The Book Of Universes by John D Barrow

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The Book Of Universes by John D Barrow

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Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Loralei Haylock
Reviewed by Loralei Haylock
Summary: A readable account of the history of the study of the universe, which is an excellent introduction to the topic. A little hard going at times, but this is more to do with subject matter than the writing itself.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: February 2012
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099539865

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The idea of a 'multiverse' - multiple universes existing alongside each other - is something science fiction and fantasy fans are fairly au fait with. Parallel realities in which you made a different decision at a pivotal moment and, as a consequence, have evolved in entirely different ways, have been fodder for authors, scriptwriters and 'what if' musings for some time, but recently, scientists - specifically cosmologists - have been taking increasingly seriously.

Einstein's relativity equations and his universal constant, have been used to describe multiple possible universes - some hot, some cold, some unchanging, some expanding, even some in which time travel is physically possible - and while some of these solutions to his equations have merely been used to gauge a better understanding of our own universe, it is becoming increasingly apparent that all these potential universes could exist alongside each other; that our universe is just a corner of an immense tapestry in which all the potential universes - and others we probably won't ever be able to comprehend - exist.

While cosmologists are still a long way from understanding everything - and with the infinite size of the universe, they maybe never will - The Book Of Universes is a comprehensive overview.

It's a difficult book to read - purely because of subject matter. If you don't have a good knowledge of quantum physics, it's not going to be light reading, but it was readable. It's the sort of book that makes me feel simultaneously intelligent for being able to understand it, and stupid for having to work so hard to. The fact that it's so readable is testament to the author's ability to take near unintelligible physics and translate it in to not easily, but at least digestible terms.

There were times when I wanted a little more information, or a bit more background to a particular topic, and occasionally I felt an explanation given in a later chapter would have been better served in an earlier chapter, and I could have done with a glossary to keep track of the difference between isotropic and anisotropic, but overall, as an introduction to the history, and current study of the universe, this is an excellent place to start.

My thanks to the publishers for sending a copy.

For more cosmology, try Einstein's Telescope: The Hunt for Dark Matter and Dark Energy in the Universe by Evalyn Gates, and Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You by Marcus Chown is a good place to start when trying to understand the trickier theories involved.

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