The End of the Beginning: Cosmology, Time, and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang

Adam Frank. Free Press, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4391-6959-9
Time is such an integral part of our lives that we never think about what it means or how we started counting it—but for University of Rochester astrophysicist and NPR blogger Frank, the provocative story of time is two tightly interwoven stories, one cosmic and one human-scale. From the moment an unknown shaman created the first deliberate record of the moon's phases 25,000 years ago in the Dordogne in France, humans have measured time. Solstice-marking megaliths and earthworks like Stonehenge and Ireland's Newgrange have given way to finer methods of counting. Frank illustrates the fascinating progression of "time consciousness" through calendars, clocks, and the metaphorical idea of a clockwork universe. From Newton to Einstein to quantum theory, modern electronics, and the virtual world of the Internet, time has been a crucial concept, even leading to increasingly detailed takes on the Big Bang, the "birth of time," and the fate of the universe. From Paleolithic times, when consciousness of time first began to be recorded to modern-day "rebel" physicists who challenge our most fundamental assumptions about matter, energy, and time, Frank offers a unique and fascinating look at complex concepts with an accessible style that is both matter-of-fact and thoroughly entertaining. Illus. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/06/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
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