Kirkus Reviews QR Code
ORIGINS by Neil DeGrasse Tyson Kirkus Star

ORIGINS

Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution

By Neil DeGrasse Tyson (Author) , Donald Goldsmith (Author)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-393-05992-8
Publisher: Norton

Companion volume to a PBS Nova special takes a look at the origins of life, the universe, and everything.

Hayden Planetarium director Tyson and popular science writer Goldsmith (The Hunt for Life on Mars, 1997, etc.) begin with the earliest time science is capable of describing, milliseconds after the Big Bang. Essential features of our universe were laid down in that unique moment, some of which—e.g., the minuscule excess of matter over antimatter—science is still at a loss to explain. Others, including the prevalence of so-called dark matter and dark energy, have only recently come to notice. After a period of cooling, the debris began to resemble the universe we now see. Gravity, light, and matter became predominant, with galaxies and stars taking shape. The authors give clear explanations of the processes involved as far as they are understood; Tyson and Goldsmith are not afraid to admit ignorance. Within the stars, originally composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, the other elements of the periodic table have been synthesized by nuclear fusion and spread about the galaxies in supernova explosions. From these stellar ashes, planets and the other bodies that orbit stars have been formed. The authors give useful updates on the progress in discovery of extra-solar planets (over a hundred are currently known) and of possible abodes of life in our own solar system (Mars, Europa, and Titan are now considered the best candidates). They end with a look at current thinking on the origins of life, a question made more complex by the discovery of extremophiles, creatures that live comfortably in environments formerly considered hostile to life.

An accessible and extremely well written exploration of the deep waters of cosmology, astrophysics, and exobiology.