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You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe
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You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  321 ratings  ·  59 reviews
You Are Here is a dazzling exploration of the universe and our relationship to it, as seen through the lens of today's most cutting-edge scientific thinking. Christopher Potter brilliantly parses the meaning of what we call the universe. He tells the story of how something evolved from nothing and how something became everything. What does a material description of everyth ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 3rd 2009 by Harper (first published 2008)
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Originally posted on SpecFic Junkie.

That moment when you're reading a non-fiction science book and you realize the author isn't a scientist. Lemme put it this way: the first moment you make a glaring error in a non-fiction book, I'm going to start giving it more scrutiny. The second? I'm upset.

I was ranting and raving on both Goodreads and in meatspace as I read this book. Where should I start...

So, the book was okay-ish at the start, although it felt a bit like a bunch of Wikipedia pages thrown
Potter is the author of the newest attempt to boil the workings of science down to a readable and digestible small book. There seems to have been a craze of popular-science tomes about the creation and other meanings of life as of late. Potter is not the first, nor will he be the last writer to try and explain the world as science believes it to be in a book aimed at lay people. My favorite was Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman (I still listen to the lectures on CD from time to time, they must ...more
Julie Balazs
What is awesome: the descriptions and examples of scale of size, so you can put the universe in perspective (yeah, I know humans aren't the center of the universe, stop repeating yourself mr potter, but that's how we experience it).

What is not awesome: I'm not any clearer on quantum physics than I was after Universe in a Nutshell or Black Holes and Time Warps. I'm not sure there's anything other than crazy genius and a life locked up in a physics lab that would make string theory and particle s
Reading You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe by Christopher Potter will make you sexier. I know, what an outrageous claim to make, but it's true. Why? Because intelligent, smart, well-informed people are sexy. I won't lie, I struggled through You Are Here, as it is full of complex subject matter and the last time I took a physics class was in 7th grade, when we made pulleys. The last time I took an earth science class was in 10th grade, and well, I will admit I used to come in everyd ...more
Actual rating: 3.5

This was very interesting, both as a work of science and as a challenge to the idea of humanity. He assumes that all readers are both "materialist"--meaning (as far as I can tell) that the readers not only believe in a material world, but believe only in the material world--and "Copernican", or interested in removing humanity and Earth from a place of privilege. These two assumptions are rather disconcerting. In fact, Chapter Seven, "Light on the Matter" felt like fatalism in t
James Murphy
I've always loved books about cosmology. This is just another one, and yet I can't be so easily dismissive about it because its approach is different. Remember when you were a kid and you wrote our your full cosmic address, beginning with your name and proceeding through Solar System to Galaxy to Universe? This is much the same. Potter, however, begins at the larger scale and works toward the smaller until his book becomes like a pointing finger: you are here. And also, faithful to his subtitle, ...more
Some of this was beyond my grasp. The author uses our best measurements of time and distance to give an idea of the universe as we think we know it. He then moves from discussing huge distances from our planet and delves into sub-atomic particles and infinitesimally small units of measurement and the material world that exist at that level. That discussion leads to his summary of current scientific thought on how the universe might have come into existence some 13 billion years ago.
Over and over
Jan 30, 2015 Tim rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: science
One sign of a really special book is this: as I approach the end of it, I begin to realize that it is so full of valuable knowledge and wisdom that I must read it again. In this work the range of subjects covered, the quality of the writing, the sense of both expert intelligence and youthful wonder is all pretty breathtaking. In this short book, Potter sets out to cover the current state of human knowledge of the universe. He goes over everything from the most minute particles to the grandest th ...more
Gabriel Chavez
I picked up this book becuase the title caught my attention. Potter's purpose in writting his book was to make his narrative as imaginative, igenious, and elegantly concise as it is user-friendly. It is as if he took you by the hand and walked you through time and space. You Are Here offers easy to understand comparisons to make it easier for the reader to understand scientific terms. It was hard for me to put down because it always gave you something to look forward to. The many ways the autho ...more
David Chivers
A good, clear read as to the beginings and size of the universe. Fascinating! The later chapters on the atomic world are also good, although to me not as interesting. The final chapters on human evolution are a bit cursory, but still good if you haven't read much in this area already.
I swear that I wrote the bulk of this review prior to completing the book. I read most of this book while traveling and wrote my initial thoughts on a sheet of paper from a notepad printed with the name of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino where I was staying in Las Vegas. I state this because I wrote the part about Wikipedia before I got to the end of book where in a note at the end of the bibliography, the author states that he, in fact, frequently consulted Wikipedia as part of his research ...more
"You Are Here" starts out with a story everyone can relate with: as a child we have all tagged a book with our address - street, city, province/state, country, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way.... And I admit it was some time before I added Universe!

