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COSM by Gregory Benford


By Gregory Benford

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-380-97435-5
Publisher: Eos/HarperCollins

 First of Avon's new f/sf line (see also Danvers, below) relaunched under the Eos imprint: a near-future you-are-there account of physics and physicists from a writer/scientist who knows whereof he speaks (Foundation's Fear, p 102, etc.). In 2005, a University of California (Irvine) physics professor, the black and rather matronly Alicia Butterworth, visits Long Island's Brookhaven labs for a particle-collision experiment. But following a mysterious explosion Alicia finds an inexplicable shiny basketball- sized sphere in the wreckage. Fearful of bureaucratic interference from Brookhaven, she whisks the sphere--it's easily contained by a magnetic field--back to UCI, where she and assistant Zak, grad student Brad, and Caltech theoretician Max Jalon study what proves to be a wormhole, held open by negative-energy density, leading into a new universe--the Cosm--that Alicia has accidentally created! Later, the Cosm produces an unexpected burst of energy, and poor Brad gets fried. In the Cosm, time runs millions of times faster than in our own universe, and the scientists watch fascinated while stars and galaxies evolve. As Brookhaven creates its own much larger Cosm, media clamor and threats from religious fanatics reach a crescendo. Finally, as the government prepares to grab Alicia's Cosm, the wormhole's other end intersects a black hole, and the Cosm explodes. Dead accurate, of course, on science, scientists, blackness and science, and public and media reaction to scientific discoveries. But Benford makes little attempt to grapple with the philosophical issues raised, and his leading lady could use a personality transplant. (Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club featured alternate selection; author tour)