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The Whole Shebang: A State of the Universe Report

4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,586 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
A non-technical account of recent astronomical research makes all that is known about the universe accessible to the average reader, in a study that integrates scientific personalities with hard facts, vivid explanations, and authoritative speculation.
Hardcover, 393 pages
Published May 2nd 1997 by Simon & Schuster
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Cassandra Kay Silva
Feb 20, 2011 Cassandra Kay Silva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This book dates itself quite frequently. Which normally I would be very bothered by. But you could tell that the author was trying to stay current with his time and his writing was wonderful. It just amazes me how much cosmology has changed in ten years! He was so timid with inflation it was staggering. I wonder what the authors thoughts on the newer cyclical models are? What does he think about membranes and so forth? Who knows? It wasn't in question at the time. In fact a great deal of this bo ...more
Bob Nichols
Aug 08, 2010 Bob Nichols rated it liked it
This book is less engaging than Ferris' "Coming of Age in the Milky Way." There's less of a story here and more of a status report on the state of the science lying at the frontiers of cosmology (as of 1997). If there is one underlying theme to this book it is that we live in a quantum universe, but we have evolved in a world that is best understood in terms of classical physics. This helps explain why the discussion of cosmology is so challenging for the general reader. We try our best to grasp ...more
Oct 28, 2015 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am fascinated by science.

I went to a Baptist school where the entirety of the science curriculum can be summarized to a word: God.

The benefit of this is that The Mystic is tied into the universe, the cost is that there isn't much depth. Couple this with the fact that the only good science teacher in the school had a student teacher the semester I had the class, I didn't learn too much. I had an Astronomy class in college that was taught by a recognized genius; his skills extended to the appl
Aug 21, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing
Just finished the book. I think I learned more from this book than from any that I can think of, in recent memory.

Marvelous book. Mr Ferris' writing style makes what could be a very dry book into smooth and enjoyable reading. I was far behind in knowing what the current thinking in modern physics was, and I like to keep up, but had only picked up bits and pieces here and there from Quantum Mechanics and so forth.

I do realize that the book was published in 1997, so it only caught me up to there.
Hank Hoeft
Aug 08, 2015 Hank Hoeft rated it liked it
This is a popular science book that puts forth what we know about cosmology at the time of the book's writing. I had two problems with reading The Whole Shebang, but neither were characteristics of the book itself. First of all, the book was written in 1995--that was twenty years ago, and a lot has happened in astronomy and physics since then. So, if I had read this book sooner, it would have been more useful. Or at least more timely. And second, my knowledge of physics--especially quantum physi ...more
Alex Laycock
Apr 30, 2015 Alex Laycock rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
hmm. ....I thought this book would explain everything to me..... infact it made me feel very stupid! it certainly blew my mind apart with wonder,some things I just couldn't grasp........what can be more fascinating and incomprehensible than the Universe...I mean WOW! .... made me also realise,like I constantly realise us humans are running about like headless chickens worrying about stuff that doesn't matter and pursuing futile things...and war ...we are on a wonderful planet and very lucky and ...more
Joseph F.
Mar 17, 2013 Joseph F. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is a great writer, especially given the difficulty of the subject matter. this book covers it all: quantum weirdness, the big bang, inflation theory, strings, superstrings, dark matter, cosmological constants, solar nucleosythesis, symmetry and even an evaluation on where God fits into all of this, if there is one. It really is aptly titled The Whole Shebang, or perhaps it should have been called Too Much Shebang: it sometimes feels like it bites off more than it can chew. Even with t ...more
Sarah Sammis
Timothy Ferris's enthusiasm for space is infective. In Seeing in the Dark he wrote about his love of astronomy (and many others who share his love of it). In The Whole Shebang he tries to tackle the current state of our knowledge of life, the universe and everything. The title is also a delicious pun on the "big bang" and he has things to say about it too.

The Whole Shebang looks like a hefty book at first at 400 pages, but the last hundred are devoted to the end notes and bibliography. The remai
Ravi Warrier
I love Ferris' books. The first one I read was The Red Limit and I liked the way he managed to explain a lot of complicated stuff in a simple manner. But I have read many books on the topic with similar comments for various authors (like Briane Green). What makes Ferris different is his candid writing style, which makes the reader feel as if s/he were reading the transcript of a lecture rather than a book.

Moreoever, in The Whole Shebang, Ferris skirts the ideas of philosophy and religion. A book
Feb 12, 2013 Becca rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I do love a physics book, so this one automatically gets some leeway from me. However, the author seems too caught up in trying to become one of those beloved popularizers of science a la Michio Kaku or Neil De Grasse Tyson. He too often lets that get in the way of clarity, mixing his metaphors and choosing "everyday" reference points that aren't really so everyday (Lohengrin, anyone?). Oddly, this is more of a problem in the first half of the book, when the discussion is centered on the evoluti ...more
Feb 25, 2011 Keith rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For those interested in the "big questions" of the universe, this is an excellent status on the answers so far. (Although it it now getting to be a bit old -- circa. 1997 -- it seems to have age well when I read it almost 14 years later.)

Some of it, honestly, went right over my head, but I highly recommend the chapters on dark matter, cosmic evolution, the big bang and quantum physics. Ferris is a very clear and entertaining writer.

