Before the Beginning

Martin J. Rees, Author, Stephen Hawking, Foreword by Perseus Books Group $25 (291p) ISBN 978-0-201-15142-8
""Our universe could be `impoverished' compared with some others, which could harbor vastly richer structures, and potentialites beyond our imaginings,"" speculates Rees, Britain's Astronomer Royal. Rees communicates clearly the latest thinking and advances in astrophysical research, some of it his own. After a elegant tour of black holes, dark matter, superclusters and other galactic components as seen through the Hubble Space Telescope or by NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer, Rees brings readers to his book's controversial premise. He asks us to imagine a ""multiverse"" whereby our own cosmos is one of many created from various Big Bangs, a universe that embodies only one of many possible sets of physical laws. Our own existence seems that much more precarious when seen as ""a narrow range of hypothetical universes that would allow any complexity [e.g., life] to emerge."" Citing recent breakthroughs throughout, Rees argues strongly in favor of experimentation that would set some of the more bizarre speculative objects of modern cosmology, such as cosmic strings, on a firm scientific foundation. He writes directly and with authority, eschewing glib metaphors and demonstrating a caring knowledge of the men whose theories he explains. Working well on a number of levels-as an insider's overview, a newcomer's introduction, an eclectic history and a speculative catalyst-his book should please those eager to explore the mysteries of the cosmos. Author tour. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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