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Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe Hardcover – January 4, 2005
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Death is an essential element in the progress of science, since it takes care of conservative scientists of a previous generation reluctant to let go of an old, fallacious theory and embrace a new and accurate one.As harsh as this statement seems, even Einstein defended an outmoded idea about the universe when an unknown interloper published equations challenging the great man. Einstein didn't have to die for cosmology to move forward (he reluctantly apologized for being wrong), but stories like this one show how difficult it can sometimes be for new theories to take root. Fred Hoyle, who coined the term "big bang" as a way to ridicule the idea of a universe expanding from some tiny origin point, strongly believed that the cosmos was in a steady state. But Singh shows how Hoyle's research, meant to prove the contrary, added evidence to the expansion model. Big Bang is also a history of astronomical observation, describing the development of new telescopes that were crucial to the development of cosmology. Handwritten summary notes at the end of each long chapter add a charming, classroom feel to this revealing and very readable book. --Therese Littleton
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Actually, for astronomy junkies - those who've read books like Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe or Hawkings's Brief History of Time - Big Bang is probably a little tame and won't offer much new insight. Singh's audience is the general reader, one who may understand what the Big Bang is but not how the concept was arrived at.
Singh starts with the ancient Greeks and the origins of science. Soon enough, we read of Copernicus and his revolutionary idea that the Earth was not the center of the universe. Through Galileo, Kepler, Newton and others, the design of the universe kept changing, sometimes radically (geocentric to heliocentric) and sometimes more subtly (circular orbits to elliptical ones). Then things began to move beyond the solar system to look at the Milky Way: did it contain all the stars in the universe or were there other galaxies as well? The determination that there were many galaxies and that they seemed to mostly receding from each other led to a somewhat startling idea: if the galaxies are moving away from each other, they must have been closer in the past and at some point, they were all in one place.
The Big Bang theory would have its fair share of opposition, most notably from Fred Hoyle; ironically, it was Hoyle who wound up coming up with the term "Big Bang.Read more ›
Arranging his topics carefully, Singh ties concepts to their investigators. Early ideas were based on "common sense" and accepted authorities. Naked eye observation limited our ability to "see" the universe until the telescope was developed. "Decentralising" is an ongoing theme in this book as we learn how Western Europe came to understand the Earth was not the centre of things. Galileo's telescopic observations shifted that centre to the sun. When telescopes improved even the sun's location moved to the edge of the Milky Way. Singh demonstrates how each step was proposed, considered and contested, then accepted with additional data. With hindsight, the conclusions all appear obvious. At the time of each new concept's proposal, "established" views held sway until overwhelming evidence displaced them.
No proposal was so hotly disputed as the notion that the cosmos began as a tiny region which rapidly expanded - the Big Bang.Read more ›
"The Big Bang" is a terrific read because Simon Singh is an exceptionally talented writer who is able to open even arcane subjects for the general reader. He has a special gift for knowing just how much a subject needs to be simplified while leaving it just challenging enough to make the reader think a bit and puzzle things out in order to appreciate the intellectual change the new insight represents. Mr. Singh also humanizes the story by keeping the men and women who made these discoveries front and center.
It is the human rivalries, their mistakes, and their genius that attracts us and keeps us turning the pages to find out what happens next. And what a cast this book has. Just some of the big names are Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo, Brahe, Kepler, Newton, Hubble, Hoyle, and Einstein. There are dozens of important names I am not listing here simply because they aren't as well known as they deserve to be.
I love the story of how Eratosthenes made a pretty good calculation of the circumference of the earth using a stick, a well, some careful measurements, and trigonometry. Once that distance is known, figuring out the size and distance of the moon and the Sun are not that hard.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The Big Bang by Simon Sing is a guide to explaining why cosmologists believe that the Big Bang is an accurate description of the origin and evolution of the universe. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Robert Williams
A history book in the subject of astrophysics, from the measurements of moon, earth and sun done by the Greeks to the discovery of galaxies by Hubble. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Yuri Tarnawiecki
Do not be intimidated by the fact this book deals with the science of physics and mathematics. Singh is not only a prolific writer, he has an ability to explain complex topics in... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Carlton Haggard
This book is so well written. It reads like a story. I have a pretty strong science background, and what is cool about this book is that it takes all of the math and science you... Read morePublished 7 months ago by T. Semple
Very well written and a compelling take on subjects that may be over the head of the general populace would it not be for the style that Singh writes with.Published 11 months ago by Victor Kogan
This is an excellent book for the layman to gain some understanding of the long history of scientific investigations leading to the "Bib Bang' theory.Published 11 months ago by Burton Boyd