Open University students, for whom this book was originally written, will already have finished Lambourne's excellent "Relativity, Gravitation and Cosmology". They will also read Ulrich Kolb's "Extreme Environment Astrophysics", the three volumes forming the basis of the of the OU's Relativistic Universe "module" as part of a Physics/Astronomy degree. This book then, is aimed at readers who have already studied relativity at degree level, and have a good command of the mathematical foundations of physics. For self-teachers, I think Lambourne is a great place to start, as it brings the reader (who may "only" have vector calculus) on a tour through the mathematics of general relativity. Thankfully, there are many great calculus books that are popular with self-teachers.
This fascinating book is very well written, guiding the reader through the theory and mathematical methods of modern cosmology. It covers such topics as cosmic inflation, gravitational lensing, the cosmic microwave and x-ray backgrounds, and baryon acoustic oscillations. Serjeant manages to strike a good balance between breadth and depth of coverage for readers who need a solid overview of the theory and methods of modern cosmology, while the recommended reading lists are good for anyone wanting to specialise in a particular area.
This book is a good overview of the subject for graduate students, but unfortunately fails somewhat when it comes to third-year undergraduates. Although the illustrations are impressive, the captions are sometimes somewhat lacking. Another problem is that the index (and indeed the use of common terms in the main text) is far from complete. Rather a shame, since this is a failing that would have been relatively simple to correct -- NAMING all terms defined in the line before the equation that defines them!
As such, it assumes a familiarity with some of the basic terms that a graduate student could be assumed to have, but that an undergraduate may not.
The author sometimes gets a bit carried away with filling in unneeded detail. To take an example (and a field in which I work), the convolution theorem. This is dealt with in an aside, but tries to cram into less than a page a level of detail that I don't teach to 3rd-year undergraduates doing computer vision, and that takes a considerable portion of a lecture when presenting it at masters level.
The author is incapable of explaining anvthing properly. Instead, he avoids the effort by referring to later chapters or to mathematical methods that are neither assumed nor explained. How this book was ever approved as a distance learning text is totally beyond me. Read the wikipedia article about the Cosmic Microwave Background and you will probably understand it better than from this book. Awful.
Cosmology is one of the key frontiers of knowledge today, and is currently being driven by observations from powerful new telescopes (many in space) across the electromagnetic spectrum. The author provides an outstanding and detailed introduction to the subject. This is not a popular introduction: the mathematics are all there, but so too is an approachable and witty commentary and many outstanding figures. Highly recommended.
A comprehensive review of the methods of obtaining cosmological data. Particularly useful were the on-line reference papers. As usual with Open University texts the fully worked exercises were very useful in explaining the key points.