The Little Book of Cosmology
Why this book?
The most striking thing about the night sky is that it is mostly black. But if your eyes, instead of seeing visible light, could see a type of invisible light known as microwaves, it would be white. The entire Universe is glowing with the “afterglow” of the big bang fireball. Greatly cooled by the expansion of the universe in the past 13.82 billion years, the “cosmic background radiation” now consists of low-energy radio waves, principally microwaves.
Imprinted on this radiation is a “baby photo” of the universe when it was a mere 400,000 years old and matter was beginning the long process of clumping under gravity that would culminate in galaxies such as our own Milky Way. From that photo can be extracted the numbers that define our Universe, from its age of 13.82 billion years to the fact that 70 percent of cosmic mass-energy is in the form of mysterious “dark energy”.
Lyman Page is a professor of astronomy at the Princeton University in New Jersey and his area of research has for decades been the heat afterglow of the big bang. My first thought, on picking up his book, was: “This will be just another academic jumping on the popular science bandwagon and short-changing the public with a pretty ordinary book.” Nothing could be further from the truth. This ranks alongside Steven Weinberg’s The First Three Minutes as the best book on cosmology I have ever read. A compact treasure-trove of cosmic insights to be read, mulled over, and read again.