When I first came to these reviews, the only one was entitled "Physics Fluff", gave the book one star, and panned it based on "I flipped through this book at a bookstore and then read the Publisher's Weekly review." Having just heard Primack and Abrams speak on the book at a Stanford Physics Department Colloquium and been very impressed, I worried that people might miss the important messages they convey because of such negative comments based on a cursory review of the materials. While I am only a few chapters into the book and would normally wait to write a review (though I did hear the authors' 90 minute talk which summarizes their work), I feel it necessary to immediately counter an impression based on an even less thorough reading.
Primack has dared to explore territory where few scientists venture. (Abrams is an attorney, writer and poet, so we scientists expect her to be a bit strange - and probably wrong.) Primack and Abrams have written a book that weaves a tale of science, myth, and ethics. Mixing soft subjects with the hard sciences goes against religious doctrine - scientific religious doctrine, that is. And, as with most religions, this dogmatic approach is usually invisible to its adherents. Even though the authors are careful to distinguish the hard science from the softer areas, this is a dangerous mixture to introduce into a scientific culture.
For example, at the Physics Department Colloquium I attended, this problem was manifested during the Q&A period following the talk. People asked only about neutrinos, cosmic expansion, how we can see objects 40 billion light years away when the Universe is only 15 billion years old, etc. Primack the physicist answered all these questions expertly, while Abrams the poet stood largely mute and ignored although she had had equal time during the talk and had hit on a number of critical points - but all on the "soft" side. I racked my brain trying to come up with a question that would draw attention to the truths she had voiced and that would be appropriate in this temple of science, but could not. Instead, when I was recognized, I stated that conundrum and lamented the fact that we limit ourselves in this manner. That at least brought some recognition to Abrams' contribution and the problem we face.
In this book, there is something much deeper underlying all the wonderful cosmological physics that is beautifully explained. We live at a critical time and the fate of the earth hangs in the balance as our technological progress far outstrips our social and moral development. While to my mind, this is a scientifically established fact (e.g., see http://www-ee.stanford.edu/~hellman/breakthrough.html), other scientists will disagree.
This is not the place to argue whether or not the larger worldview espoused by Primack and Abrams, and to which I subscribe, is correct. Rather, I encourage you to read their excellent book, with one proviso. If it makes you mad to see science discussed outside of a narrow box of numbers and equations, as I suspect was the case for the reviewer mentioned above, do not read this book. There is enough anger in the world already.
But if you truly believe there is one Universe as opposed to art and science each inhabiting separate worlds (even though it is extremely difficult for our intellects to see their connection), then I heartily recommend this book. If you are scientifically trained, you may still, as I did, occasionally get a queasy feeling and want to cry out "Hey wait! How can they say that?" But, if you keep an open mind, more often than not, the second part of that interjection will be answered in a way that opens new vistas. Even in the few chapters I have read thus far, I have been well rewarded with new ideas and viewpoints.
P.S. While the audience at the Colloquium asked only hard science questions and largely ignored Abrams during the Q&A, the large stack of books that the Stanford Bookstore had on sale afterward sold very well. Also, many people came up and asked her questions after the formal Q&A was completed. So there is more hope than that story might first indicate.
P.P.S. I have since finished the book and stand by my earlier review, above. No changes were needed. The only thing I would add is that I learned some very interesting physics from the book. For example, it presents a very simple and understandable explanation for why physicists now believe that the majority of matter in the universe is "dark matter."