Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with outer space. Whether it was studying the different characteristics of each planet in our solar system or gathering information about the various theories regarding the origin of the universe, I have always found the vastness and mystique of this ethereal world to be absolutely enthralling.
Of course, this curiosity eventually led me to begin amassing a collection of books about astronomy, the universe and basically any scientific investigation into the captivating enigma of outer space. One book along these lines that I was very happy to have recently discovered is “Universal: A Journey Through the Cosmos”, written by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw.
For those who might be unfamiliar with the work of these outstanding British physicists (unlikely), suffice it to say that they are both highly qualified to approach this expansive topic.
We all know Brian Cox from TV. He is a particle physicist and professor at the University of Manchester, and he has also had the privilege of conducting research on the ambitious ATLAS experiment for CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.
Jeff Forshaw is a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Manchester, and he is also the 1999 recipient of the Institute of Physics Maxwell Medal for his outstanding contributions to the field of theoretical physics.
While both of these gentlemen are highly credentialed, this book never comes off as too high-minded for the layman to understand, which is a refreshing break from many of the astrophysics books I’ve read that seemed to look down their proverbial nose at you.
“Universal: A Journey Through the Cosmos” is amazing, as it covers a broad range of cosmological concepts backed by solid research and outstanding illustrations. This book truly does take the reader on a riveting journey of scientific discovery and exploration, tackling some of the most fundamental questions about the universe, our Earth, the Solar System, and much more with remarkable facility.
From discussions about the weight of the Earth and string theory to the Big Bang and dark matter, “Universal” runs the gamut of some of the heaviest questions in astrophysics, astronomy and cosmology, and it does so without becoming too technical or laborious to read.
The book opens up with the Story of the Universe, and then the authors begin to branch out into other chapters that individually highlight various topics, including the age of the universe, the distance to the stars, weighing the Earth, Einstein’s Theory of Gravity, the Big Bang, and many other ideas and concepts that are the constant focus of scientific inquiry.
Each chapter is chock-full of charts, graphs, notes, and math equations that are designed to help the reader understand how to arrive at the same conclusions that the authors have put forth. The point of this is to show that everyone from the particle physicist to the average Joe can perform these same calculations and obtain the same answers.
By taking this approach, the authors succeed at making what are admittedly difficult topics much more accessible to people outside of the field of science. In other words, you won’t feel like you need a Ph.D in theoretical physics to get something out of the subject matter.
While I will freely admit that I did not grasp all of the concepts in my first pass, I was able to better understand and appreciate some of the more complex parts of the book after a little more time and study.
This is perhaps the greatest strength of “Universal” – it presents a broad swath of somewhat challenging subject matter in an easy-to-read and engaging style, so that the topics at hand won’t feel completely alien to the casual reader.
I also appreciated the sturdy construction of the book, as well as the beautiful illustrations that really helped explain many of the ideas that would have been much more difficult to grasp if they were presented via text only.
With skillful wit, superb writing and a heaping helping of engaging facts, the authors present “working-class science” that is refreshingly clear on topics that are typically enshrouded in ambiguity due to their mind-boggling complexity.
Speaking from the position of an avid collector of astronomy and cosmology books, I can’t say enough about “Universal: A Journey Through the Cosmos”. It was written with great care and enthusiasm for the subject matter at hand, as well as a humility and respect for its audience.
If you’re looking for a book that will introduce you to some of the most fascinating concepts regarding the universe as we know it, this book is a fantastic place to start.
Where to buy?