A half century ago, a shocking Washington Post headline claimed that the world began in five cataclysmic minutes rather than having existed for all time; a skeptical scientist dubbed the maverick theory the Big Bang. In this amazingly comprehensible history of the universe, Simon Singh decodes the mystery behind the Big Bang theory, lading us through the development of one of the most extraordinary, important, and awe-inspiring theories in science.

A baffling array of science books claim to reveal how the mysteries of the universe have been discovered, but Simon Singh's Big Bang actually delivers on that promise. General readers will find it to be among the very best books dealing with cosmology, because Singh follows the same plan he used in his brilliant Code Book: he puts people--not equations--first in the story. By linking the progression of the Big Bang theory with the scientists who built it up bit by bit, Singh also uncovers an important truth about how such ideas grow.
Death is an essential element in the progress of science, since it takes care of conservative scientists of a previous generation reluctant to let go of an old, fallacious theory and embrace a new and accurate one.
As harsh as this statement seems, even Einstein defended an outmoded idea about the universe when an unknown interloper published equations challenging the great man. Einstein didn't have to die for cosmology to move forward (he reluctantly apologized for being wrong), but stories like this one show how difficult it can sometimes be for new theories to take root. Fred Hoyle, who coined the term "big bang" as a way to ridicule the idea of a universe expanding from some tiny origin point, strongly believed that the cosmos was in a steady state. But Singh shows how Hoyle's research, meant to prove the contrary, added evidence to the expansion model. Big Bang is also a history of astronomical observation, describing the development of new telescopes that were crucial to the development of cosmology. Handwritten summary notes at the end of each long chapter add a charming, classroom feel to this revealing and very readable book. --Therese Littleton

Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe|-|0007162219

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