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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon January 30, 2012
About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang by Adam Frank

"About Time" is the interesting book about time, both cosmic and human and how they relate to each other. Astrophysicist Adam Frank takes us on a journey of the human quest to find out what happened at that very moment of creation at the beginning of the Big Bang. He provides us with an understanding of how we got to the Big Bang and a provocative look at how cosmology has evolved and the looming alternatives. This 432-page book is composed of the following twelve chapters: 1. Talking Sky, Working Stone and Living Field, 2. The City, the Cycle and the Epicycle, 3. The Clock, the Bell Tower and the Spheres of God, 4. Cosmic Machines, Illuminated Night and the Factory Clock, 5. The Telegraph, the Electric Clock and the Block Universe, 6. The Expanding Universe, Radio Hours and Washing Machine Time, 7. The Big Bang and a New Armageddon, 8. Inflation, Cell Phones and the Outlook Universe, 9. Wheels Within Wheels: Cyclic Universes and the Challenge of Quantum Gravity, 10. Ever-Changing Eternities: The Promise and Perils of a Multiverse, 11. Giving Up the Ghost: The End of Beginning and the End of Time, and 12. In the Fields of Learning Grass.

Positives:
1. Fantastic book for the laymen. Complex themes that is accessible to the masses.
2. Fascinating topic of cosmology in the hands of an educator.
3. Excellent format. The author introduces each chapter with an amusing vignette and proceeds to his narration.
4. Elegant prose that at times makes you forget that you are reading a science book about cosmology. Science writing at its best.
5. Great use of charts and illustrations.
6. The author was fair and even handed. Very respectful and professional tone.
7. The holy grail of physics.
8. This whole book revolves around our conception of time and how it relates to the cosmos. A historical look at time and how the concept has evolved.
9. An interesting look at inventions over time and how it impacted our lives. The great inventors behind them.
10. How myths relate to the cosmos.
11. The most critical result of urban revolution.
12. How calendars and explicit divisions of the day emerged and how it evolved.
13. The wonderful history of Greece and how it is pivotal in the interlocking narratives of human and cosmic time. Great stuff.
14. Great tidbits of knowledge throughout. As an example, find out what book became the astronomy standard textbook for more than a millennium.
15. The difference between creation myths and no-creations myths.
16. The key five cosmological questions.
17. How cosmological thinking was limited by the Church.
18. The invention of the clock.
19. How Galileo confirmed the Copernican model.
20. The great Isaac Newton.
21. How transoceanic commerce drove the need to precision...latitude and longitude.
22. A practical look at thermodynamics.
23. The ever-fascinating Albert Einstein. Where he was right and where he was wrong.
24. The transformation of cosmology from a quasi-philosophical speculation to one grounded on science.
25. The great discovery from Hubble and Humason.
26. Quantum mechanics...I keep learning more and more.
27. The history of the Big Bang cosmology. The three unassailable pillars of evidence. Excellent!
28. The inception of NASA. Communication satellites.
29. A fascinating look at the early universe.
30. How technology impacted our lives: email, computers, appliances, tech gadgets (GPS), etc...
31. Dark matter and dark energy.
32. A great accessible discussion of the various alternative explanations for the question of "before" the Big Bang: brane-world cosmologies, eternal inflation, multiverses, string theory landscapes, loop quantum cosmologies. The strength of this book.
33. Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB)...enlighten me.
34. The Anthropic Principle and why it drives scientists.
35. This author does not hesitate to present radical ideas and lets us know what the scientific community feels about it. Many examples.
36. The radical concepts of time.
37. Quantum cosmology.
38. Links and excellent bibliography.

Negatives:
1. A chart summarizing the various cosmological theories would have added much value. The main scientists behind them and findings that either confirm or contradict the cosmology in question.
2. This is a very ambitious book that covers many topics of interest and in doing so of course will treat some topics with more rigor than others.
3. The author does a wonderful job of making such complex topics accessible but might disappoint those expecting a more in depth analysis.
4. I would have liked a little more conviction or perhaps a clearer explanation of where the consensus of the scientific community currently is. Is there a difference among the science fields? Perhaps I missed that but I think the author could have at least tied a bow of where we stand today regardless of all the various attempts to explain the "before" of the Big Bang.

In summary, this is an excellent book for all us cosmologists-want- a-be who want to learn more about our universe without being blown away by the complexity of it. Astrophysicist Adam Frank does a great job of educating the reader while skillfully moving the narration forward. A journey that interweaves its way proficiently through time as it relates to the cosmos. A well written science book that is worthy of your time!
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on August 9, 2015
The authors attempt at understanding time brings the reader closer to the question of the nature of things and the difference between things and processes as well as the possibility of things being parts of processes as well as processes being parts of things as well as the riddle of how some people perceive the world as a process without beginning or end while others perceive the world as a thing created within and coming to an end in time and space.

