From Publishers Weekly
Is it possible to discern the instant of the universe's birth? Aristotle believed the universe to be eternal, while a 17th-century Irish bishop insisted its creation occurred at the shockingly specific moment of 6 p.m., October 23, 4004 BC. Few questions have baffled and excited mathematicians, astronomers, physicists, geologists, theologians and average Joes as much as those that seek to explore the mysteries of time. Gorst, a writer and director of science documentaries, discusses how human understanding of time shifted throughout the centuries, as models of the universe became more accurate and instruments for gathering data grew more sophisticated. He spends the majority of the book on the time follies of scientific figures from the last three centuries, from Bishop Ussher (whose inaccurate October theory wasn't entirely debunked until the 20th century) to Newton, Buffon, Darwin and Lyell all of whom failed the time test. There's enough background in each of these profiles to keep readers engaged, and when Gorst reaches present-day science, there's a good payoff. The last three years have been particularly productive ones for astrophysicists, and it's now possible to offer an age for the universe based on real observational data (especially the Hubble constant in other words, the rate at which the universe is expanding). This brief and lively volume is a great middle-of-the-pool place to dive into the nature of time; its accessibility ensures that most readers will want to keep swimming.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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From Library Journal
More than 350 years ago, Bishop James Ussher used impeccable scholarship to present a staggering claim: he placed the creation of the Earth at 4004 B.C.E. Though wildly inaccurate, this date was still being published in Bibles into the 20th century. A writer and director of science programs for the Discovery Channel and Channel 4 in London, Gorst documents the turbulent times of Ussher and his predecessors, as natural philosophy began its quiet separation from Church doctrine. Gorst proceeds through the centuries, describing the drama behind many of the most famous names in science Newton, Darwin, Kelvin, Einstein, Hubble as they strive to contribute their discoveries to the most fundamental questions of their times. Gorst himself adds to the "historical science with a plot" genre with solid research and a thoroughly enjoyable story. Enthusiasts of Simon Winchester (The Map That Changed the World, LJ 6/15/01) will particularly enjoy Gorst's excellent first book. Recommended for public libraries. Andy Wickens, King Cty. Lib. Syst., WA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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