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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Bang! The Complete History of the Universe
Format: Hardcover|Change
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on 12 November 2009
The three great and well respected authors of this book have come together to write a most engaging and understandable book. The hardback version announces itself with a dramatic animated image on the front cover which, as you tilt the book, changes from the tiny beginning of the universe to the big ball of fire shown in the picture of the book here.

The book is large with quality colour printing throughout. The terminology used is clear and easy to understand which makes the subject accessible for the young (9-10 years) and older non-scientists alike. I have a degree in physics and I've always been dismayed when fascinating subjects have been unnecessarily complicated by a language and style only a very few can tolerate. This book breaks down these barriers and is an easy read for what is a galactic subject!

Apart from having lots of nice pictures to look at, it provides a wealth of information without being a heavy read. An inspirational, educational and enthralling read!
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on 25 July 2011
I bought this book in the Oxfam shop (very cheaply I might add) and I have just finished it. I found it to be very good, and a thoroughly enjoyable read. However, I would like to add a few provisos to that statement.

Generally speaking, this is a book for beginners to the subject, who really wish to know more. It would also be suitable for those who know just a modicum, and wish to build on their knowledge. However, if you are already very knowledgeable about astronomy, the book can be a bit trying, because it spends a lot of time explaining basic stuff which you probably already know. If you fall into the latter category, you may find yourself saying "get on with it!" when reading the text.

I also noticed that the book sometimes has a tendency to swing from one subject to another in a slightly erratic way, rather like a weathercock in a gusty autumn wind. For instance, you might have the text on one page telling you about a particular aspect of the Big Bang, and a picture and caption which covers a completely different subject. All the same, the subject is a very large one (needless to say) and the book makes an excellent attempt to cover it all.

I like the strictly chronological approach, which is very sensible, and takes you from the instant of the Big Bang itself, to the far distant future.

Lavishly illustrated throughout, with colour pictures, diagrams and classic astronomical photos, the book sweeps you along. The text is informative without ever once being baffling, so you want to keep turning the next page.

All in all, this is an excellent book for those in the right knowledge band (non-expert) and only the above minor quibbles prevent me awarding the full five stars.
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on 18 September 2008
As soon as I saw this book and read the reviews I had to buy it, On receiving the book you can tell immediately a lot of hard work and thought has gone into it, the book itself is beautifully put together the front cover has a striking hologram on the front, it's a well executed graphical representation of the Big Bang and is a really nice bonus.

I liked how the book puts forward fairly complicated astronomy and science in an easy and enjoyable way, without the feeling you're being spoken down to.

The book is ideal for a younger audience too as it's layout is striking while at the same time being useful and intuitive, there seems to be a very good reason for everything in this book. The science, the layout, the graphics and the stunning illustrations are all top class.
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on 31 December 2006
It has taken 13.7 billion years, but the Universe has finally produced a coffee-table quality book to commemorate the Big Bang and its consequences. _Bang! The Complete History of the Universe_ (Carlton Books) by Brian May, Patrick Moore, and Chris Lintott is not massive, as coffee-table books go, but its big format is perfect for the dramatic sorts of pictures that the Hubble Space Telescope or the larger Earth-bound telescopes can give us. It isn't just pictures, however. The text does an exemplary job of covering a huge amount of information. Necessarily, in 190 pages laid over with photos, details are skipped; on one page are both the disaster of the Permian Extinction 250 million years ago and the Cretaceous Extinction (wiping out the dinosaurs) 65 million years ago. There is the most detail in the earliest pages of the book, dealing with the events before around 700 million years ago, when there started to be discrete objects like galaxies that we could have actually seen, had we been there at that time. (In a sense, we do see them at that time, as the Hubble's lovely deep field images can show.) This is also the part of the book that makes the least sense to those of us who are stuck in a Newtonian world. There are books with fuller explanations of the strangeness of the Universe immediately after the Big Bang, but none quite so much fun.

For fun is obviously part of the trip the three authors have taken, and it starts right on the cover, which above the book's title shows a huge, glowing, fragmented fireball, obviously the Big Bang in progress. "Our cover artwork is for fun only. There is no suggestion that any part of the Big Bang ever looked like this." Not only that, but it could never have been seen at such a distance, because there was no such distance; space did not exist except within that Bang. There are still gaps in our understanding of the Big Bang and how it produced all we are and all we see. "We must remember that it is impossible to prove a theory, and all one can hope to do is ensure it is consistent with all the available evidence." The evidence isn't all in, and they remind us, "...we would be amazed if in a few years time our book would not need to be substantially re-written." Given all the confirmatory data, it is hard to imagine that the big picture given here would be in error in any large way. After the main text of the book, there are a useful glossary, capsule biographies of the modern astronomers and cosmologists who have added to our understanding of the Big Bang, and a basic primer on practical astronomy that includes good directions about the topic "How to become an astronomer". This is upbeat, compared to the final chapter which has to do with the end of the Universe.

