Review: The Big Questions: The Universe
by Jeff Foust
|Clark packs a lot into 200 pages: everything from the search for extraterrestrial intelligence to “M-theory” physics, which could provide the basis for alternate universes.
The book (part of a series called The Big Questions, with other books on topics from philosophy to physics) takes on one universe-related question per chapter, starting with some basic questions (how old is the universe?) and moving on to more complex topics in cosmology, astrobiology, and exotic physics. Some of the questions posed in the book have been settled, like the composition of stars and why planets stay in orbit. Others, though, remain unanswered, such as the composition of dark matter and dark energy, and whether life exists on Mars or elsewhere. Arguably one question in the book is unanswerable: is there cosmological evidence for God? That’s something that is arguably more theological than cosmological.
The Big Questions: The Universe has a very basic, no-nonsense design, with a plain black cover and a shape that makes it look more like a bound notebook (right down to the elastic strap to hold the cover in place). There are illustrations, all in grayscale, but no color imagery. Instead, Clark examines the topics, provides the historical background, and either explains the answer to that big question, or discusses why we don’t have an answer yet and what the prospects are for finding one. He packs a lot into 200 pages: everything from the search for extraterrestrial intelligence to “M-theory” physics, which could provide the basis for alternate universes. It might be a little too much for the causal reader who wants some simple answers, but big questions about the universe often have complex, yet compelling, explanations.