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The Age of Everything: How Science Explores The Past Paperback – 1 Nov 2007

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (1 Nov. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226322939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226322933
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,531,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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"Ever wonder how we know with any certainty that the first humans arrived in the Americas about 11,000 years ago? Or that dinosaurs died out about 65 million years ago? Or that the solar system is about 4.5 billion years old?...Hedman is worth reading because he is careful to present both the power and peril of trying to extract precise chronological data. These are all very active areas of study, and as you read Hedman you begin to see how researchers have to be both very careful and incredibly audacious, and how much of our understanding of ourselves--through history, through paleontology, through astronomy--depends on determining the age of everything." -- Anthony Doerr "Boston Globe" (11/18/2007)

"We are used to being told confidently of an enormous, measurable past: that some collection of dusty bones is tens of thousands of years old, or that astronomical bodies have an age of some billions. But how exactly do scientists come to know these things? That is the subject of this quite fascinating book, a collection of detective techniques that begins with the deciphering of Mayan hieroglyphs and the reconstruction of their extraordinary calendar, like a huge system of gears; and ends by tracing the universe back to its own birth. As told by Hedman, an astronomer, each story is a marvel of compressed exegesis that takes into account some of the most modern and intriguing hypotheses.... The book is dense with fact but beautifully lucid." -- Steven Poole "The Gaurdian" (12/08/2007)

"A concise, readable, and instructive work that succeeds in explaining a sampling of methods for measuring age and modern applications of their use."--"Choice"

About the Author

Matthew Hedman is a research associate in the Department of Astronomy at Cornell University.

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Format: Hardcover
The Age of Everything is fantastic, covering the Maya calendars, dating the great Pyramids using the stars, C14 dating (how it works, the problems and how they are addressed), other radio nucleotide dating methods and finally how to date the universe using microwaves and supernovae. References abound, if a graph is shown, it has a reference to its source, each chapter has a further reading section and where to get the raw data from in many cases should you want to crunch the numbers yourself. This is one of the best science books I have ever read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.1 out of 5 stars 10 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great science! 14 Jan. 2011
By Book Shark - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Age of Everything by Matthew Hedman

The Age of Everything by Matthew Hedman is an interesting accessible book about how scientists determine the age of everything from carved symbols found deep in the rain forests of Central America to the age of the Universe. Thanks to the knowledge of converging scientific endeavors such as history, archaeology, biology, chemistry, geology, physics, and astronomy, and a lot of ingenuity we are now able to determine with more precision the age of "everything". The book is composed of the following twelve chapters: 1. Introduction, 2. The Calendars of the Classic Maya, 3. Precision, Polaris, and the Age of the Pyramids, 4. The Physics of Carbon-14, 5. Calibrating Carbon-14 Dates and the History of the Air, 6. Carbon-14 and the Peopling of the New World, 7. Potassium, Argon, DNA, and Walking Upright, 8. Molecular Dating and the Many Different Types of Mammals, 9. Meteorites and the Age of the Solar System, 10. Colors, Brightness, and the Age of Stars, 11. Distances, Redshifts, and the Age of the Universe, and 12. Parameterizing the Age of the Universe.

1. Interesting topic that shows what it takes to estimate the age of things.
2. Well written book that is accessible for all the science lovers in all of us. It takes some very complex topics and reduces it to a layman level of understanding and that is an accomplishment.
3. I'm in awe of human ingenuity! The book provides many examples of how converging sciences are used to come up with the most accurate age estimate possible.
4. You will end up with a much better understanding of how the decay of rate of known elements such as carbon-14 is used to determine the age of things. Furthermore, you will understand how that decay rate was validated by other scientific means.
5. Quantum mechanics explained so that even I can understand, sort of.
6. Want to know what Einstein considered his biggest failure as a scientist? You will find out in this book.
7. Many examples of interesting arguments within the scientific community, such as the arrival of the first people to the New World.
8. Plenty of illustrations and diagrams throughout the book.
9. My favorite chapter is how scientists determined the age of hominid bipedalism, love how converging sciences help to narrow the window of time.
10. Each chapter ends with further reading material, excellent!
11. I'll never look at a star the same way ever again.
12. I finally understand general relativity, Einstein would be proud....I think.
13. The author does a wonderful job of not "sugarcoating" the difficulties in estimating the age of things.
14. A lot of great scientific information in less than the 300 pages. A smooth, quick read.

1. If you don't like science by all means stay away from this book.
2. The Age of Everything can be dry at times.
3. Some topics are still difficult to comprehend, not a fault of the author, but the nature of some of the topics.

In summary, The Age of Everything by Matthew Hedman was an excellent book that filled my curiosity of knowing how we determine the age of things. The book is full of illustrations to assist the reader with concepts, it also has a lot of great reference material for those interested in further reading. It's the kind of book that makes you proud to love science and be in awe of human ingenuity.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars reference to discredit Young Earth beliefs 7 Sept. 2013
By Glenn - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I couldn't make out the logic in the chapter about the stars, and contacted the author with no reply. He writes about lining up the stars with certain points on earth, but how do you know what time of night to look or what day to look? The heavens appear to rotate constantly as the earth turns, so his argument didn't make much sense.

The Mayan calendar was interesting, but not relevant to my questions.

The best and most convincing parts regarding the age of the earth were the tree rings and the explanation of meteors and radioactive isotopes. How can anyone think the earth is only 6,000 years old when even something as basic as tree rings takes us back 10,000 years? The explanation of isotopes was completely convincing for me, since certain YEC's (young earth creationists) had me convinced that there was no way to know the starting point. Hedman convinced me that we can either know the starting point, or that the math works even without the starting point, based on having several elements and isotopes in the same meteorite, for instance. After that explanation, the fact that other methods give us a similar figure for the age of the earth and universe just seal the conclusions even more.

I am glad I bought this book, and that the relevant parts for me were so understandable and convincing.
5.0 out of 5 stars Written for the layman (though some prior exposure to scientific ... 3 Nov. 2015
By Clyde D. Bailey - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Written for the layman (though some prior exposure to scientific principles is awfully handy), this book explains highly complicated scientific matters in understandable form. It delves extensively into the mechanics of how carbon 14 dating of ancient objects is done, then goes on to explain how other isotopes have been discovered which take up where carbon 14 leaves off in measuring the length of time the object has existed. The author explains how a high degree of confidence in age measurement is achieved, and leaves the reader convinced that the methodology is logical and accurate. The reader comes away thinking "So that's how they do that!"
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and interesting 17 Nov. 2015
By Thomas Adams - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Like a whole bunch of Sci Am articles put together. Explains details of several isotope dating methods. Very good explanations of how dark matter and dark energy were found and measured. Explains red shift as result of expansion of universe. Explains what cosmic microwave background radiation is, why fluctuations in it is important, and how it is used to measure the age and size of the universe.
4.0 out of 5 stars you'll like it! 8 Nov. 2015
By Robert Gordon - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very interesting and very well written. The explanations of the techniques for various dating methods are clear (or as clear as possible.) The book deals not only with the ages of things on this planet, but also with items such as asteroids, comets, etc. Some of the results are mind blowing. Try it, you'll like it!
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