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Cosmology: The Science of the Universe 2nd Edition

20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521661485
ISBN-10: 052166148X
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Editorial Reviews

From Scientific American

Don't say we didn't warn you: this book may well blow your mind. Of course, boggled brains are an occupational hazard in cosmology, the branch of astrophysics that studies the universe on its very largest scales. Practitioners of the field talk about the origin of time and the possibility of parallel universes in the way most people make shopping lists. But why should they have all the fun? This long-awaited update to Harrison's classic textbook is ideal for those who have exhausted the beginners' accounts and want to dig deep into the science and philosophy. Harrison offers fresh ways to think about basic principles, and he strolls down long-forgotten byways that give such richness to the subject. Unfortunately, the book does not keep up with the fast-paced changes of the past several years, including the mounting evidence for cosmic acceleration and a cosmological constant. But then, there are Scientific American articles for that.



"Unusual, discursive, nonmathematical, full of reflective comments and disturbing questions, packed with unexpected citations....A beginning serious interest in cosmology can find no better satisfaction than in this helpful overview...this book may well blow your mind." Scientific American

"This very well written book belongs on the shelf of all physicists and in all libraries." Choice

"Harrison's text owes its appeal to its literate presentation of a wide variety of cosmological topics, from the creation myths of ancient Babylon to the relativistic models of Alexander much of Harrison's book is timeless, and so much of it is unique, that it deserves to stay in print for a long time. Like the subject of cosmology itself, Harrison's Cosmology is simultaneously uplifiting and exasperating. Perhaps that is why I admire it so much and will be recommending it to students for many years to come." American Journal of Physics

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 578 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (March 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052166148X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521661485
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.3 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #565,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Martian Bachelor on April 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Even though "Cosmology" is technically a textbook, it takes a rather different sort of approach from the usual such offering. This book makes the subject come alive with excitement by employing a unique style. Even though the book was designed for intro ivy-league students, there's more than enough here to challenge (and intrique) someone who's fully science/physics-literate. The book emphasizes basic principles and intelligently avoids the various fads which seem to plague cosmology at any given time (inflation, dark matter, excessive veneration of the latest observations made with the newest & sexiest technology, etc). It makes clear the important distinction between astronomy and cosmology.
Harrison is both an expert in, and an aficionado of, the grand ideas about creation, so the hard science here is interspersed with relevant pieces of history, philosophy, and literature (i.e., the humanities) -- but not too much, rather just enough to give an appreciation for how great minds of all sorts have wrestled with these problems in one form or another for as long as we know. And Harrison has a way of boiling down the difficult concepts to their essentials, making an opaque subject transparent.
Even though the scientific level is moderately high for a book aimed ostensibly at novices, there are no lengthy mathematical derivations or formulas of the sort that one might think would be necessary to convey, say, Einstein's general relativity or the intricacies of sub-atomic physics. Often taking an order-of-magnitude and geometrical approach, the book avoids long confusing digressions into trivialities and summarizes many of its important points in excellent diagrams.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By henrique fleming on July 20, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the few science vulgarization books which gives more than just a journalistic cover of its subject. It gives you the history, the meanders, the highlights , the beauty and the greatness of the whole enterprise. More, it gives you effective tools to reach your own conclusions. In this case it is the model which describes the expansion of the homogeneous, isotropic cosmological space by means of studying light propagation in a chamber with mirrored walls which recede from one another. There is little that the author cannot explain with this simple model. Harrison is a distinguished cosmologist who happens to be also a very good writer.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jill Malter on December 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This cosmology book contains relatively little mathematics, so it can be read by almost any motivated person who is genuinely curious about the subject. And it has an enormous amount of interesting information that ought to intrigue even highly informed scientists.

Harrison traces the history of cosmology and reviews some elementary astronomy. Then we get to the question of a cosmological center and the Copernican Principle. Next is a stimulating discussion of whether the universe has an edge or boundary in space or time. After that, we're ready to read about curved space, relativity, and black holes (including "cosmic censorship," Hawking radiation, and black hole thermodynamics, entropy, and information content).

There is a wonderful chapter on the expansion of the universe, and an explanation of the Hubble sphere and its relation to the observable universe.

After a description of several models of the universe, we get to some observational cosmology: use of redshifts and supernovae to establish distance scales, ages of the universe, galaxies, and stars, amount of helium produced by a hot big bang, and questions about "dark matter." Harrison then discusses what happened not in the "first three minutes," but in the first second, including how inflationary theory can solve the horizon problem, the flatness problem, and the monopole problem.

Near the end of the book, there is a fine explanation of why the sky is dark at night (resolving "Olbers' paradox"). The book concludes with a short discussion of life in the universe.

This is an excellent and fascinating book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By James Benet on January 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Undoubtedly, "Cosmology, The Science of the Universe" by Edward Harrison is by far the best book on cosmology that I have ever read. Dr. Harrison did an outstanding job in presenting the physics of the universe. He does not shy away from presenting the mathematics necessary for a complete understanding of the physics involved in describing the universe (or universes as Dr. Harrison points out).
The book contains hundreds of equations, diagrams, illustrations, tables, charts, descriptions and analogies so the reader (or student) can grasp a complete understanding of the physics.
This book is a must for any student of astrophysics. I very much enjoyed reading and would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding the physics of the universe.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on December 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Although my education is in physics, it is all but impossible to keep up with your own field of study, let alone with all the other areas. Hence it is nice to find a book like this once in a while that will cover what's going on in areas of interest outside your own specialty.

So much of physics is buried so deep in mathematics that it is sometimes difficult to see the picture that the math is showing us. This book is the best I've seen that gives at least some discussion to the riddles that remain at the bottom of subjects like time, space, gravity, black holes, multi-dimensional -- the things that got most of us interested in physics in the first place. The overall treatment has to be considered elementary (no math) but quite broad in scope.

At the end of each chapter are two sections called Reflections and Projects. Between the two, I was reminded of Einstein's famous 'thought experiments.' Here is discussion that takes you beyond the text, beyond the state of the art as it is now known.

This book was first written in 1981. It went through a major upgrade in 2000 and a minor upgrade in 2005. As such it isn't absolutely up to date with the latest findings. For instance 'dark matter' is included, but 'dark energy' isn't. Then again anything that's printed in book form is going to be a bit out of date, by definition.

Excellent reading material for the undergraduate just getting started or those of us who've been 'here' while this part of the science went 'there.'
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