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Atom : An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth...and Beyond 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0316499460
ISBN-10: 0316499463
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Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli
"Seven Brief Lessons on Physics" by Carlo Rovelli
This playful, entertaining, and mind-bending introduction to modern physics briskly explains Einstein's general relativity, quantum mechanics and the role humans play in this weird and wonderful world. Learn more | See related books
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This meticulously detailed, if partly speculative, account of an oxygen atom's life is aimed at a broad audience, but Krauss (The Physics of Star Trek, etc.), the department chair of physics at Case Western Reserve University, is likely to alienate some of his Trekker fans with his ungainly discussion of quantum mechanics. Several billions of years ago, the protagonist of this tale emerged from a dazzling explosion that resulted in a slight imbalance between matter and antimatter. Although it is unclear how this disparity came about, it produced all the matter that exists in the universe today. Deciphering what occurred amid the resulting primordial soup to fuse quarks into protons and unite them with neutrons and electrons will prove a strenuous task for the lay reader, but Krauss's muddled prose becomes much more lucid as his oxygen atom grows older, flitting in and out of emerging stars and young planets. The atom bears witness to many cosmic phenomena before settling into the hot, carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere of a budding Earth. Through an exploratory discussion of how life may have unfolded, the author's ripe imaginative powers and literary prowess come into play. Krauss presents a wealth of information that covers a range of disciplines (such as geophysics, biology and paleontology) and concludes with a glimpse of the future, where the forces that spawned life will destroy it. Although physics fans may rush to pluck this one off the shelves, they will find that the book's virtues lie in its vivid descriptions of an evolving planet rather than its scholarly discussions of particle physics. (Apr. 11)Forecast: Despite its flaws, this will sell, thanks to Krauss's visibility (he's a contributing editor of Discover); the book has been optioned for a PBS series.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Scientific American

Starting with one atom of oxygen that arises as an effect of the big bang, Krauss, chairman of physics at Case Western Reserve University, weaves a tale that reads as compellingly as a good novel. He traces the atom's travels from the early moments of the universe to its participation in life on Earth and then considers what might become of it after life on Earth ends. The result is nothing less than a history of the cosmos.

EDITORS OF SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; 1st edition (April 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316499463
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316499460
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,350,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on March 31, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The idea of following the adventures of an atom from the Big Bang to far future certainly isn't new. David Darlings "Deep time: The Journey of a Subatomic Particle from the Moment of Creation to the Death of the Universe - and Beyond" (Delacorte, 1989) was there a decade ago. Still, Krauss tells a good yarn and has a chatty, user-friendly style that never lets his reader get too lost in the physics of this cosmic trek. Not perhaps for those who keep well abreast of the latest science, but a painless introduction to cosmology, quantum physics and the evolution of life for the neophyte.
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Format: Hardcover
Lawrence M. Krauss showed in _The Physics of Star Trek_ that he could nimbly handle the exposition of big ideas in physics. He has now picked perhaps the biggest assignment a science writer could tackle: the cosmos from beginning to end. In his audacious new book, Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth... and Beyond (Little, Brown and Company), Krauss has hitched onto an oxygen atom from the very beginning and perhaps even to the end of it all, showing the history and destiny of matter. It is an exhilarating ride.
To take the start of the atom requires, of course, that Krauss explain about what went before. His explanation of Big Bang weirdness is as clear as one can get. He goes on to explain how both quarks and antiquarks were formed, with quarks in an almost inconsequential majority but enough to make all the matter we see around us now. It was an accident that things turned out so, and Krauss's history is a list of strings of accidents to produce a world we can't help but see as full of design and consequence. It is no surprise that throughout his pages he has exclamation points; his own surprise at all he describes is refreshing and sincere.
The oxygen atom which is the focus of this big story has to be traced to quarks, and then to the eight protons and eight neutrons that would make up its nucleus. The protons and neutrons in the oxygen atom weren't close originally. They may have been galaxies apart in the hydrogen and helium atoms that constituted all of the original universe, and that clumped together to make stars. These nuclear furnaces started churning out heavier elements, include our oxygen atom, which joined with a couple of hydrogens on a snowball traveling around our solar system.
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By A Customer on April 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a monumental new book which should become a science classic. It is ambitious and broad ranging, yet lyrical and accessible at the same time. It a remarkable piece of science writing by a well known scientist. The scale and breadth of the topics covered compares favorably to Sagan's Cosmos, while the cultural references that help add a human touch are reminiscent of Bronowski's books. This is a story that captures our place in the cosmos by focussing on the life history of a single oxygen atom. In so doing, it personalizes a truly cosmic tale that goes well beyond physics, covering much of modern science. It is certainly Krauss' best book to date, even better than The Physics of Star Trek. The reviewer who indicated it is not new is also off base. Comparing it to books written a dozen years ago is silly. Much of the science discussed here was not even speculated about a dozen years ago!
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Format: Hardcover
Lawrence Karuss' "Atom" does a masterful job of reporting all the amazing numbers that govern the size and evolution of the universe, from Big Bang to Life on Earth to The End. He reports them in language that made me appreciate how big a number with a lot of zero really is. He follows one atom, from the Big Bang all the way through Life and beyond. He makes a lot of comments that give perspective on cosmic history and are funny too. His book encompasses physics, the development of the planets, and the causes of the origin of life -- an unusually large sweep for a book, but he pulls it off.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
First, “Atom” is one of the two best science books I’ve ever read. (*) Krauss is both an excellent writer and an outstanding story-teller. The majority of this book is compelling, at least to a science geek like me. Carl Sagan famously said, “We are all star-stuff.” Krauss uses the fictional life of an oxygen atom to explain to the reader HOW we all came to be made from star-stuff – how we came to be here – and speculations about the future and fate of the Universe.

Second, this is definitely a geek-book and will be of interest only to those who desire to know the details how our world came be.

This book was published in 2001 before the days of Kindle, so the Kindle version leaves something to be desired. I’d recommend a hard copy.

(*) my favorite science book ever …. “Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder” Paperback – April 5, 2000 by Richard Dawkins

Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth...and Beyond [Kindle Edition] By Lawrence M. Krauss. Review by John H Evans – October 24, 2014
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Okay, so I couldn't give it a 4.5 star rating which is where I would actually put it. Krauss is a skillful writer. In this book, it did seem to go slowly at times; but, overall, this is a fascinating concept. Following the creation of the constituents of an oxygen atom, the primordial atoms from the big bang, through it being a part of a supernova and star dust, star and planet systems and being a part of living cells and on to the ultimate destiny at the end of the universe as we know or can know it, all of this kept me wanting to read instead of mowing the lawn or other interesting jobs around the house and property. It's like what I always wished I could do, follow a toy boat from the local rivulet into creeks, rivers and eventually the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, only more interesting.
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