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Human Universe by Professor Brian Cox
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In the book to accompany the TV series of the same name Professor Brian Cox links human evolution to the development of our exploration of space - or tries to...
In fact this is a confused and confusing book. There are two stories trying to work together but they don't really manage it. The story of the development of space exploration and understanding is well put together and whilst some of the maths and concepts may be beyond the average reader, it doesn't become a 'textbook' of quantum physics. The parts about human development are also interesting but they don't seem to fit in with the physics.
This feels like a good idea that is in fact a rather self-indulgent vanity project and it's all about the 'rock'n'roll physicist' ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
"Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."
– Douglas Adams

And blimey it is big. Brian Cox's Human Universe takes as its theme mankind's "ascent into insignificance": the idea that, back when you and I were just a pair of apes banging rocks on mammoths, we were the centre of the universe, but that every major discovery in astronomy and astrophysics has pushed us further towards the edge.

The universe no longer revolves around the Earth, the stars no longer revolve around our sun, our star system is no longer special for containing planets, the universe no longer ends at the edges of our galaxy, ours may not even be the only universe.

You may think that pretty depressing, but if so I'm guessing you're also the sort of person who, as a child, bit the birthday girl because she wouldn't share her presents with you. The fact that we, born of a chance mix of acids, have come to recognise our tiny position in the infinite complexity of the multiverse is astonishing – and certainly a better story than a plate of spare ribs being turned into a hot nubile virgin.

"Meaning," Cox argues, "is an emergent property." Right now, as you read this, there are experiments going on, on Earth, to create an artificial star. We have already simulated the moments following the very birth of our universe. And we've sent a machine beyond the boundaries of our solar system. Not bad for a kid from the primordial ooze. ( )
  m_k_m | Mar 7, 2017 |
This was apparently going to be a companion book to Brian Cox's five-part BBC series of the same name. It's more than that. It's better. It's a very readable introduction to our species--what we are, where we are...and are we alone? It's also a tribute to humanity. There are so many perspectives in this book I personally share, it felt at times that it was written specifically for me. Here's a quote from the book that not only exemplifies this but also tells you what it's about:
One of the central themes of this book has been to argue that the human race is worth saving because we are a rare and infinitely beautiful natural phenomenon. One of the other themes is that we are commonly and paradoxically ingenious and stupid in equal measure.
And then there's this......we are the most meaningful thing the universe has to offer as far as we know, and when all is said and done, that's a significant thing to be.
And this...Education is the most important investment a developed society can make, and the most effective way of nurturing a developing one.

On the other hand, there were a couple of things I didn't care for. The edition I read is coffee table size, 11.25" by 9" with thick, glossy pages. It's not an easy one to read in bed at night, which is what I tend to do. It's too big, too heavy, and the reflection of a reading lamp on the shiny pages makes it difficult to see properly. Then, there are the pictures. This book is loaded with them, and although fine in and of themselves, they are often more distracting than elucidating.

You might want to opt for the paperback or eBook versions, but I can wholeheartedly recommend this for anyone with an interest in the human species. ( )
  DLMorrese | Oct 14, 2016 |
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Cox, Professor Brianprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cohen, Andrewmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS MAN, HOW NOBLE IN REASON, HOW INFINITE IN FACULTIES, IN FORM AND MOVING HOW EXPRESS AND ADMIRABLE, IN ACTION HOW LIKE AN ANGEL, IN APPREHENSION HOW LIKE A GOD! THE BEAUTY OF THE WORLD, THE PARAGON OF ANIMALS – AND YET, TO ME, WHAT IS THIS QUINTESSENCE OF DUST? MAN DELIGHTS NOT ME – NOR WOMAN NEITHER, THOUGH BY YOUR SMILING YOU SEEM TO SAY SO.HAMLET
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0007488807, Hardcover)

Human life is a staggeringly strange thing. On the surface of a ball of rock falling around a nuclear fireball in the blackness of a vacuum the laws of nature conspired to create a naked ape that can look up at the stars and wonder where it came from. What is a human being? Objectively, nothing of consequence. Particles of dust in an infinite arena, present for an instant in eternity. Clumps of atoms in a universe with more galaxies than people. And yet a human being is necessary for the question itself to exist, and the presence of a question in the universe - any question - is the most wonderful thing. Questions require minds, and minds bring meaning. What is meaning? I don't know, except that the universe and every pointless speck inside it means something to me. I am astonished by the existence of a single atom, and find my civilisation to be an outrageous imprint on reality. I don't understand it. Nobody does, but it makes me smile. This book asks questions about our origins, our destiny, and our place in the universe. We have no right to expect answers; we have no right to even ask. But ask and wonder we do. Human Universe is first and foremost a love letter to humanity; a celebration of our outrageous fortune in existing at all. I have chosen to write my letter in the language of science, because there is no better demonstration of our magnificent ascent from dust to paragon of animals than the exponentiation of knowledge generated by science. Two million years ago we were apemen. Now we are spacemen. That has happened, as far as we know, nowhere else. That is worth celebrating.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:27 -0400)

Professor Brian Cox takes readers out of this world and into a whole new dimension as he gives us a new perspective on human life. Following the spark of human curiosity from its ignition in the distant past to its journey into the future, the book spans the history of the universe, as Brian attempts to understand the greatest wonder of them all - humankind.… (more)

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