Whether intentionally or not the authors work serves to highlight the need for the emergence of perceptual capacities that enable the shifting from one of these perspectives to the other if a balanced approach is to be achieved.

The book is an interesting read and may be seen as a worthy attempt on the part of the author though it is not very clear whether what was achieved was indeed what was attempted.
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on January 4, 2014
The early chapters trace the development of how time is conceived in the relationship between human culture and the cosmos. Very interesting. Then Frank discusses time and cosmology, including relativity, banes, the Big Bang, and multiverses. Unless the reader has a fairly strong physics background, including its ability to contribute to theories regarding the beginning of time or no-time, the reader can become bogged down in theories that are too difficult to sufficiently wrap one's mind around to gain understanding. There is far too much of this in relation to earlier chapters, especially as Frank describes the theories of outliers as well as more mainstream ones. As a general reader interested in conceptions of time, I began to skim and then surrendered to what for me became the abstruse.
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on June 15, 2016
I liked the conversational style of the book. I was surprised to learn that before fast travel (railroads) most people were on "local time". Noon was always set to when the sun was highest in the sky. Time zones weren't used. The book got a bit more difficult when considering string theory and multiverses.
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on August 10, 2016
The history of time is examined from counting days and moon phases. It continues through the development of clocks, cell phones, and GPS. It then gets into Multiverses, String Theory, and Hidden Dimensions.
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on December 6, 2016
This is an excellent story of man's perception of time and the history of time keeping. I already had the digital version and ordered the paper one so I could mark it up and put post-it notes on the pages that I references.
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on July 20, 2013
I appreciate the authors ability to take complex subjects and render them digestible by the non scientist reader. I especially liked his tying time to the industrial needs of society. As society changed so did time, and there in lies the core of the book: time is relative. Does it even exist? The author does not commit himself to an answer but does leaves us with a variety of choices.
I recommend this book.
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on February 9, 2013
I have to agree with Lyle Crawford's review. I was quite disappointed by the book. Frank ends up focusing on cosmology in general just as much as on time and conceptions of time, and honestly, he's better on cosmology. When talking about culture, he not only seems not particularly well-informed (like someone who's only read the other popular books on the subject), but he also doesn't even sound that interested, as though he wanted to write a book just on his own work but was pressed into adding some "human interest" material.

Though Frank promises a look at the history of conceptions of time, he ends up repeating a lot of single-source opinions as fact (the prehistoric anthropology section at the beginning of the book is especially weak this way), and on the facts themselves, he doesn't seem to have made too much of an effort to get familiar with the sources. Since the job of a popularizer is to know the subject in and out and just tell you the best bits, this doesn't give me much faith in his skills.

I know a fair bit about the early modern period, and Frank treats Kepler before he treats Galileo, calling Galileo the final step in the Copernican revolution. In fact, Kepler and Galileo were contemporaries, and Kepler was rather a fan of the far more famous Galileo. Galileo rejected Kepler's ellipses (or else didn't even pay attention to them), and Kepler's three laws wouldn't take hold until after Kepler's death. Moreover, Frank seems to think it's odd that Kepler didn't entertain the idea of an infinite cosmos--but in those pre-Newton days, the intellectual infrastructure was a mess. It's amazing that those people got *anything* right.

Frank also seems to think that Copernicus was anomalous because his theory was based on aesthetics rather than on measurable improvements on the existing model. The entire 20th century history/philosophy of science--from Koyre to Popper to Kuhn and beyond--has established that Copernicus' theoretical revolution is far more the rule than the exception. Major shifts in science aren't made through careful observation and induction, but by creative thinking, chance accidents, and a slow and messy process of reconciliation and evaluation. But Frank's flippant remarks seem just to indicate a lack of interest on his part.

There's still good info in the book, but I'm afraid that for the historical material, one would be better served by John North's Cosmos: An Illustrated History of Astronomy and Cosmology for a much more informed look at what Frank teaches. For the contemporary stuff, the usual suspects like Brian Greene apply.
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on January 18, 2013
What does the concept of "time" exactly mean? What has it meant throughout history and what does it mean to us today? In "About Time", Adam Frank brilliantly delves into this question. The concept of "time" has alluded us throughout human history and we are now only starting to understand what time truly is. This is an excellent book that delves through the history and modern concept of time in helping us to better understand the reference frame which has helped guide our species.
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on May 19, 2014
Very interesting and not too difficult to understand the explanations of astro-physics. Much of the book links back to the social-cultural evolution as a result of the effects of scientific discoveries, as well as, the influence that society and urban life had on cosmology.
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