Christopher Potter has written a compelling primer for anyone who as uttered the phrase, "Where am I." With excellent descriptions of distance, size, and time, supported by a comprehensive bibliography, he presents our history, geography, and the physi
Jun 07, 2011 Don rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: science
I'v been looking for more and more reading material that is science based, particular in the realm of cosmology and physics, and this book covers those topics as well as evolution and even early philosophical thought. Potter's writing style is casual, which helps the book along, particularly when discussing some of the details of quantum mechanics or the role of genes in natural selection. I don't believe there is any great insight in the book, and generally Potter doesn't make any of the comple ...more
Johnny D
Help, I'm a human being whose brain is still processing Newtonian physics living in a quantum physics world. I read this book without completely understanding everything I read. I want to blame the writing style, but it really shouldn't be blamed for the results of my own scientific density.

Somewhere underneath my thick skull, neurons are convulsing spastically as they try to work out the implications of quantum physics on space travel. The part of my brain that normally processes Bob Dylan lyri
Gijs Grob
Gelezen in de vertaling van Marianne Kerkhof.

De ondertitel van dit boek is misleidend, want Potter geeft niet alleen de geschiedenis van het heelal (tot nu toe), maar ook een beschrijving ervan (tot in de kleinste hoekjes van de quantummechanica en de snaartheorieën) en ook een geschiedenis van de weg naar ons, inclusief onze eigen evolutie.

Potter is filosoof en vraagt zich telkens elementaire dingen af als 'wat is niets?' en 'wat is de grens van het heelal?'. Dat is aardig, maar helaas doet hij
Terry Lloyd
I found You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe an education and inspiration to my imagination. Christopher potter has used size and time in an imaginative way. I tend to dip into a book rather than reading from first to last page. The result was I became enthralled with the style and information and read further than I intended at that time. I have no hesitation in recommending this book.
For a book that contains the foundation of scientific knowledge, especially as it relates to astronomy, and the philosophical ramifications of the earlier scientists, You Are Here has been a deceptively light and enjoyable read.

This book will take you through the evolution of the scientific theory while introducing you to the astronomers and philosophers that influenced science (and our lives) the most. It will explain the impossible vastness of the universe in a small chapter that explains the
If you are thinking about reading this book, and haven't yet read Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything, save this one for later and get that book instead. Both books have the same basic premise, to give a summary of the universe and everyrhing in it and how we know what we know, from the big bang unil today with a look forward to the future as well. Bill Bryson does the job much more detailed, more entertaining, and more completely.

