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Any reader who has avoided science for fear of being overwhelmed will find a friendly guide in Potter, former publisher of Fourth Estate who has a masters in the history and philosophy of science. He addresses the issue head-on by turning the problem into one of scale, taking readers outward in a literary "Powers of 10" journey. From meters through kilometers to light-years, Potter takes readers beyond Earth's atmosphere, across the solar system and into deep space, where galaxies gather into vast superclusters. After this headlong rush, Potter offers a quick history of physics and a look at the quarks and gluons at the heart of matter. A quantum mechanics chaser segues into an intimate examination of the Big Bang and stellar formation to the coalescence of our own solar system and, finally, the evolution of life on the speck we call Earth. Giving equal weight to each topic, Potter's steady progression illuminates the ways in which they are all connected. This clear and smoothly written look at the mind-boggling history of everything is both informative and provocative. 10 b&w illus. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Sixteen hundred years after Augustine pondered the origins of time in the Creation, Potter probes that mystery from a modern scientific perspective. That perspective allows readers to trace the flight of time's arrow from the big bang, 13 billion years ago, into a cold, lifeless Dark Era trillions of years from now. Few intellectual adventures can match the thrill of riding this arrow as it speeds out of the fiery primal explosion that generates the rapidly inflating expanse of space. Readers marvel as energy-charged bubbles of quantum foam inexplicably metamorphose into radiant galaxies, and the riddles intensify as the temporal arrow flies above a magical blue-green planet on which myriad plant and animal species emerge and evolve. Potter sharpens his analysis when a curious hominid appears on the African savannahs, a species uniquely endowed with the capacity to contemplate its own place among the stars and the ability to chronicle its own origins. As he reflects on this strange species, Potter confronts the paradox of science as an enterprise that denies Homo sapiens any special status in the universe yet proceeds only because of godlike reasoning abilities found in no other creatures. A marvelously capacious book that will attract serious readers everywhere.--Christensen, Bryce Copyright 2009 Booklist