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The Universe: A Biography [Paperback]

John Gribbin
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

31 Jan 2008

John Gribbin's The Universe: A Biography explores the story of our cosmos, from the mystery of its origins to how scientists think it might end.

  • How did the universe grow from a tiny fireball to its present size?
  • Where did life on earth come from?
  • How do planets form?
  • How will the universe end?
  • And how do we even know all this anyway?

John Gribbin, one of Britain's most popular writers about science and the people who made it happen, has decided to create a biography of the greatest subject of all: the universe itself, from beginning to end (and beyond).

From the Big Bang 14 billion years ago, the formation of stars and galaxies and the first stirrings of life, to the latest thinking on dark matter and a theory of everything - and beyond to the future possibility of a Big Crunch or a Big Rip - this is the life history of the entire world around us.

'If you really want to know about the greatest story there is, then this is the book to read'
  Independent on Sunday

'As clear an account of current thinking on the subject as we are likely to get'
  Daily Telegraph

'One of Britain's best and most prolific science writers'
  Sunday Telegraph

'The master of popular science writing'
  Sunday Times

John Gribbin is one of today's greatest writers of popular science and the author of bestselling books, including In Search of Schrödinger's Cat, Stardust, Science: A History and In Search of the Multiverse. Gribbin trained as an astrophysicist at Cambridge University and is currently Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Re-issue edition (31 Jan 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141021470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141021478
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 12.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 368,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing space 23 Jan 2007
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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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The eye of the Beholder 5 April 2007
By Dave55
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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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By Holf
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Headache Inducing 9 Aug 2009
By demola
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book if you are 17 Jan 2008
By A. Ray
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Science , Jolly Good When Well Told
Certainly a book that one cannot put down,and in fact will re-read a few times - good value. Superb read and trustworthy of facts. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mike Brooks
5.0 out of 5 stars John Gribbin - You are a master!
What a truly brilliant book, beautifully written and fascinating (OK to those "one star" reviews, it isn't written in iambic pentameter and for me its all the better for... Read more
Published on 3 Oct 2011 by Julian
3.0 out of 5 stars Text, text and more text.
Some tables, diagrams and the odd formula would have improved this book immeasurably. Even Newton's law of gravity was written as continuous prose.
Published on 13 April 2009 by Mrs. P. J. Nicholas
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting variety of ideas
Gribbin updates his previous similar books ( In the Begining & The Case of the missing neutrinos ) with quite a diverse book. Read more
Published on 5 May 2008 by J. Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars Big ideas in a small book
John Gribbin's deserved reputation is well endorsed by this book. His ability to make the arcane or obscure clear and understandable is brought to bear on some of the most... Read more
Published on 2 Mar 2008 by Stephen A. Haines
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull, indulgent.
I didn't get on with this book because it is written in what can be described as blank verse - that is no style or literary panache. Read more
Published on 2 April 2007 by Keithp
5.0 out of 5 stars Life, the Universe and Everything
I have never read a book before which explains so clearly how all the different parts of science hang together. Read more
Published on 3 Mar 2007 by Helen of Troy
5.0 out of 5 stars More a gallop than a plod
Wow! Somebody got out of bed the wrong side. I was so surprised by the description of this book as plodding that I got it down off the shelf and took another look. Read more
Published on 26 Feb 2007 by Charlie T.
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull plodding
No no no this will not do. You would think that after more than 30 years writing and over 100 book that Gribbin would have some literary style. Not a bit of it. Read more
Published on 19 Feb 2007 by Guy Pierce
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