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About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  306 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
The Big Bang is all but dead, and we do not yet know what will replace it. Our universe’s “beginning” is at an end. What does this have to do with us here on Earth? Our lives are about to be dramatically shaken again—as altered as they were with the invention of the clock, the steam engine, the railroad, the radio and the Internet.

In The End of the Beginning, Adam Frank ex
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published September 27th 2011 by Free Press
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Dan Falk
Mar 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
There’s something about time that seems to perplex us. It’s easy to measure, but hard to define; the past seems different from the future, but our equations don’t tell us why; it is everywhere, and nowhere. No wonder books about the nature of time appear like… well, clockwork, from Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (1988) to Paul Davies’ About Time (1995) to Sean Carroll’s From Eternity to Here (2010) and Roger Penrose’s Cycles of Time (2011). (Full disclosure: I’m guilty of adding to th ...more
Florin Pitea
Apr 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fairly impressive under several aspects. Recommended. Detailed review will soon follow.
Randal Samstag
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, science
From my blog post on time here:

Frank’s 2011 book provides an illuminating survey of the history of modern cosmology; the evolution from the pre-history of humans in the West to debates at astrophysics conferences in our own time. The first signs of speculation about time he sees in the story of markings on a bone fragment found on the floor of a cave in the Dordogne which was later argued to represent a marking of the passage of lunar time. This fragment dates from twelve to twenty thousand yea
Jul 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Just as I have a desire to try to understand economics,I have a desire to try and comprehend physics and cosmology.So, being a reader, I turn to books in an attempt to self educate because I am way too old and encumbered to go back to high school and college and remake myself as a student fully committed to and formally engaged with the study of either of these two complex fields.Hence...I turn to books (like this one!) on the subject. I arrive at titles to explore by reading book reviews.I am ...more
Dec 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, engaging, well written, with just enough detail to keep it attractive to a large audience. This book does a wonderful job of introducing readers to physics as it points out both the evolution of things we take for granted and the obvious-that-isn't *because* we took it for granted.

Frank describes the tangible ways in which the feedback loop of our engagement with the material world (the tools we build, the actions we perform) changes our conceptions and understanding of time, and h
Rhiannon McClatchey
Jun 21, 2012 rated it liked it
I imagine this would be a more rewarding read for someone not learning about particle physics and quantum gravity for the first time. I probably learned a lot--like about how little we actually know, but I'm not sure how much I'll retain. I was hoping for more predictions about the next phase of time for our society if the current behavior based on efficiency isn't sustainable. He emphasizes we need to choose this relationship actively, this time, but choices aren't presented. Towards the end, h ...more
Fascinating book, even if at times too detailed for me to hold in my head! It's both a history of the scientific concepts of time, how it began or if it began or has always been, and one of the cultural concepts of time, which haven't always been the same. It's mostly pretty accessible, despite the tons of detail.
Marc Jacobs
May 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Adam is a first class story teller. In this book he presents a compelling case for the triangular relation between material engagement, cosmology and human time. Not exactly the lightest of reading, especially near the end while discussing post Big Bang cosmologies, but a rewarding book to read.
Oct 15, 2011 marked it as to-read
I loved his 3-part series on about how we use/track time and how that has changed us over the last century.
Eli Brooke
Sep 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and engagingly written, perhaps the most personally interesting popular science book I've ever read.
Joab Jackson
Jun 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Adam Frank offers a compelling premise, though doesn't follow it to completion. His thesis is that our understanding of time has always been closely intertwined within culture. It's a fascinating idea, and Frank some fascinating examples. The idea requires a close reading of both history and our understanding of time, which has changed, and grown more exacting through the centuries. But he gets waylaid through much of the second half of the book by offering a general history of developments in t ...more
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book that deftly illustrates the interconnections between science and culture throughout history. One of Frank's theses is that humans invented time, and keep re-inventing it in response to their material and scientific engagement with the world. There is a lot of history here, and it all culminates in the present era, from which we must acknowledge a "Big Bang" phenomenon, but are uncertain of how to link it up or contextualize it within competing theoretical cosmologies t ...more
Jan 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, science
About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang by Adam Frank

“About Time" is the interesting book about time, both cosmic and human and how they relate to each other. Astrophysicist Adam Frank takes us on a journey of the human quest to find out what happened at that very moment of creation at the beginning of the Big Bang. He provides us with an understanding of how we got to the Big Bang and a provocative look at how cosmology has evolved and the looming alternatives. This 43
Ami Iida
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's edited all general relativity theory, quantum theory, super string theory.
It's easy for the beginner to learn them.
May 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
When I took a Freshman-level Physics class in college, basically Astronomy 101, I was still a practicing Mormon. The highly enjoyable class played no distinct role in my choice to leave formal religion and live agnosticism. On the contrary, in the closing weeks of the course, as we delved deeper and further into cosmology, I was impressed by how much room serious science leaves for the existence of god…or at least a godlike force that behaves according to law.

Reading professor and blogger Adam
Nov 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Full disclosure: I am a biased reviewer. I had the good fortune of working for Adam Frank while I was a student at The University of Rochester. During that time I came to respect him as a writer, a scholar, and most importantly, as a person. I've always enjoyed his perspective on matters of science and philosophy, and his unique voice is very present in About Time.

I couldn't help but see immediate parallels to another book I recently finished: Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Dr
Brian Clegg
This is a curious book that tries to be great - and it almost succeeds. Adam Frank makes a determined effort to interweave two apparently unconnected strands of science and technology history - the personal appreciation of time in human culture and our cosmology. Along the way he brings in a whole host of little details - whether or not you feel that the main aim of the book is successful, there is plenty to enjoy in here.