If you're a curious person with just a general knowledge of mo
Feb 05, 2014 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent survey in modern cosmology. No real knowledge in higher mathematics is necessary.
Pat Lee
Jun 11, 2013 Pat Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Book attempts to explain how cosmologists think our universe is organized and governed by physics, but without assuming any reader has a degree in astrophysics. This is complex information, which shouldn't be accessible only to those with an ability to think sideways and solve complex calculations. Ferris guides the reader through thought processes that lead the human race to reach its current position. With this text one can get an understanding of the universe and an appreciation for our place ...more
Ed Gibney
Nov 27, 2012 Ed Gibney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The five stars for this book is how I felt about it when it came out. Surely the sharp end of its cutting edge haas dulled as scientific progress has marched on, but that's true of all non-fiction books. This one helped me grasp the history of the universe since the big bang though and that's a vital perspective to have on one's place in the world. There might be something better out there now, but I doubt if you'd go wrong reading this at any time.
looooove science. I think that is so necessary to question things intelligently and to admit fault when a truth becomes a lie. This book is all about the history of science...lots of fun 'real life' stuff too, like one early astronomer died from a bladder explosion whilst drinking too much beer. I forever will believe that art and science search for the same truths from different directions....I also think I want to name a dog Kepler.
Aug 05, 2009 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent primer on cosmology written for the layperson. If you want to know about our place in the Universe, read this book. I found his descriptions of the structure of the Universe fascinating. From our planet to the solar system, our galaxy, our group, so on and so forth it was incredible. He also explains how scientists know answers to questions about the age of the universe, how far stars are from us, etc.

I can't recommend it enough.
Mar 29, 2016 Oren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Seems outdated from what little I know about current cosmology thinking, but still a fascinating book for someone like me who knows so little about the subject. I saw Timothy Ferris read at Powell's in Portland and the following discussion has stayed in my memory for almost ten years. I'm still amazed at the skill and understanding required for someone who does not have science training to write about scientific discovery.
Cole Ho
May 14, 2014 Cole Ho rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: free-choice
Ivan Soto
Oct 07, 2011 Ivan Soto rated it really liked it
Non-cosmologists having even a passing interest in cosmology may find the book as enjoyable as I did. The book presents a broad-ranging description of the state of cosmology. While doing that, it introduces the reader to many fascinating characters in physics and to their equally fascinating thinking, their competing ideas, and their controversies. Wonderful book!
Andrew O
Apr 10, 2013 Andrew O rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: astronomy
This book is an excellent introduction to current theories about the origins of the universe. I only give it four stars because the later chapters about quantum mechanics are so baffling to my laymen's mind. But that may be more a function of my own ignorance than any fault in Ferris' writing. Overall an excellent primer.
Apr 07, 2007 kleeklaw rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
really well written and entertaining. i like that there is a notes section in the end with the math and formulae instead of scattered throughout the book. it made the book less intimidating while providing a good starting point for further investigation into the nuts and bolts behind the science.
Phil Smith
Sep 17, 2007 Phil Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A neat book, up ther with Hawking's Brief History fo Time and Sagan's Cosmos, that helps the lay folk understand the big picture. Ferris adds a little something others don't however, and that is a sort of wit that makes one feel like you are discussing the universe over coffee and donuts.
Aug 17, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was a good read. It is a tough read, but he explains very complex ideas in pretty clear language. I’m glad I read it. The author treats the reader with great respect, by not dumbing things down - but by explaining things in a way that make sense.
Peter Mowris
Apr 05, 2014 Peter Mowris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More readable than most books on the Big Bang and related topics and very poignant, given his spin on inflationary theory that was recently proven. :) A great intro to understanding the significance of that and the recent detection of the Higgs boson.
I listened to it at work, and it's amazingly thourough without being too lofty for a lowly art-major to understand. I recommend buying the book though, and I still might, that way I can mark what I want to research further.
H Wesselius
Jul 26, 2011 H Wesselius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Provides a readable introduction to quantum mechanics, black holes etc. but his explanation on the grand structures of the universe was needlessly wordy and not as informing. A good introduction but Brian Greene is better.
A fine introduction to astronomy.
Sufficient breadth but somewhat lacking in technical depth.
Delves into philosophy from time to time, and does so poorly.
Fun for me, since I loooove physics, but I wouldn't recommend it.
Sep 21, 2015 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is one of the best I've ever read about science. Covers so many branches of knowledge, and how we know what we know. Even better than Kip Thorne's Black Holes and Time Warps. Read it today!
Donna Riley
Aug 12, 2014 Donna Riley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Made me think hard. But this was fascinating.
Jun 29, 2012 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Fairly approachable read on the state of our understanding of the universe and it's elements and structure. I especially liked the discussions on symmetry and superstring theories.
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Timothy Ferris is the author of a dozen books (most recently The Science of Liberty), plus 200 articles and essays, and three documentary films—"The Creation of the Universe," “Life Beyond Earth,” and “Seeing in the Dark”—seen by over 20 million viewers.

Ferris produced the Voyager phonograph record, an artifact of human civilization containing music and sounds of Earth launched aboard the twin Voy
More about Timothy Ferris...

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