However, if you are looking for a book that talks about "Before the Beginning", you may just find yourself wondering why you read the first nine chapters. They are a good, non-technical introduction but they are about our universe from the big bang to the present time.
The last 40% of the book actually contains material hinted at in the title. The author makes the point that our universe is remarkable in the way that it is fit for human life. He then links this observation to the current thinking about the origins of the universe.
Perhaps, our universe is one of many. Very, very many and this one just happens to suit the development of life but there may be many universes "out there" that are still born in the sense that they cannot support life.
Reese explains how space time inflation may lead to universes with different laws of physics and how universes may spawn new universes through the formation of black holes.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is an exciting and accessible book of cosmological speculation tempered by rationality and an awareness of the scientific method. Consequently I was very happy to read here about the possibility of "universes" beyond ours; or differently put, something beyond the big bang. I used to speculate about what happened before and beyond the big bang, but I was told that such speculations were unscientific because by definition the universe and all of time and space came into being with the big bang. Like Fred Hoyle, I never liked this theory of the beginning of the universe, and wished that his steady state model would gain some serious credence. It didn't and the evidence for the big bang grew. Now however, as Rees makes clear, the perspective and even the terminology has changed. Many scientists now speculate that our universe (notice we now have an "our") may just be a budding off of one "universe" from perhaps an infinite potential.

One page 158 Rees writes about the universe at the Planck time (ten to the minus 43 seconds) which is as early as we can get, and incidentally the universe at that time was as small as anything can get: "At this stupendous density...quantum effects and gravity would both be important. What happens when quantum effects shake an entire universe?"

Now that is a question! And the way it is put propels us into something like a glimpse of the universe at that ultra early stage. The Planck time is a constraint on the size of anything including space. One of the things that this means is that spacetime is not infinitely divisible. Space itself has a quantum-like quality. Really?
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Wyote VINE VOICE on August 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read dozens of books a year, usually more than 50, and among them I try to read several books on cosmology or physics. So I was pretty familiar with the material in this book even before I read it. The reason I read it anyway was because Rees discusses some of my favorite speculations: Andrei Linde's inflationary multiverse theory and Lee Smolin's theory of fecund universes. I am in no position to evaluate those theories, but I just have an old-fashioned hunch that Linde's theory must be true, while Smolin's is merely possible. But I like them both, and I hope they're both true. So I read whatever I can on them.

What I got out of it that I didn't expect was a deeper respect for Chandrasekhar and Hoyle. Otherwise, I got what I wanted.

Now, if you don't read about cosmology or physics much, I honestly wouldn't recommend this book. John Barrow is on the cover saying it'd be a good first book, but I firmly disagree.

Ahead of it, I'd recommend Ferris' "The Whole Shebang," which, until something better is written, is the best cosmology book available: the best thing since Sagan's "Cosmos," in fact. Don't ask me why it isn't more widely appreciated. It has a wider scope than this book, it goes into greater depth on every point (so it's longer), it's better-written, and its explanations are clearer. Rees' book is a little hard to get into because some of his writing is simply wooden, and he often doesn't trouble himself to explain things very carefully, however.

BUT - it's not that bad really; it just compares unfavorably to Ferris' book, which I strongly urge you to read before this one.
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