That isn't to say this book is bad, just pretty bla
I couldn't finish the whole book. It was like reading a text book that has some flair. And it was straight up astrophysics, fact after fact, which I'm really interested in, but it takes forever to read and process (and reread and reprocess). Its "accessibility" is both good and bad. The author is NOT a physicist. So how has he mastered this knowledge? Good question. I took his ideas at face value. Although I do agree with his psychological assessments of why people are turned off from astronomy, ...more
His speech is Aspergery, but it's surprisingly readable and endlessly fascinating. Melds the worlds of science and philosophy in a most appealing way. I think I'm going to need to buy this book and refer back to it often.
Michael Johnston
An interesting look at both the very large (a picture of the universe) and the very small (subatomic) universe and our place in it. It has a philosophical flair to it, but it's principal intent is to survey the landscape of current scientific thinking. The author makes a concerted effort to translate complex scientific concepts into layman's terms. While the he largely succeeds, the topic by nature requires a bit of geek speak. If you are interested in science it shouldn't be too daunting. Howev ...more
Really enjoyed this. Takes you through all the major scientific discoveries that have changed the way we think about ourselves and where we are in the universe. Doing this from a non scientific but very knowledgeable background, I think he publishes science books, he manages to cover some really difficult subjects with just the right amount of detail to give you the gist without ever getting bogged down. Really well written with humour and intelligence he combines the science, the scientists, so ...more
Much more in-depth, sciency and difficultyier than I thought. I mean, look at the words I have to make up to explain how lost I got. I think if I'd had some visual demonstrations to refer to, or even some cartoons, it might have helped make sense of the anti-spin of a quark - or whatever - but I feel good for having powered through. And if I ever have a sudden need to explain quantum physics to someone I figure is slightly more confused than I, I'll have a handy reference of words to string toge ...more
most interesting i must say, it took me to a journey i've never been to.
but i wish that there were some illustrations to keep us on track, but i googled the image of everything i've read about and never saw, for example "Nebula" and other stuff. i recommend this to every reader, to search the images, to have a full idea.
time and space chapters were also amazing.
i'll give 5/5 to this book cause i really enjoyed it.
and i'll probably read it again, to get it even better.
I really loved this book, though I think I'd rather give it 4.5 stars than 5. There were many chapters that blew my mind, but the final chapter was underwhelming. As other reviewers have said, this book is a great intro to astro and quantum physics written in a very accessible way for those of us without advanced degrees in the area. It's organized very well and I'd recommend this for anyone who wants to understand more about how the earth (and all of us) came to be.
Sericite (Kim)
Not bad. The science seems to be up to date, as best I can tell. My only reservations is that the author seems to have some caricature of a mad scientist in his head when he discusses the aims and purposes of modern science. So aside from the introductory chapter and last 5 pages or so, I'd recommend it.
Dua'a Behbehani

This was a very funny and interesting read but the reason it lost a star is because there was so much information about the gases and planets and stars and I spent the whole time wondering how they knew all that, when all those things are lightyears away! So some parts to me seemed like a load of tosh, lol.
Oct 18, 2009 Reem rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Reem by: I read about it on the Royal wings airplane magazine (RJ)
It's a quit interesting book that discuss your place in the universe with a prometric figure..when i read its review i was captured but i got so bored reading it, i guess it's not my kind of reading, though i do recomend that you read it's review, you might be more interested than me :)
I would call this book: An Idiot's Guide to Understanding the Universe for Dummies...without Pictures.
Not that that is a bad thing just a very cursory overview (and underview). He explains big ideas very well but stumbles over some of the more hard-to-explain quantum stuff.
It is a nice book where it reveals the history of the universe startibg 14.7 billion years ago. the book talks about stars & planets. the books also talks a little bit about biology. the book gets booring half way through, but then get interesting till the end.
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How to make a human being - A body of evidence How to Make a Human Being: A Body of Evidence Proteleia Anglo-Batava Pari Plusquam Virgineo, Gvilielmo Arausii, & Mariae Britanniarum, Academia Oxoniensi Procurante (1641) Appello Evangelium for the True Doctrine of the Divine Predestination, Concorded with the Orthodox Doctrine of Gods Free-Grace and Mans Free-Will by John Plaifere ...; Hereunto Is Added Dr. Chr. Potter His Owne Vindication in a Letter to Mr. V (1652) Want of Charitie Justly Charged on All Such Romanists as Dare (Without Truth or Modesty) Affirme, That Protestancie Destroyeth Salvation, Or, an Answer to a Late Popish Pamphlet Intituled Charity Mistaken, & (1634)

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