By Stuart Clark. Hardback. UK price: £12.99. 208 pages. Publisher: Quercus.
Amateur astronomers know well that their friends often come up with questions about their hobby. But they don’t just want to know when they can see a meteor shower or the next eclipse. They may be curious about far deeper questions like what is the universe, how did it begin, are there aliens, and what is a black hole?
They are not easy questions and the average stargazer probably finds it as difficult to understand some of these concepts as their friends do.
Now though comes a new book that directly tackles many of these major issues, written by an author who is a master at putting over complex scientific ideas in language that those without brains the size of a planet can understand.
Stuart Clark, a Visiting Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire, was editor of Astronomy Now and now contributes to leading magazines New Scientist and BBC Focus as well as national UK newspapers. He has written a number of books, including his much-acclaimed work The Sun Kings which read as much like a thriller as a work of science as it explained how one man’s chance observation led to our growing understanding of solar activity and the effects of space weather.
Now Clark brings his considerable intellectual and literary skills to The Big Questions: The Universe, one of a series of volumes which also tackles Philosophy, Physics and Mathematics. Behind a modest cover and despite purely monochrome illustrations, he adds plenty of colour in the form of his text.
Straight away in the Introduction he hits us with an astonishing fact – that there are as many stars in the universe as on all the beaches on not just the Earth, but on 10,000 planets like ours. From that point, prepare to be presented with plenty more mind-boggling ideas as Clark explains the nature of the universe and its beginnings, what stars are and how planets formed, and those difficult and controversial concepts dark matter and dark energy.
He looks at how life emerged on Earth and whether we might find it on Mars and further out in the universe. And along with concepts such as how constant are the laws of physics, whether we can time-travel, the possibility of other universes and even whether the cosmos provides evidence for God.
It is heady stuff but continually fascinating and very readable thanks to Clark. Its reasonable price makes it an invaluable aid for anyone interested in astronomy.
Click on this link to buy The Big Questions: The Universe in the United States.
Click on this link to buy The Big Questions: The Universe in the UK.
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