Williwaw's Reviews > How It Ends: From You to the Universe

How It Ends by Chris Impey
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Jul 02, 12

Read from June 23 to July 01, 2012

Ninety pages in, and I'm already experiencing information overload. There are lots of familiar facts that I've forgotten, plus lots of new and fascinating facts. This is a broad-spectrum book that surveys multiple scientific disciplines as well as current social issues.

I hope that I can retain a small fraction of what I'm learning!

Follow up:

Okay, finished! This is a very witty and entertaining book. It's popular science, so the science is not too overwhelming (although I must admit, there were 2 or 3 graphs that I could not comprehend). If you are a scientist, maybe you are already familiar with most of the ground that Impey covers. Especially if you are a scientist who talks with scientists from outside your discipline, and keeps up, generally, with developments in fields other than your own.

What astonishes me is that humans can be so keenly interested in time and space so remote that we as individuals will never experience it. I'm sure that some people would be tempted to brush off such grandiose thinking as impertinent to their lives and personal concerns. While I get that, there's still something intoxicating about contemplating our small place in the grand scheme of things. It's ennobling to realize that we, as a species, value contemplation for its own sake; and that we are willing, as a society, to pay people like Impey to devote their lives to deep speculation about the ultimate fate of the universe and of our species.

There's enough speculation here to fuel several science fiction novels. This book bursts at the seams with facts, so I'm tempted to re-read it soon because I simply cannot hold it all in my puny, mediocre brain.

Here's a characteristic passage, just so you get a feel for this book:

"Shrink the universe by a factor of 300 million. Earth reduces to the size of a golf ball, fitting comfortably in your hand. The Sun becomes a glowing three-meter ball 400 meters away and the Solar System is the size of a small town. but the nearest star in this model is 35,000 kilometers (20,000 miles) away so most of the universe is still beyond view. Now shrink by a second factor of 300 million. The stars reduce to microscopic scales and the typical distance between stellar systems is three millimeters. The Milky Way is a twisting spiral about 300 meters across and the nearest comparable galaxies are about a kilometer distant. Even with a factor of 10 (to the 17th)reduction in scale, the most distant galaxies are 45,000 kilometers (30,000 miles) away."

Yes, let us be humble, my fellow dust-motes!
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