- 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)
The Age of Everything: How Science Explores The Past Paperback – 1 Nov 2007
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
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.
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.
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