Big Bang, by Simon Singh

This book took me a long time to read. Big Bang: The Origins of the Universe, is a good history and survey of cosmology and investigations into how everything came to be here. One of the things I find strange about cosmology books is that they’re all a mix of science and history. They all start with theories by Greeks like Anaxagoras & Aristarchus, move to Copernicus, Kepler & Galileo, and eventually meander their way into the 20th century, when the real action starts.

I was super-bored with the first 250 pages or so — it was all history of science type stuff that I’ve read many times, forgotten a few, and is ultimately important but not that interesting to me lately. Once I got up to Einstein & Hubble, though, things got much better. For the first time, I understand (I think) what cosmic radiation is, and why it’s here. Interesting to me that it was only in 1992 that the really compelling last piece of evidence for the Big Bang was observed (the COBE project detected very small variations in levels of cosmic radiation that resulted in forming the seeds of galaxies about 300,000 years or so after the Big Bang).

I suppose that the reason cosmology is always covered as such a mix of biography and history and science is because of the huge awareness that it’s an evolving field, and it’s very possible we’re still wrong on some of the fundamentals — so it’s important to understand how & why we’ve been wrong and evolved before.

I am not sure I can recommend this book to many folks — I really liked the last 100 pages or so — once Wilson & Penzias observed background radiation — but up until that point it was a slog. I learned some good things, though, so maybe worth it.

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