To begin with, that blend of two disparate strands works very well. We sta
Eric Layton
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
A well written book. I enjoyed the author's entwining descriptions of human history and cosmological history. Well worth the read.
Todd Martin
Sep 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Given the title of the book and the fact that Adam Frank is a professor of astrophysics at the University is of Rochester I expected About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang to be a book about science in general and cosmology in particular. Instead, it’s really a book about science history. This is fine, but it isn’t really where my interests lie.

The main premise is that there are two types of ‘time’. Cosmological time as evidenced by the movement of planets and stars, a
Karan Gupta
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
I learnt about this book from another pop-physics book that I had read, Lee Smolin's "Trouble With Physics". I never got around to getting to the book though. Recently I bought this book as a gift for a colleague and thought I would give it a shot first!

"About Time" is exactly what it says it is. It is a recap of time, as we have seen it through the ages, back when we were cave men down to the current millisecond era of computers. Adam Frank tells the story of how time and it's perception has be
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This is not my usual fare, but I found it very readable and quite amazing. This 2011 book manages to cut a swath through the history of science up to and including quantum physics and current cosmology (theory about the universe etc) including theories of the Big Bang, background microwave radiation in the universe, dark matter and dark energy, possibilities of multiple universes etc. (topics that used to be science fiction but now are seriously discussed ...) He never bogs down or gets too deep ...more
Sep 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: forgettable
An interesting collection of historical pieces on the advance of the human perception of time. From the start of using coins to represent a full-day's work to the precise digital timing of our era, where a talk could start at 11:11AM, no questions asked.

This book takes a long time to get into cosmology, namely because it goes into two different narratives, driven by perception of time, in parallel. The first describes human material experience and its relation with time. The second, describes t
Sam Bennett
Over the last twenty years science writing has become far more interesting. In part it's due to what we have learned because of the computer revolution. But also writers are more and more injecting how culture(s) are affected by what we are learning. In fact for genre as a whole, the writing is far more like literature at times than science.

This book is no exception except it is generally more dense as it takes time to discuss details. I like this fact.

I also enjoy this book as it presents exce
Jan 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
The author Adam Frank packed a lot of things in this book about our concepts of time and the changes that took place in civilization because of our awareness of time. There is a fair amount of science and physics discussed as well as the recurring discussion about "Big Bang" theories . He does a great job of reviewing history from the earliest recorded observations of stars and planets and theories of where they came from. It is amazing what the early (B.C.) astronomers came up with, not having ...more
Ken Rideout
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
I skimmed the book. I am very interested in the history of time and cosmology, but I just couldn't get into the sweeping through all of human history's take on time. Heavy on culture and light on hard science (it's really a history of science book), there were times when I slowed down and read more carefully (like the evolution of the modern calendar in Roman times), but for the most part the book did not hold together for me. Perhaps because so much of the history of these ideas in cosmology an ...more
Aug 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I dithered about getting this book. It kept catching my eye in displays in various bookshops around the city, so when I saw it on sale I finally caved. I'm so glad I did.

About Time tries to be a lot of things: a history of time and a history of Time, with bonus particle physics and history of science. It does a good to very good job on all fronts. While it's a slow start discussing timekeeping in relation to the known cosmos before the invention of clocks, the pacing is otherwise great and the n
Amanda Rae
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is not just a science book. Yes, you will learn about the universe, string theory, and the Big Bang, but Frank goes beyond this, weaving the history of our universe with the history of ourselves and our perception of it as a species, and he does it in a way that neither overwhelms with tedious scientific details nor bores by dumbing down the facts. It is an excellent book about looking to our beginning to look beyond our beginning, and the challenges that we face to get there...and it makes ...more
This was an interesting book that covers a lot of the basics of cosmology. It uses an approach I liked, but that I'm not sure others will appreciate as much. Each chapter is introduced with a (mostly fictional, but not entirely) vignette describing some characters point of view and how it is influenced by the then predominant view of time. Most of what I read (heard, really, as I listened to this in audiobook form) was familiar material. One additional comment I will make is that this book could ...more
Jan 01, 2015 marked it as couldn-t-finish  ·  review of another edition
In case I come back to this, I got up to page 50. A poor choice as a relaxing holiday read, admittedly. What was I thinking?

Part of the problem is that this book isn't what I'd expected -- at least, not by page 50. This is more human history than exciting theories a la Marcus Chown's The Never-ending Days Of Being Dead. Who knows, Adam Frank may get to that, but I'm not finding his writing style engaging. Actually, that's an understatement. Every time I pick up the book I fall asleep. My mother
Andrew Cheng
Oct 04, 2015 rated it liked it
About Time is an interesting and really informative book that describes the evolution of the scientific concept of time and the cultural concept of time. The author mixes these two together in a way that teaches the readers a lot much about ‘time’. I would recommend this book to somebody who has the patience and the interest to learn about a plethora of topics. For somebody who doesn’t fit this selection of people, the book may seem really slow at times. Overall, I believe that this book is one ...more
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Adam Frank is Assistant Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Rochester in New York. The recipient of a prestigious Hubble Fellowship, he writes frequently for Discover, Astronomy, and Scientific American magazines. He is also a co-founder of NPR’s topranking science and culture blog, 13.7 (
More about Adam Frank...
“Rather than make claims of final theories, perhaps we should focus on our ever-continuing dialogue with the universe. It is the dialogue that matters most, not its imagined end. It is the sacred act of inquiry wherein we gently trace the experienced outlines of an ever-greater whole. It is the dialogue that lets the brilliance of the diamond’s infinite facets shine clearly. It is the dialogue that instills within us a power and capacity that is, and always has been, saturated with meaning.” 1 likes
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