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Echo of the Big Bang Paperback – April 24, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 24, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691122423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691122427
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,759,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The exciting story of the quest to detect, record, and understand [cosmic background] relic radiation from the creation of the cosmos. In the book, Time magazine's senior science writer, Michael D. Lemonick, gives a concise but complete background on the birth of cosmology in the early 20th century. He covers everything from Hubble's observations of the expanding universe to the theoretical predictions of the afterglow. . . . Echo of the Big Bang is well written and nicely paced, and in addition to the science coverage, readers get an inside view of NASA and the social interactions (sometimes strained) of the scientists who work there."--Jennifer Birriel, Astronomy

"The author clearly has a flair for writing about popular science. His explanations of the (sometimes difficult) physics are admirably clear and the text is peppered with well turned phrases. As a breezy and engaging introduction to the basics of Big Bang cosmology it is highly recommended."--Peter Coles, Physics World

"Lemonick tells the epic story of MAP and the dedicated band of scientist and engineers who made it happen."--Marcus Chown, New Scientist

"Michael Lemonick has admirably documented a space mission that fulfilled its promise. . . . Echo of the Big Bang should be welcomed by aficionados of popular-level cosmology. It explains with remarkable clarity numerous key concepts. . . . It amply illustrates the importance of crossing disciplinary boundaries."--Joshua Roth, Sky & Telescope

"Lemonick has written an exciting story of both science and personal politics."--Choice

"This is a stunning revelation. A bombshell for theorists trying to figure out a theory of everything. When, and if, the nature of the invisible ingredients of the cosmos is unmasked it is obvious that physics will never again be the same. . . . [A] fascinating story . . . brilliantly told by Michael Lemonick."--Colin Keay, The Physicist

"I found this book to be simply wonderful. Lemonick uses broad strokes to paint the cosmologists' view of the universe, and he lets us see the inside story of those who seek answers to the big questions. It would be a great read for anyone wishing to keep current on where cosmology is headed."--Terry Johnson, Planetarian

About the Author

Michael D. Lemonick is a senior science writer at "Time" magazine, where he has written more than forty cover stories on a wide range of science-related topics. He has also written for "Discover", "Playboy", and other publications. His books include "The Light at the Edge of the Universe" (Villard) and "Other Worlds" (Simon & Schuster).

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Don't be put off by the size and modest production of of this book. This is extrememly well written. There is an honest attempt here to communicate as clearly as possible to the general public. Yes, given the quality of the writing there should have been more diagrams and more money spent in promoting it, but this book is still much better than anything Hawking has written for the general public and certainly much better than Smoot's ...effort on COBE. But it is too short and I wish the author had spent more time on the history of earlier attempts to measure the CMB. I think he was afraid of boring his audience, but I think a little more technical and scientific detail, maybe even a few equations, might have made things clearer. Also towards the end the author introduces ekpyrotic universes without much clarity and he is not very clear on the actual nature of the "acoustic" peaks except to say that they were expected to be seen if the universe was finite and curved...which it apparently is not. Excellent general discussion of the engineering problems involved in actually trying to build something. No book is perfect but if you are interested in the WMAP this is well worth buying. There are several other experiment going up in the future....a European MAP, an infrared background radiation scanner, as well as a series of polarization mappers and gravitational wave detectors. I hope the author stays on this beat because in my opinion he is one of the best science writers for the general public that I have read.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Michael Lemonick's 'Echo of the Big Bang' is a very interesting text that weaves some of the recent history and personality of science into one of the more interesting astrophysical discoveries of modern times.
The last chapter of the book is the one that those readers looking for the 'science' will want to read most, for it contains the summary of the findings of the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), launched in 2001. The probe collected data for over a year, looking for the signature of the Big Bang - the background radiation in the universe (Cosmic Microwave Background radiation, or CMB) that was variously discovered and misinterpreted until the 1960s. The probe's findings could be summaries in five key numbers:
1) the universe is 13.7 billion years old
2) Ordinary atoms make up 4.4 percent of the universe
3) Dark matter makes up a surprising 23 percent of matter in the universe
4) The Hubble constant (the rate of expansion per distance) is 71 kilometers per second per megaparsec (in other words, the further out, the fast the expansion)
5) Stars began 'turning on' in the universe 200 million years after the start, much earlier than expected
Okay, so these are fairly simple observations. What do they mean and why are they important?
Lemonick's book takes a longer view toward astrophysical cosmology (as opposed to the more philsophical and theological kinds) - this is a relatively new branch of one of the oldest sciences. Astronomy has been important since the earliest days of literate humanity, and possibly even precedes literacy - charting the stars for theological/religious/superstitious reasons as well as practical reasons (seasons, time keeping) have always been important.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The main theme of this book is the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB). In the first half of the book, the author discusses early predictions of the existence of CMB, its eventual discovery and interpretation as well as attempts at measuring its structure, in particular, the cosmic background explorer (COBE) mission. The second half of the book concentrates on the microwave anisotropy probe (MAP) project which also attempts to measure the CMB structure but with much greater resolution that COBE. The human aspects of the story are also well covered, clearly indicating that scientists, too, are indeed very human. The science and technology is explained probably as well as can be explained in a book of this size for a general audience; however, I feel that a big plus would have been the inclusion of a few extra diagrams to complement the text by more clearly illustrating how one can come to all the presented conclusions about the universe by simply looking at the MAP results. But despite this minor shortcoming, I feel that the book still deserves 5 stars since it is exciting and well-written, and gives the reader a sense of what it's like to be involved in cutting edge science. It is definitely worth the read - I highly recommend it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. Travis on October 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
Well written and easy to read. But the book is primarily a history of one satellite study of background radiation. The book is heavy on the history and interaction of the scientists (which is very interesting), but is light on explaining what they found and how what they found increased our knowledge about the beginnings of our universe. I was a little disappointed with lack of an attempt to explain the science. For example, the book hypes the fact that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, but does not tell how they arrived at this number. The books says the universe is 23% dark matter, but does not explain where this number comes from. Still I recommend the book for a good picture of how science is conducted. And I should mention that two of the scientists in the story won the 2006 Nobel Prize in physics for this study.
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