cover image Universal: A Guide to the Cosmos

Universal: A Guide to the Cosmos

Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. Da Capo, $35 (320p) ISBN 978-0-306-82270-4

Acclaimed British physicists Cox and Forshaw (The Quantum Universe) team up once again in this accessible, lucid, and entertaining introduction to cutting-edge astrophysics and cosmology. Revealing how scientists explore the universe, the authors celebrate the scientific method as much as the scientific discoveries they address. They begin close to home, asking “How old is the Earth?” That simple question leads naturally through discussions of plate tectonics, atomic structure, and radioisotope dating while demonstrating the roots of the scientific method: observing and collecting evidence, and applying logic to reach conclusions. From here, it’s smooth sailing through increasingly complex topics. Determining astronomical distance introduces such concepts as Cepheid variable stars, supernovas, and redshift. Pondering the Earth’s weight leads to measuring gravity with a watch, a ball, and a ruler. The authors also proffer an inventory of the universe and dig into the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy. At the book’s core are the Big Bang and considerations of relativity theory, gravity, and curved spacetime. The minimal-math approach progresses from simple to complex ideas, and detailed diagrams and colorful photographs help illuminate concepts. Curious readers will appreciate how Cox and Forshaw celebrate the scientific process as heartily as they embrace the wonder of the universe. Illus. (Apr.)