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Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction [Paperback]

Peter Coles
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 6, 2001 019285416X 978-0192854162 1ST
Written in simple and accessible language, this non-technical introduction to cosmology, or the creation and development of the universe, explains the discipline, covers its history, details the latest developments, and explains what is known, what is believed, and what is purely speculative. In addition, the author discusses the development of the Big Bang theory, and more speculative modern issues like quantum cosmology, superstrings, and dark matter.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

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Editorial Reviews


`There is an embarrassment of books about the universe for the general reader, but few manage to pack so much, so elegantly, into such a compact space as this does. The book is generously illustrated.' The Guardian 09/02/02/

`Coles takes you gently through everything from Blue Shift to parallel Universe in a thoroughly entertaining read' TNT Magazine

`a pleasure to read' New Scientist, 29/09/01

From the Back Cover

Cosmology: The Origin and Evolution of Cosmic Structures, Second Edition, is a modern introduction to this fascinating and fast developing subject. The book provides a unique bridge between introductory and advanced material, starting with the elementary foundations of basic cosmological theory, to 'state-of-the-art' frontier research. Extensively revised and updated, the Second Edition includes the latest observational and theoretical developments. The book is fully illustrated throughout with completely updated references.

* Recent observational breakthroughs including high redshift supernovae, CMB measurements, gravitational lensing and galaxy studies.

* The latest theoretical developments, such as supercomputer simulations and semi-analytical galaxy formation

* Around 100 graded problems, ranging from basic cosmology to advanced topics.
This book will be invaluable to advanced undergraduates and postgraduates taking cosmology courses and will also be a useful reference for researchers in the field. --This text refers to the Unknown Binding edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1ST edition (December 6, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019285416X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192854162
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 4.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to cosmology August 7, 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
First, be warned that Amazon has mixed up two very different books here. Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction is the 139-page paperback I am reviewing. The editorial review refers to Cosmology: The Origin and Evolution of Cosmic Structures, a 520-page hardcover. At the time of writing this review, Amazon have the two books confused and you will find the same editorial and user reviews under each. So if you order one, make sure it's the right one.

Anyway, Cosmology VSI is excellent. Laymen's guides to physics usually resort to metaphors that are seriously misleading. The alternative is a highly mathematical approach that is inaccessible to most readers. Coles manages to simplify without misleading. Actually, some basic knowledge of physics is assumed, at least if you want a full understanding of what is being said, but it is never beyond high school level and most of the book does not require even that.

Covering relativity, quantum theory, particle physics and much else, this is a perfect introduction to a vast and profound topic. My only complaint: cosmology is a fast-changing subject. A new edition is needed very soon.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly readable July 12, 2006
I never would have expected a book with chapters discussing physics concepts to be enjoyable or understandable. Nor did I expect a book on cosmology to include that type of thing in the first place, which shows how little I knew about the topic before I read this. Needless to say, understanding the concepts author Peter Coles presents and actually wanting to know more about them was a pleasant surprise.

This book flows smoothly from topic to topic, and the author does a good job of explaining things at a level detailed enough so you get some of the science behind things but not at a level so in depth that the average reader would be lost. A few helpful diagrams are also scattered about the book in places which would otherwise cause confusion. Where applicable, Coles gives brief introductions to various competing theories and points out both their strong and weak points.

Despite being "a very short introduction," the book is very solid and thorough. The information presented is well organized and builds upon itself, so essential concepts are reinforced even as new ones are discussed. After finishing the text, I skimmed through the index and found that I actually remembered what most things listed there were. The only exceptions were names of people, and those aren't exactly essential to understanding the subject matter.

I started this book without a completely accurate idea of what cosmology is, and I finished it knowing far more about it than I expected to. As such, I must say Coles was extremely successful in writing "a very short introduction" to cosmology, and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good introduction to cosmology March 27, 2004
Professor Coles' book on cosmology in the VSI series is a very good introduction to the subject. If you search for a first book on the subject, that's it (although you can also choose Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time and the contents of these two books could complement with each other)! It provides an overview of the key concepts of cosmology in non-technical language while preserving room for deeper thought and exploration for those who are not satisfied with an introduction.
In my opinion, Chapter 2 provides the best simplified exposition of Einstein's relativity and here and there the book shows very clear exposition of the Hubble's law with kept-to-minimum mathematical presentation which is comprehensible by the general reader without relevant training at all.
Although it may be my own problem, I cannot quite get hold of the key concept of the Friedmann models. The models are first presented in Chapter 3 but they are often quoted in later chapters. Reading them all together, I fail to make a coherent understanding on the models.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars badly needs an update November 19, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Many of the open questions have since been answered or redefined with the MAP and Planck satellite missions. Unless you plan to supplement your reading of this book, look elsewhere first.
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