ORIGINS: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Author, Donald Goldsmith, Author . Norton $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-393-05992-2

This is the most informative, congenial and accessible general look at cosmology to come along since Carl Sagan's Cosmos 27 years ago—and, like Cosmos , it's a companion to a PBS series, in this case a Nova special (to air on September 28 and 29). But Tyson (The Sky Is Not the Limit , etc.), who's director of Manhattan's Hayden Planetarium, and Goldsmith (Connecting with the Cosmos , etc.) are no Sagan clones; they bring a distinct point of view and tone to this title. The point of view surfaces right away, both with their concerted effort to draw in numerous branches of science to explain the story of cosmic evolution, and with the statement that "science depends on organized skepticism." The authors continually refer to the reach and limits of science, explaining, as they offer a chronological tour of cosmic history, just what they think science can tell us and what it can't (as they end the journey, focusing on the possibility of extraterrestrial life, they deliver several sharp blows to true believers of UFOs). The tone is informational, aimed at high clarity, and laced with giddy humor: "A hundred billion years from now... all but the closest galaxies will have vanished over our horizon of visibility. Enjoy the view while you can." Beginning at the beginning, Tyson and Goldsmith tackle the origin of the universe and its nature—from antimatter to dark matter and dark energy to the possibility of multiverses; how the universe became organized; the origin of stars; a fascinating look at the periodic table; the origin of planets, including a vivid discuss of planets outside our solar system; and the origin of life. Much of this material will necessarily be familiar to regular readers of popular science, but even they will benefit from Tyson and Goldsmith's incorporation of the latest cosmological developments, from string theory to recent thinking on dark energy; and if this book breaks out, as it has real potential to do, general readers of every stripe will benefit from the authors' sophisticated, deeply knowledgeable presentation. If the casual book buyer purchases one science book this year, this should be the one. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/27/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 345 pages - 978-0-393-32758-8
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-4830-4185-8
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