the living cosmos


Impey has written a wonderfully readable book about the chances of life existing elsewhere in the universe (pretty high, in spite of the universe’s appalling violence). But “The Living Cosmos” is not about just that. It is an overview of everything you need to know about the fundamentals, including how we got here and where we’re probably going. More important, the science — a word that often causes eyes to glaze over — is laid out with uncommon clarity and panache.

The field of astrobiology (only about 50 years old and ill-named; it used to be called exobiology, which makes a lot more sense) has been criticized as “a subject with no subject matter.” But there’s plenty to speculate on. Impey begins with 40 pages’ worth of basic cosmology, in which he manages to make the big bang almost visualizable, noting that the brief inflationary period immediately following the bang increased the size of the universe “from a proton to a grapefruit.” It also homogenized everything, so that everywhere we look, the universe (now, 14 billion years later, a great deal larger than a grapefruit and getting larger and larger, faster and faster) looks pretty much the same.

more from the LA Times here.