Much has been made in the British press about the personalities who produced the book, although _Bang!_ would easily stand on its own without famous authors. The least known is Chris Lintott, a working astrophysicist who assists Sir Patrick Moore in presenting a famous monthly BBC show _The Sky at Night_, which is now the longest-running science program in the world. Moore himself, because of his show and his hundreds of fiction and nonfiction books, is possibly the world's best known astronomer. The surprise author, for those who do star-gazing of the celebrity rather than astronomical type, is Brian May, who as a kid was inspired by one of Moore's books to take up astronomy. He was a founding member of the famous rock group Queen and a guitarist of some note. May was doing his PhD studies in interplanetary dust when Queen took off (he wrote such songs as "We Will Rock You"). He is currently updating and completing his thesis in between musical activities, although he does already have an honorary degree of Doctor of Science. If a little celebrity power gets people interested in the book, and interested in the huge amount of scientific thinking it reflects, I think it makes up for the additions to our culture made by, say, Britney Spears. _Bang!_ is a wonderful summary for adults and would be a terrific book for any reading young person.
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on 12 August 2013
So much for the stunning illustrations: there were none. The kindle version of this book has just a few black and white star maps and these are of poorer quality than those seen in Patrick Moore's books over 30 years ago.
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on 12 November 2006
I can't remember when I was last so sorry to finish reading a book!

Well, the aim of Brian May, Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott was to make the wonderful story of astronomy available to the general reader - and since maths and physics dimwit me feels she has understood it, I think we can say they've done that!

BANG! is an incredibly beautiful book, worth getting just for the photographs of stars, planets and galaxies. It also contains useful diagrams explaining such things as timescales and star formation. Pictures really can't capture the cover of the book, which is a "lenticular explosion" - 8 pictures, starting with a tiny star and ending with a terrifying fireball - depending on the angle at which you view it. I spent the first few hours just playing with that before I actually got around to reading anything.

The first chapter ("Genesis: In the Beginning") which deals with the first less-than-a-second interval, is the hardest work, especially if you'd never heard of positrons and have to be reminded how standard form works. But they're very sympathetic. Without once going into actual maths, they put explanation boxes separate from the text, and diagrams where appropriate. Once the application of these difficult concepts becomes so clear, you really want to know!

Later, the pace changes from Planck time (ten to the minus forty-three seconds, and yes, you will want to know) to billions of years, and everything feels all over too quickly. Early on the Universe becomes transparent - that is to say, electromagnetic radiation can actually get through it - then the first generation stars begin to form, burn themselves out and die differently according to their size, and along come black holes . . . There is some discussion of how life may have come about on Earth, and how unlikely it is that all conditions will actually be right to support it. After that they predict the future of the Earth when the Sun completes its lifetime; how, judging by stars of similar size, the Sun is likely to die; and the possible fates for the Universe.

There is also a section on "Practical Astronomy", nicely placed at the end just when you are dying to be an astronomer and find more out yourself; some short biographies of the astronomers who made the especially important discoveries; and a neat little timeline. There is also a brief section on the authors on the back, and the odd photo of them having fun playing with telescopes, but no self-promotion or need for honour and glory at all!

No, I'm not one-sided at all. Lynn Truss might have something to say about some of the punctuation. Is that balanced enough? :-D

Oh, and like the very best science writing, there's the odd joke around. Look out for the one about the Galaxy bar. It still had me giggling the next day . . .
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on 30 September 2013
The best book I have read which attempts to explain what once must have been unexplainable. There are still the moments when you want to know 'But how do they know that" particularly when dealing with incredibly small numbers in the passage of time and space. It is a privilege to be around at this time in history and to learn about how we got to this stage and where our future lies. Unless of course there is something else out there.
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on 21 August 2013
For anyone that like me that wanted to understand what is up there this is essential reading. May, Moore and Lintott go into great detail without over complicating the text (the only equation mentioned is E=mc2). Everything is covered with helpful diagrams and fantastic images and the brief biographys of some of sciences greatest men make this a must read.
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on 16 August 2013
Isn't it wonderful when you can educate yourself in what can be a very complicated subject? But it takes talented and expert writers to crack that code and with this gem of a book these 3 authors succeed admirably. Well structured, easily understood and with the bonus of the very good biographies section at the end.
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on 18 December 2013
Often the great problem of writing about the cosmos is trying to understand it all. Well, Patrick Moore, Brian May, and Chris Lintott certainly get my vote for that. An uncomplicated text with great detail makes this book an excellent tool for learning. RIP Patrick.
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