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4.0 out of 5 stars
Blunders of the Universe..., 9 April 2011
Professor Brian Cox's latest television series "Wonders of the Universe" was received with mixed appraise by the British public. Some found its presentation overly theatrical; others complained of the overblown soundtrack. Admittedly, I found that this follow up series was a little weaker in content than its fabulous predecessor, "Wonders of the Solar System", perhaps because this first series was far more focussed in terms of subject matter. Even so, I enjoyed WOTU thoroughly, and I speak only praise for Brian Cox's presentational style, which, as always, was delivered in an intelligible and enthusiastic manner - two qualities, I feel, that are the makings of good documentary television. Indeed, Brian himself responded to recent viewer complaints by saying: "At the end of the day it's a piece of film on television ... not a lecture" - I couldn't agree more.
As one would expect, the accompanying book is presented in a similar style: it draws on each of the four main themes of the series - light, cosmology, gravity, and time - using the analogies and case studies discussed on film. Though the book expands on this material, it does not go into prolonged or unnecessary detail, so those readers wishing to learn much more about the subjects explored in the tv series should look elsewhere. I, however, have found the book useful as a means of reiterating some of the more complex theories and principles behind cosmology, particularly with regard to particle physics, space-time, and stellar chemistry. The book is coherent and comprehensible, even to those with limited scientific capacity (like me); though I must admit that some of the mathematics and physics of it all was beyond my ability...
Despite being impressed both with the book's content and aesthetics (the book is very well illustrated throughout), it is a shame that it is riddled with so many grammatical and typographical errors. This is a little pedantic of me, I'll admit, but when I fork over my cash for something I naturally expect it to meet high standards. The Universe is a vast and baffling place, but it is even more so when Brian tells you it is both "93 billion" and "45 billion" light years across - that is quite a large discrepancy. Throughout the book there are a number of grammatical errors that disjoint the flow of the text, giving every impression that it was neither edited, or even proof-read, before publication. The book appears to have been hastily assembled and thrown onto the shelves; a little extra time spent checking for errors would have delivered a far more satisfying product.
That said, these printing errors are a minor issue in an otherwise brilliant - and highly recommended - book. If you enjoyed the television series, I am sure you will find this book equally captivating.