I developed an addiction for popular science after reading Simon Singh’s Fermat’s Last Theorem. Afterwards I got hold of his Big Bang. This time I didn’t borrow it from the library, rather I bought it for my personal collection of nice books.
The book takes a modest start by describing the earlier notions held by the ancient people of Greece, Perisa and Egypt about the nature and origin of the universe. After setting the stage for a keen discussion on the subjects of cosmology and astronomy, the author lands his readers right in to the lives and works of middle and post-middle age scientists.
Simon Singh has a remarkable storytelling talent. The manner in which he narrates the history and development of any scientific enterprise keeps the reader spellbound till the last page, and for several subsequent days. The story is never less attractive than any bestselling thriller. Actually, the plot moves so swiftly while hopping over people and evolution of ideas that before the reader gets a chance to contemplate over any particular idea, he/she is ridden to a next more exciting one. Yet at the same time the fine details about the crucial concepts are not compromised. Everything is explained in an extremely lucid manner. And the biographies of the people involved make the whole narrative all the more interesting.
Big bang describes the works of notable scientists like Albert Einstein, Johannes Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, Tycho Brahe and Ptolemy etc. The list goes on. It discusses the times and circumstances in which these people lived. The hardships they had to suffer. The theories which they challenged or developed. Their confrontation with the bureaucracy and the popularly held beliefs. And consequently how the various theories about the existence of universe evolved. The book is also interesting as it educates its reader not only about the nature of cosmology, but also about the intricate interplay between science with other realms of human existence, such as religion.
I can never forget having read this book for another reason too. I read this book while in various European cities. These include, Limerick, Vienna, Salzburg and Graz. I particularly remember that while I was reading about Johannes Kepler and his work, I was sitting in a garden in Graz. And when I finished reading the chapter concerning him, I noticed that there stood a statue of him in front of me. Similarly, I remember that read about the steady state model and its comparison with the big bang model on a hilltop in Graz on which I had gotten to through a lift. There were many people around me but I was practically oblivious about their existence. I read about the CMB (cosmic microwave background) on my way back to Limerick in a bus. These vivid memories are unforgettable and romantic.
Big bang is a must read for every student of science. Once you will read it, you will fall in love with cosmology. And you would also want to live the rest of your life as a cosmologist or an astronomer.
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