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The Collapsing Universe by Isaac Asimov

The Collapsing Universe (1977)

by Isaac Asimov

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Having gained interest in black holes with the advent of the Hadron Collider I needed to seek out more information about them. I found The Collapsing Universe by Isaac Asimov to be a very good jumping off point, a black holes 101 so to speak. This book begins to explain black holes by first giving the reader a fast track study of miniscule atoms and moving outward toward planets, stars, neutron stars, black holes and finally white holes and wormholes, both purely speculative in 1977, the year this book was published.
Asimov writes in a very understandable to laymen fashion. Although he throws in a few scientific equations for good measure, the reader can get by without understanding the math behind the idea. Undoubtedly groundbreaking when first published some of the book is conjecture and so many questions remain, my interest however has been peaked non the less and I look forward to reading further books on this subject. ( )
  Carmenere | Aug 15, 2009 |
The Collapsing Universe is a nonfiction Asimov work that focuses on the birth, life, and death of stars, explains the creation and physics of black holes, and discusses the birth and potential death of the universe. Asimov's straightforward writing style, which can be a hindrance when he writes fiction, works to the book's benefit here, as the concepts, ideas, and facts are presented in a clear and easy to follow manner.

Though the book was published in the 1970s, and scholarship concerning the subject matter of the book has changed in some ways, the fundamentals of the field have not. As this book doesn't seek to do more than educate the readers on those fundamentals, the science discussed by and large remains accurate. Those who are already well-versed in physics won't find anything new or particularly insightful here: Asimov's science books were mostly intended to introduce an untrained person to the field and educate them to a reasonable understanding of the subject. The book is very math-light, as befits the introductory nature of the book.

For someone who wants a decent, non-math intensive introduction to cosmology this book would be an excellent resource. For someone already knowledgeable in the field, it would be nothing more than a diversion. If you have studied cosmology before, you can give this a pass. If you want an introduction to the subject, this book is a good way to start.

This review has also been posted to my blog Dreaming About other Worlds. ( )
  StormRaven | Nov 6, 2008 |
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To Phyllis and Al Balk, who were there on November 30, 1973
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Since 1960 the universe has taken on a wholly new face.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Negli ultimi decenni l'astronomia ha mutato completamente volto; oggetti nuovi e misteriosi - pulsar, nebulose planetarie, giganti rosse, nane bianche, stelle di neutroni, galassie di Seyfert, buchi neri, quasar - si accalcano sulla scena di un universo violento e sconcertante, un universo in cui, sullo sfondo di una gigantesca esplosione primordiale che ha lacerato le strutture di un passato ignoto, le fragili certezze e i labili riferimenti del nostro mondo cedono di schianto all'azione di forze che obbediscono solo a una necessità incondizionata. Sottoposta alla pressione incontrastata dell'interazione gravitazionale, alla quale nessun'altra forza è in grado di opporre resistenza, l'architettura stessa dell'atomo si sgretola, e in un mondo ridotto ormai a materia degenerata tutto diventa possibile, le ipotesi più sorprendenti possono assumere l'aspetto della realtà. 
Oltre che un grande divulgatore scientifico, con una passione particolare per l'astronomia, Asimov è anche, come è noto, uno fra i più apprezzati autori di fantascienza. Le sua qualità vengono in luce anche in questo libro, nella chiarezza dell'esposizione, nella semplicità dello stile, nell'articolazione del discorso generale. Con un'argomentazione che prende l'avvio dalle nozioni più elementari - le forze operanti nell'universo e la struttura dell'atomo -, Asimov conduce per mano il suo lettore fino alle ipotesi più nuove e sconvolgenti sulla realtà e il futuro dell'universo.
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A well-organized tour of the universe that explains such phenomena as quasars, pulsars, and black holes.

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