Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe

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Harper Collins, Nov 1, 2005 - Science - 560 pages
22 Reviews

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.

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Big bang: the origin of the universe

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Writing in a manner that almost any reader will understand and enjoy, best-selling author Singh (Fermat's Enigma ) here presents a brief history of the origins of the universe, taking on the most ... Read full review

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I had enjoyed reading Simon Singh's 'Fermat's Enigma' and 'The Code Book' immensely. So, it was no brainer to read this 532-page book on the theories relating to the origin of the Universe.
This book
is a history of the Big Bang model, providing at the same time an insight into what science is and how the scientific method works. It traces the history of how an idea is created, tested, verified and finally broadly accepted. The book can be summarised as follows:
"Initially, all matter and energy was condensed to a point. Then there was the Big Bang. The Big Bang was not an explosion IN Space but an explosion OF Space. Similarly, it was not an explosion IN Time but OF Time. Both Time and Space were created at the moment of the Big Bang.
Within a second, the super-hot universe expanded and cooled dramatically, falling from a few trillion to a few billion degrees. The universe contained mainly protons, neutrons and electrons, all bathed in a sea of light.The protons, equivalent to hydrogen nuclei, reacted with other particles in the next few minutes to form light nuclei such as helium. The ratio of hydrogen to helium in the universe was fixed largely within these first few minutes and is consistent with what we see today.
The universe continued to expand and cool. It now consisted of simple nuclei, energetic electrons, vast amount of light, with everything scattering off everything else. After roughly 300,000 years, the universe had cooled sufficiently to allow the electrons to slow down, latch on to the nuclei and form fully fledged atoms. This effectively prevented further scattering of light, which ever since has been sailing through the universe largely unhindered. This light is known as the Cosmic Microwave Background(CMB)Radiation, a sort of luminous echo of the Big Bang, which was predicted by Gamow, Alpher and Herman and detected by Penzias and Wilson.
Detection of CMB radiation also showed that the universe contained regions of slightly higher-than-average density when it was 300,000 years old. These regions gradually attracted more matter and grew denser so that the first stars and galaxies had formed by the time the universe was roughly a billion years old. The nuclear reactions initiated inside the stars went on to form the medium-weight elements, while the heaviest elements would be created in the intense conditions of the star's violent death throes. It is thanks to the stellar formations of elements such as carbon, oxygen, nirogen, phosphorus and potassium that it was possible ultimately for life to evolve.
And here we are, approximately 15 billion years later!"
The book is engagingly written in a very easily readable manner, giving the historical perspectives along the way. The author shows how the Catholic church embraced the Big Bang theory for obviously the wrong reasons as opposed to the competing 'Steady State' theory. He also shows how both the theories were unacceptable to the communist states because of their dogmatism. Though the book is 532-page long, it grabs your attention all the way and makes it a fairly easy and enjoyable read.
I sure would recommend the book to anyone interested in this complex theory of cosmology presented in a very understandable way.
 

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About the author (2005)

Simon Singh received his Ph.D. in particle physics from the University of Cambridge. A former BBC producer, he directed the BAFTA Award-winning documentary film Fermat's Last Theorem and wrote Fermat's Enigma, the best-selling book on the same subject. His best seller The Code Book was the basis for the BBC series The Science of Secrecy.

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