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Our Cosmic Habitat
Martin Rees

Winner of the 2001 Peter Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize
Winner of the 2002 New York Book Show Award

Paperback | 2003 | $25.95 | £20.95 | ISBN: 9780691114774
224 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 19 line illus.
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Our universe seems strangely ''biophilic,'' or hospitable to life. Is this happenstance, providence, or coincidence? According to cosmologist Martin Rees, the answer depends on the answer to another question, the one posed by Einstein's famous remark: ''What interests me most is whether God could have made the world differently.'' This highly engaging book explores the fascinating consequences of the answer being ''yes.'' Rees explores the notion that our universe is just a part of a vast ''multiverse,'' or ensemble of universes, in which most of the other universes are lifeless. What we call the laws of nature would then be no more than local bylaws, imposed in the aftermath of our own Big Bang. In this scenario, our cosmic habitat would be a special, possibly unique universe where the prevailing laws of physics allowed life to emerge.

Rees begins by exploring the nature of our solar system and examining a range of related issues such as whether our universe is or isn't infinite. He asks, for example: How likely is life? How credible is the Big Bang theory? Rees then peers into the long-range cosmic future before tracing the causal chain backward to the beginning. He concludes by trying to untangle the paradoxical notion that our entire universe, stretching 10 billion light-years in all directions, emerged from an infinitesimal speck.

As Rees argues, we may already have intimations of other universes. But the fate of the multiverse concept depends on the still-unknown bedrock nature of space and time on scales a trillion trillion times smaller than atoms, in the realm governed by the quantum physics of gravity. Expanding our comprehension of the cosmos, Our Cosmic Habitat will be read and enjoyed by all those--scientists and nonscientists alike--who are as fascinated by the universe we inhabit as is the author himself.


"[This book] has an informal style and breadth of coverage that make it a joy to read. . . . Rees's explanations are exactly right."--William G. Unruh, Science

"Rees provides a nice summary of how we got here, how the universe began and how it might end. . . . Lay readers will appreciate Rees' clear, uncomplicated prose, even when dealing with tough stuff that leaves most physicists tongue-tied. Most welcome of all, he explains how scientists know what they claim to know."--K.C. Cole, Los Angeles Times

"Ample in scope, this explicit, confident, helpful, modest and good-humored book arises from a recent lecture series spanning astrophysics and cosmology. Using not one full-fledged equation only fresh diagrams and clear, personal prose--Rees, a masterful theorist, brings readers a sheaf of insights."--American Scientist

"[An] awe-inspiring survey. . . . Rees is not only a world-class cosmologist but one of our best living science writers."--John Cornwell, Sunday Times

"Probably the clearest and most easily understandable account of our Universe available."--Ian Morison, New Scientist

"Our very own Astronomer Royal blasts off into space, in velvety, friendly prose. His musings on the possibilities of alien life and of time travel, the necessity to colonise space, and a vision of the far future make for a pleasingly concise and always intriguing tour d'horizon."--Steven Poole, The Guardian

"In the crowded field of popular writing about the universe, Rees is genuinely in the forefront--an accomplished scientist with the superior writing skills. . . . He exudes the instinctual curiosity we all possess when looking upward, and he focuses that wonderment on the narrow range of cosmological numbers that allow us to ruminate about it all. A wonderfully appealing presentation."--Booklist

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Table of Contents:

PROLOGUE: "Could God Have Made the World Any Differently?" xi
PART I: From Big Bang to Biospheres
1 Planets and Stars 3
2 Life and Intelligence 15
3 Atoms, Stars and Galaxies 35
4 Extragalactic Perspective 49
5 Pregalactic History 65
6 Black Holes and Time Machines 87
PART II: The Beginning and the End
7 Deceleration or Acceleration? 99
8 The Long-Range Future 113
9 How Things Began: The First Millisecond 123
PART III: Fundamentals and Conjectures
10 Cosmos and Microworld 141
11 Laws and Bylaws in the Multiverse 157
APPENDIX: Scales of Structure 183

This book has been translated into:

  • Portuguese
  • German
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Japanese
  • Polish

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