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A clear, stimulating work for people who lack the elementary physics, chemistry and math to make sense out of what scientists tell each other about the material world. Like Alan Cottrell (Portrait of Nature, p. 341), Motz has a gift for building the complex from the simple. Starting with the basic ""four forces"" (gravity, electromagnetism, and strong and weak nuclear forces), he proceeds through the structures and processes that make up the universe. Motz traces the ""big bang"" theory of the universe's formation at a ""zero moment"" some 13 billion years ago, preceded by a state of density and temperature at which atoms themselves could not have existed. (If any remnants of the original sub-subatomic particles are still around, they may make up the 99% of all matter which has never been observed but must be present to account for all of the universe's gravity. Showing how astronomers classify stars by evolutionary stages, Motz comes nicely to the thermonuclear synthesis of the heavier elements from hydrogen and helium at various stages in stellar history, and an account of our own solar system's formation out of a nebula resulting from the debris of an earlier star. At the microcosmic level, he explains how the puzzles of atomic structure--not deducible from Newtonian assumptions--have been solved by quantum theory. After a brief description of organic molecular structures and the protein-coding process in living ceils, Motz concludes by outlining the future demise of our own solar system and later of the universe itself--whether by entropy or by gravitational collapse into an all-inclusive black hole from which another ""big bang"" may create universes like or unlike ours. Exciting and accessible, and put together with notably logical craftsmanship, though one suspects that many of Motz' assumptions should have been qualified as representing particular strands of controversial theory. An attractive invitation to a forbidding realm.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Scribners