Pete daPixie's Reviews > The Infinite Cosmos: Questions from the Frontiers of Cosmology

The Infinite Cosmos by Joseph Silk
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Oct 24, 10

really liked it
bookshelves: stardust
Read from October 16 to 24, 2010

Joseph Silk, Professor of Astronomy at Oxford University, has written a superb little work here. 'The Infinite Cosmos' in Milky Way size bites, that the lay reader like me can swallow without any of the Einsteinian indigestion. The perfect quote is from Richard Feynman, thus, 'What I am going to tell you about is what we teach our physics students in the third or fourth year of graduate school....It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don't understand it. You see my physics students don't understand it.....That is because I don't understand it. Nobody does.
During the time I have been reading this book, the Hubble Space Telescope has taken an image of the furthest matter in the Universe that has ever been seen. It's a galaxy that lies some 13.5 billion light years away, and therefore one of the first clumps of matter to form after the Big Bang. (which never went bang.) Mr Silk transports the reader across the vastness of our Cosmos, both forwards and backwards in time. Food for thought? Here is a cosmic banquet! Another quote, this time from St.Augustine, 'What did God do before He made heaven and earth? He was preparing hell....for pryers into mysteries.' It seems hell is my destination. For why, Augustine, is the essence of life, the carbon atom, poised to be formed by capture of it's constituent atoms, which otherwise would fly apart in the intense fusion reactions under way inside a stellar core? Why is the vacuum empty, or almost so? Why are the fundamental forces so distinct in strength from each other? In particular, why is the strong nuclear force neither stronger or weaker, when, if it were, stars would not form? Why is the weak nuclear force as weak as it is, when otherwise elements would not form? Why is the neutron just 14% more massive than the proton, which it needs to be for the formation of hydrogen? Why is the electron mass only 1/1836 of the proton mass, when if it were much larger, molecules such as DNA would not form? Why are fluctuations in the microwave background radiation small enough, but not too small, to allow the formation of galaxies?
Another quote from Thomas Huxley...'Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.'
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