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The Universe: A Biography Paperback – 31 Jan 2008

4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (31 Jan. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141021470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141021478
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 531,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

John Gribbin is the author of bestselling books including In Search of Schrödinger's Cat, Stardust, Science: A History and Deep Simplicity. He is famous to his many fans for making complex ideas simple, and says that his aim in his writing is to share his sense of wonder at the strangeness of the universe. He trained as an astrophysicist at Cambridge University and is currently Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex.


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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A biography of the Universe? well, if your definition of a biography is that it describes its subject's birth, life and death then this is certainly a biography, and the title makes a lot more sense than "A Brief History of Time." One of Gribbin's main themes is, indeed, life -- he explains with great clarity how the outburst of energy from the hot fireball of the Big Bang got turned into stars, galaxies, planets and especially living things, which he says are not only ubiquitous across the Universe but most likely based everywhere on the same kind of chemistry (DNA and so on) that we are. As if this were not enough to blow your mind, he also goes into the latest ideas on string theory, membranes, and the idea that the Big Bang was actually a "Big Splat" caused when two membranes, like adjacent pages in a book, bounced off each other. Some of these ideas are more speculative than others, but one really excellent feature of the book is the way Gribbin distinguishes between "things we think we KNOW" like the general theory of relativity, and "things we THINK we know," like the Big Splat idea.

This is indeed the best plain-language guide to what scientists know about the Universe and everything in it that I have ever seen, and fully lives up to its billing. If you only buy one book by John Gribbin (and everyone should have at least one) then this is it.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm fascinated by the way this book provokes either a 5 star response or a 1 star response, with nothing in between. I''m a five-star fan myself, and I think the reason for the dichotomy (hem hem, as Molesworth would say) is that John Gribbin is so careful to get his facts right and to spell out what he means by words like "model." If you don't care and just want an easy but sloppy read, this might annoy you. But if you want the real stuff and proper science, there is nothing better. For as big a subject as the universe, of course it makes sense to start by spelling things out. And why shouldn't red shift come in where it does, if that's the proper place? I'm sure my views wont win any converts, and no doubt John Gribbin would aggree that any publicity is good publicity, but I just wanted to get this off my chest.

Dave
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Format: Hardcover
I am also surprised at the negative reviews of this book.

For me, the literary approach could not have been better. The subject matter in itself is so far reaching and mind blowing that I don't need it to be dressed up with unnecessarily flowery language. I don't want to be told to think 'Wow!'; I want to read the facts and feel the 'Wow!' for myself. And, did I ever feel it having read this.

Often, the only cutting edge astronomy which filters down to the lay person is in the form of shock news headlines like 'Scientists say life came from Comets!', and you are left with little appreciation of how or why anyone came to such conclusions; or indeed if it is even a prevailing opinion in the scientific community at large or rather a piece of crank research pounced upon by a desperate hack.

This book addresses many such remarkable conclusions and explains, in terms most of us can appreciate, where such ideas come from. The clear explanation early in the book of what a good scientist means by a 'model' is crucial to this understanding. It is because astonishing predictions made by such models have come to be observably true again and again that we can have some faith in further predictions that have yet to be conclusively observed.

To return briefly to the writing style: I found it to be clear and straightforward and the book was a real page-turner because of, rather than in spite of this. As with any good guide, there was nothing to get in the way of understanding and appreciating the subject, which is quite amazing enough in itself. But if I did detect any hint of John Gribbin coming through, it was his pleasure in being able to share his own sense of wonderment on themes he obviously loves and understands so well.
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Format: Paperback
The best thing about this book is that Gribbin takes pain to explain that when scientists (sometimes) say they "know" they mean that this is what they believe to be given very compelling evidence. Grist to creationists but I'd rather have honest theorising than unsubstantiated superstition. The worst aspect of this book is that it accelerates at such supersonic speed that I now have to go find a basic introduction but maybe that's a good thing. The book looks like it's pitched at the neophyte but you need a strong constitution and will have to suspend everything you know about how the world works to follow. A universe with 11 dimensions. Multiple universes parallel to each other or passing through each other without anyone being the wiser. Supersymmetry. String theory. Bosons. Baryons. Gravitino. Things that may not exist or we can't test but we should assume they are there because that's the only way the mathematical models work. All over my head but I still couldn't put this book down. Get me the aspirin.
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Format: Hardcover
Curious in a scientific sense. I was not looking for literary genius - I was looking to information and answers to questions that I have had for ages. This book provides that to a good degree.
I would say that it covers or tries to cover too many aspects at the same time. May be that is required to go to the depths that Gribbin has gone into. One weak area that I did find - is the discussion on String theories and M-theories. Then again, it is difficult to get into the detailed understanding of these, without the mathematics and physics of it all. Overall, and excellent book to gain more insight.
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