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You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe Hardcover – March 3, 2009
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— The Guardian
“Erudite, elegant and thoughtfully constructed…This is all wonderful stuff, the most thoughtful pop science book of the last few years and, along with Richard Dawkins's fine compendium, The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing, the most useful to the layman.”
— The Sunday Times
“For many years, I've secretly longed for someone to take me by the hand and walk me through time and space — someone who would marvel with me at every strange thing we encountered and pepper his scientific discourse with lines of poetry. This is what Christopher Potter has done.”
— Dava Sobel
“A marvelously capacious book that will attract serious readers everywhere.”
— Booklist (starred review)
“A well-executed, consistently readable layperson’s exposition of the state of scientific knowledge…Drawing on everyday experience to put the most esoteric phenomena in perspective, he makes his subject clear without dumbing it down. This is one of the best short surveys of science and its history in recent years.”
— Kirkus (starred review)
“This clear and smoothly written look at the mind-boggling history of everything is both informative and provocative.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
From the Hardcover edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
I did come across one error in the book which I thought should be mentioned. On page 39 (hardcover edition) Potter states that the Andromeda Galaxy is twice the size of the Milky Way, when in fact, even though Andromeda has many more stars, the two are considered to be about the same size and mass. See the Andromeda Galaxy article on Wikipedia.
I'm editing this review to add another factual error I found: on page 109 Potter states that J.J. Thompson measured the charge of an individual electron. Thompson in fact measured the charge-to-mass ratio of the electron (after discovering it). It was Millikan who measured the charge of the electron.
So, now I'm wondering how much I can trust the facts in this book which are new to me.
Here are just some of the topics covered in the book:
o A history of the philosophy of science
o The origins of Relativity and Quantum Theory
o The Standard Model of Particle Physics
o String Theory
o The history of the universe from the first tiny fraction of the first second
o How stars are formed, destroyed, and re-formed
o Evolution in general
o Geological history and mass extinction
o Human evolution
Over the last few centuries, scientific understanding has often worked to remove ourselves from a privileged place in the universe and to diminish the awe and wonder we experience as we contemplate our existence. "You Are Here" succeeds in restoring awe and wonder and fittingly ends with an apt quote from Freeman Dyson: `Mind is woven into the fabric of the universe'.
The very fact that Christopher Potter is not himself a scientist or mathematician only underscores that the nutshell cosmology he offers has become a TALE, just as the opening chapters of Genesis are another kind of tale to a similar purpose.
One of the most interesting themes that emerges from Potter's book is the extent to which we cross out of the intuitive. He explains again and again that analogies will get us nowhere. That childlike comparisons with the familiar are more distortion than clarification. He even warns at times that to exert one's self too avidly to visualize some of the abstruse aspects of the quantum universe can hazard madness.
Didn't some wag say that the universe is not only stranger than we imagine, but is "stranger than we are capable of imagining?" Such an observation really fits here, for the quantum origins of the universe -- set about by Planck space and Planck time -- are of a weirdness almost beyond description.
Potter does not come up with much new in this book, despite suggestions to the contrary by other reviewers. Rather, he takes a large patchwork canvas of myriad scientific popularizations and homogenizes it into a smooth, lucid narrative. He adds a dash of personal observation from time to time, and a little humor.
This book is just a very good effort to tell "the one story only that is worth your telling," the same story set down in the opening chapters of Genesis. It is science crossing over into our own peculiar 21st Century myth.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read this when it first came out and loved it, not sure why it didn't get more reviews. Very easy, clear and interesting. I guess it'd be outdated now, but it was good then!Published 3 months ago by weAreOnlyAtoms
Great read! Makes clear the immensity of our universe.Published 15 months ago by Steven Chrostowski
I had some difficulty with this book though I found it chock- full of interesting information and speculation. Read morePublished on January 27, 2014 by Shalom Freedman
This book is a great read and provides a useful perspective on the development of the universe. Highly recommended for any age.Published on September 24, 2013 by Thomas R. Henneberry
We all have those fleeting moments when a switch is suddenly flipped and you catch yourself zooming back to a wide-angle perspective on reality. Scary, isn't it? Read morePublished on June 14, 2013 by Omnivore
A great explanation of space and time, explaining early-on problems with past solutions and how we steadily advanced to what we understand now. Read morePublished on December 26, 2012 by TK
If you like to learn about the history of science , you will like this book . It's not just another book about it . It's a different point of view and a different way of learning .Published on December 9, 2012 by Philip
As good of a history of science and explanation of the universe and quantum science as a layman could ask for.Published on November 9, 2012 by R. Parker