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Our universe seems strangely 'biophilic,' or hospitable to life. Is this providence or coincidence? According to Martin Rees, the answer depends on the answer to another question, the one posed by Einstein's famous remark: 'What interests me most is whether God could have made the world differently.' This highly engaging book centres on the fascinating consequences of the answer being 'yes'. Rees explores the notion that our universe is just part of a vast 'multiverse,' or ensemble of universes, in which most of the other universes are lifeless. What we call the laws of nature would then be local bylaws, imposed in the aftermath of our own Big Bang. In this scenario, our cosmic habitat would be a special, possibly unique universe where the prevailing laws of physics allowed life to emerge. Expanding our comprehension of the cosmos, OUR COSMIC HABITAT will be read and enjoyed by all those - scientists and non-scientists alike - who are as fascinated by the universe we inhabit, as is the author himself.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780297829010
ISBN-10: 0297829017
Format: Hardback
(206mm x 140mm x 24mm)
Pages: 240
Imprint: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Publish Date: 10-Jan-2002
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » The bestselling unreadable books of our time have tended to be about astronomy and cosmology. It seems that, however clear his prose, the expert cosmologist is dealing with concepts which are almost impossible to convey in language the ordinary reader can comprehend. This book is something of an exception. Sir Martin Bell, Astronomer Royal of Great Britain, looked in his Scribner Lectures at the underlying laws that govern the microworld of atoms and the grand scale of the cosmos, and in the book which has sprung from those lectures attempts to understand how these set the stage for life by allowing the emergence of planets, stars and galaxies. He asks what culture might inform the world of aliens, should they exist, and speculates on the nature of the special recipe which, rather than leading to still-born galaxies with no life, only sterile uniformity, led instead to the world we know. Of course his argument gets difficult, but he probably comes nearer than any other living writer to making it possible for the common reader to understand (for instance) the fascinating new concept of super-string theory or M-theory, in which 'each point in our ordinary space is actually a tightly folded origami in six extra dimensions, wrapped up on scales perhaps a billion billion times smaller than an atomic nucleus'. This is not a book to be afraid of, but one to stimulate the mind, to inform, and - almost - to explain the extraordinary space we inhabit. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Einstein once asked whether God could have made the world any differently; here, Rees, England's Astronomer Royal, offers an answer. Originally delivered as a series of lectures at Princeton, Rees's meditations on the origins of the universe and the laws of physics begin with the planets and stars that make up the visible universe. While Giordiano Bruno and other philosophers speculated that distant worlds might be as hospitable to life as ours is, only in the last decade has science begun to detect planets beyond the solar system. Scientists who argue that life is the inevitable product of commonplace physical conditions have little better evidence on their side than those who believe it to be a rare cosmic fluke. What they do agree on is the general uniformity of physical laws throughout the observable universe. Gravity pulls at the same strength, and the relative masses and charges of the elementary particles remain constant. All this can be accounted for by a single creation event, popularly known as the Big Bang. Radio astronomy has given theorists a good idea of what conditions were like only a fraction of a second after the Bang. But theory cannot account for certain apparently arbitrary parameters, such as the relative abundances of matter and antimatter, or the comparative strengths of the different forces that act on all matter. What would happen if these parameters were different? Could there exist universes in which they are in fact different? Rees ("Before the Beginning", 1997) suggests that other "bubbles" of reality might exist in unreachable dimensions, each with its own physical laws. Nor are these alternate universes necessarily beyond the reach of science; interesting theories prompt scientists to find ways to test them, and the future promises to be every bit as interesting as the past. A provocative survey of modern cosmology for readers who want the big picture. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Martin Rees

Sir Martin Rees is Royal Society Research Professor at Cambridge University, and holds the title of Astronomer Royal.

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