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Before the Beginning: Our Universe and Others Paperback – 2 Sep 2002

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; New edition edition (2 Sept. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074323099X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743230995
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.4 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 884,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'The real stuff of astronomy -- written by the best authority' --Stephen Hawking 'Mind-stretching... Equipped with little more than an inquiring mind, the reader can accompany this expert guide across the length and breadth of our universe, backwards and forwards in time, to find out just what cosmologists nowadays do and don't know' SUNDAY TIMES 'Masterly... I cannot think of a more civilised and stimulating way to escape from the mundane concerns of everyday life than to read BEFORE THE BEGINNING' FINANCIAL TIMES 'Fascinating... A highly accessible book... Sir Martin Rees does much to persuade us that the cosmos might well be even more spectacular than we could have imagined' SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 'If you haven't read a single cosmology book, this is a good place to start' NEW SCIENTIST 'This is the book for those who read A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME and were still left wondering whether they quite had the whole picture' GUARDIAN

About the Author

Professor Sir Martin Rees is currently a Royal Society Research Professor and Astronomer Royal. Though based at Cambridge University, he travels extensively and collaborates with many colleagues in the USA and elsewhere.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Feb. 2003
Format: Paperback
This fascinating book deals with inter alia pregalactic history, black holes, dark matter, time in other possible universes, ecology of universes, omega and lambda, great attractors, pulsars, neutron stars and anthropic reasoning, which the author defends. It represents a drastic enlarging of our cosmic perspectives - the cosmos is more spectacular by far than we could have imagined. He also maintains that the apparent fine tuning that our existence depends on cannot be a coincidence. What we call the universe is likely to be just one member of an ensemble, but ours may be in an unusual subset that permits complexity and consciousness to develop. Our universe could be an atom in an infinite ensemble, a cosmic archipelago in which impassable barriers prohibit communication between the islands. Quoting scientists like Hawking and Chandrasekar throughout, the author broadens our understanding of cosmology and quantum science while offering unique and interesting new perspectives on our understanding of consciousness and existence. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
This is a book about Cosmology from a big perspective. It takes a view on the very existance of our universe. How it may have come into being and what there may be beyond it in time and space.
Of course, these matters are not the subject of simple experiments but it is remarkable that our understanding of nature allows such speculation.
This book is aimed at a non-technical audience and the overall style is clear and the arguments lucid.
The author starts with an introduction that explains our universe as it has been understood through the main developments of physics in the last one hundred years. The sections on gravitation effects, ranging from stellar collapse to massive black holes missing mass and expansion were presented with great clarity.
However, if you are looking for a book that talks about "Before the Beginning", you may just find yourself wondering why you read the first nine chapters. They are a good, non-technical introduction but they are about our universe from the big bang to the present time.
The last 40% of the book actually contains material hinted at in the title. The author makes the point that our universe is remarkable in the way that it is fit for human life. He then links this observation to the current thinking about the origins of the universe.
Perhaps, our universe is one of many. Very, very many and this one just happens to suit the development of life but there may be many universes "out there" that are still born in the sense that they cannot support life.
Reese explains how space time inflation may lead to universes with different laws of physics and how universes may spawn new universes through the formation of black holes.
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This is a well written book, as far as popular science goes. And it concerns a very interesting topic: the nature and history of the universe.

The author is concerned with the problem of the origin of the cosmos, and he asks the question 'what existed prior to the universe?'

Unfortunately, he only goes so far as to say that the question is interesting ... other than that, he limits what he says as he claims that anything that may have existed prior to the Big Bang is beyond the horizon of our universe, and therefore unknowable.

If that's his working premise, the problem of 'before' becomes redundant. If redundant, what's the point in writing a book about 'before the beginning'???

The book is full of conjecture ... it's metaphysics masquerading as science. For instance, the author is interested in the 'multi-verse' ... possible other universes. He admits that such other universes are unknowable, and cannot be proven, but he asserts that they are a scientific problem.

I find myself being sceptical. But science is about scepticism, so that's okay.

However, I would have liked to see some actual discussion on what "might" have existed before the beginning. As it is, the title of this book is highly inaccurate!
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i like martin rees' style of writing. he is concise and informative, tells a good story and is witty into the bargain. his speculative ideas are exceptionally well thought out and persuasive.

this book tells the history of the cosmos, as far as science can hypothesise, from the moments even before its existence, through the "big bang" event, hyperinflation and continues to explain where we are presently, approximately 14 billion years later. along the way we are treated to the theories of how the various elements may have formed (nucleogenesis, as rees calls it), how life might have arisen, how lifeforms from other parts of the universe might attempt to communicate with us (i smugly presume the prime sequence on page 24 is a typo since it goes 1, 3, 5, 7, 11 ...), and how the numbers highly speculative and intriguing numbers omega and lambda might influence how the universe might continue or end. we can be sure that it will peter out to nothingness, dissolving into an ever-diluting wash of radiation; stay constant, i.e. continually expanding, or bounce back into a so-called "big crunch", possibly resulting in a new creation event, another "big bang"). i can't wait to find out.

i loved this book and have read it three times and will definitely read it again. a five-star book!
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