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Afterglow of Creation: Decoding the message from the beginning of time [Paperback]

Marcus Chown
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
Price: £8.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

21 Jan 2010

Stephen Hawking described it as 'the discovery of the century, if not of all time', yet the scientists who first detected the cosmic radiation that was identified as the afterglow of the big bang had to admit that it was more by accident than intention. At first its discoverers mistook the readings for the disruption caused by the droppings of pigeons that had nested in their telescope, and yet they went on to win the Nobel prize.

In the mid-1990s New Scientist writer Marcus Chown drove across America to interview the key scientists who had made this astonishing discovery. Their account and Chown's description of their achievement was published to much acclaim. But now, over a decade later, in this new and fully revised edition he goes behind the hype and the hysteria to provide a clear and lively explanation of one of the biggest discoveries in modern science - and a brilliant picture of what happened next.


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Afterglow of Creation: Decoding the message from the beginning of time + The Never-Ending Days of Being Dead: Dispatches from the Front Line of Science + We Need to Talk About Kelvin: What everyday things tell us about the universe
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (21 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571250599
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571250592
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 510,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A 'science for dummies' take on creation, built around an account of the discovery of radiation ripples from the Big Bang. -- The Times, January 16, 2010

The wonderful intro alone is worth the cover price. Witty and accessible science.
-- Scott Pack (former chief buyer Waterstone's), meanmybigmouth blog, February 10, 2010

Book Description

A fully revised and updated new edition of Marcus Chown's widely acclaimed first work of popular science.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to the Big Bang 20 Jan 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This is an excellent book for laypeople about the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite, and its discovery of ripples in the radiation from the Big Bang.
Electrons jiggling around generate radio waves. Temperature is just a measure of the average speed with which the atoms of a body are moving, vibrating and spinning. So any body, at any temperature above absolute zero, emits radio waves. Cool!
Why tell you this? Well, when they say the Background radiation is at a temperature of 3 degrees what they mean is, it's of the type of radiowaves that are emitted by a body at a temperature of 3 degrees.
-- and that's something I didn't know, before I read the book.
It's the least of what you'll get:
1. You get a history of the theory.
2. Details about radioastronomy, and how astronomers work around their problems (since everything -- the ground, the air, the dust in the galaxy, the cables on a balloon carrying a detector -- glows with radio waves, it's a bit tricky seeing the backround radiation of the Big Bang)
3. Peeks into how science works: you propose a theory, and then chuck it if it doesn't fit the data, except that sometimes it's the data that's at fault not the theory
4. The importance of confirming your results, so that scientific discovery's a community effort despite all the pushing to get there first
5. The importance of looking at all the ramifications of a theory: gas clouds in interstellar space are warmed by the background radiation, and people measured their temperature, and wondered why they weren't stone cold, long before the radiation itself was observed
6. Why that famous photo of pink and blue patches is both the truth and not
7. Interesting tidbits on cosmology
8. the personalities involved
...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chown vs Smoot 21 April 2010
By stupot
Format:Paperback
An interesting alternative history of the exploration of the cosmic background radiation and its implications for the theory of 'the Big Bang' origin of our observable universe.

Chown, through the presentation of a narrative based upon interviews with other key members of the COsmic Background Explorer team and a version of the history of 20th century cosmology, downgrades the role played by George Smoot (who shared a Nobel Prize for his and his team's role in developing the COBE experiment) and presents a panoply of alternative 'stars' of the story - only one of whom shared the Nobel Prize with Smoot.

Chown's explanations of the physical concepts are very clear and the story is quite gripping - and there's a useful update to the COBE findings in the new edition: a teasing coverage of the problems of 'dark matter' and 'dark energy' which may tempt the reader to want to go further.

A very good read!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great read 18 Oct 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
as usual, chown tells a brilliant story.

this book starts with the realisation that the milky way is just one galaxy amongst billions of others and goes on to explain the significance of that knowledge with reference to the more recently proposed big bang theory.

it's a fascinating tale. chown relates the serendipitous discoveries that astronomers and cosmologists have continued to find. these are men and women of gigantic intellect and genius. in short, you will probably find it as fascinating a read as i did.

on the other hand, it IS a shorter book than chown's other works. but that's not necessarily a criticism.
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