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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 March 2016
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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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 February 2003
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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VINE VOICEon 2 June 2000
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. At the end of this arguement, he talks about the "Anthropomorphic Reasoning" by which we can understand this. These ideas are very speculative and are disputed by many others. Reese achieves a good balance by writing about these disputes.
If you want a book that will give you the current state of the art view of cosmology together with some fascinating speculation about fuuture developments then this is just the job.
I can only level a small number of criticisms at the book. I suspect that most of the target audience will already be familiar with the first 60% of the book so, perhaps, it would have been better to condense that material. The "Further Reading" list at the end just has a collection of titles and authors with no expansion on the contents of these references. Some more information here would be a huge help to readers wondering what to look at next.
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on 23 February 2009
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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on 27 January 2015
Before the Beginning: Our universe and others. Martin Rees.

Fascinating read. I must admit to cosmology / Astronomy being an interest of mine, to give a little balance to this review, but this book is aimed at the casual reader not the expert and gives anyone an insight into the developments in the field, from the point of view of one school of thought in this arena. If nothing else you will at least be able to follow Brian Cox on TV.
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on 10 April 2011
Martin Rees has just been awarded a million pounds for his contributions to answering Life's Big Questions. I was prompted to revisit this book, which is an excellent introduction to cosmology.

The title is not particularly accurate - it isn't primarily speculating about events preceding the big bang - although he does end with a section which includes this.

There is, of course, no reason why the human brain should understand cosmology, and any book on the subject which manages to be written in plain English is already outstanding. Professor Rees certainly gives the impression that he's used to communicating with non-physicists.

He describes the evolution, expansion, structure and chemistry of the universe; stars, black holes, dark matter, quarks,strings, inflation, antimatter, multiple dimensions, multiple universes, fundamental forces, and spacetime fluctuation.

Everyone should try at least one cosmology book, even if, for most people, that would be enough.

This guide would be as good a choice as any.
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on 1 July 2013
The astronomer Royal is always fascinating,, informative, inspiring and above all uderstandable even with a subject as difficult for the average reader as the present. Highly recommneded, the ( or this?) World is not enough.
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on 17 May 2015
Sorry, I'm still reading it but a fine story so far.
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on 17 December 2016
Prompt delivery. V good book
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on 6 December 2014
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