5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Atheen M. Wilson
- Published on Amazon.com
Our Evolving Universe is definitely a cut above the average work on cosmology and astronomy. The author, Malcolm Longair, is both an accomplished scientist and a noted lecturer on astronomy for young peoples' programs, which makes his book an ideal volume for those with a non-professional interest in this topic.
The photos are colorful and reveal the impressive advances that observational astronomy has made since the introduction of newer technology. This is made most apparent in the comparison of images of stars in the cluster 30 Doradus as observed from a ground observatory and from the Hubble telescope before and after the lens correction. My favorites are the color enhanced map images taken by means of xray, gamma ray, and infrared wavebands.
Although some of the material will be more accessible to those with a solid background in physics--the author explains in slightly more detail, for instance, wave-particle and stellar/solar physics than most beginning texts--the development of the theme of the book will still be understandable to the average reader with an interest in astronomy and cosmology. A good handle on interpretation of graphic data is a must, though, since the volume includes a number of graphic illustrations of concepts which will help the reader understand on an intuitive level the meaning of the formulae that the author includes. My own comprehension of physics is quite average, and I found the book understandable. This might in fact be a good way to introduce high school physics students to the practical application of the principles learned in their texts.
For those readers who feel intimidated by the introduction of formulae or for the interested individual of junior high level, the books Nightwatch A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe or the Universe and Beyond, both by Terence Dickinson, might be a better place to start ones reading before embarking on the Longair book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Obviously there's no point claiming that the evolution of the universe can be made simple- it wasn't, and it can't. However, Professor Longair, in this book, focusses on ideas rather than details and manages to strike what I think is a good balance between straightforward explanation and including enough detail to make the book a worthwhile exercise. A good example are the many graphs and charts that the book contain. As a maths teacher I had to work hard to understand what they were saying and how they related to the text, but I always felt it was worthwhile to do so. A picture (or a graph!) definitely paints a thousand words, even when the words are long and technical.
The book tells the story of the universe by explaining and discussing significant epochs and periods in the universe's early history, and their significance today. It explains the recently-discovered cosmic background radiation, the question of the ultimate fate of the universe and other fundamental and currently-undecided questions. You will quickly become used to considering the first second, micro-second, nano-second and pico-second of the universe and I can guarantee your head will throb after a while.
This is, in my view, a stunning book mainly due to the subject matter... though it would have been easy to obscure its nature. The pictures are wonderful and it is a "page-turner" for those who marvel at the cosmos. Read it, love it and then read Alan Guth's book on Inflation (I can't remember the title but I'm sure you can find it!)