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Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really good parts; needed the services of a good editor, 20 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: About Time: From Sun Dials to Quantum Clocks, How the Cosmos Shapes Our Lives (Paperback)
It's a curious book: unique in starting the narrative far back in history, and working gradually forward (more or less chronologically) through Egyptians, dark ages, the one-handed clock era, two-handed clock era, the life effects on humans of a changing understanding of time; right through to the modern theories of time in the cosmos. Even as an avid reader of cosmology books, some things were new and fascinating to me; while some things I've read elsewhere became clearer or gave new insight.

Time is abundant in this book. It's the primary subject, of course, but also its strength and its weakness. On the positive side, Adam Frank takes the time other authors cannot afford to give lots more detail. For example, I've often heard that Lamaître was the Belgian Priest who first theorised the big bang, and about Gamow's work in nuclear physics. But this book told the story of how the Big Bang concept was almost separately theorised three times and fell out of favour; about weaknesses of Lamaître's concept; about the Alpher and Gamow paper about the Big Bang to which Gamow spuriously added the name of the Nobel laureate Hans Bethe as a joke to make the paper's authors sound like "Alpha, Beta and Gamma"; that all three scientists had eventually left theoretical physics in some disillusionment, and that Gamow had written "Mr Tompkins" books about a guy falling asleep during lectures of famous physicists and having dreams which explained the principles of their work. This kind of fascinating detail runs through the book, and it's great!

On the other hand, the author takes regular time-outs from his factual account, to relate bizarre stories which seem so tangential, it's like somebody switching TV channels without warning. These asides most often come at the beginning of the chapter, and in the paper publication they're helpfully printed in italic which allows the accustomed reader to skip them. Listeners to the audio-book version are out of luck, and must just try to be patient until normal service resumes.

So in summary, I think it's a really good read; but it should be a slightly better and 25% shorter read, to make it an excellent book. In fact, I've persuaded myself while writing this review that the book is nearer 4* quality than my original intention of a 3* rating.
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