If you’re stuck at home, what you need is some reading material that will make your world feel a little bigger. Even if there’s no room to stretch your legs, there’s always room to expand your mind. Let’s take a dive into cosmology, a branch of astronomy reserved for the most curious and imaginitive of wonderers.
It’s possible you’ve never heard of cosmology, or you know it has something to do with the cosmos but not sure what, or you always thought it was something to do with eye shadow. But if you’ve ever asked yourself any of these questions, you already have cosmology on the brain: “Why is there something instead of nothing?” “What shape is the universe?” “How did the universe begin and where is it going?” “What happened before the Big Bang?” “Is it possible we are a 3D projection in a higher dimensional space?”
In her 2002 book How the Universe Got its Spots, Janna Levin muses on the shape of the universe. Could it be positively curved, like a globe, implying a Big Crunch will follow the Big Bang? Could it be negatively curved, like a saddle, implying that there’s not enough mass for a Big Crunch so the universe will expand forever? Is it like a Mobius Strip? A hyper torus? Is the universe quite small but tiled over and over so it only appears infinite? If that’s true, if we peer through the telescope far enough, wouldn’t we see the back of our own head peering through a telescope…?
To energize your cosmos curiosity, here are five new and upcoming books on the subject.
*Please note that it is extremely important that you support your local independent bookstore right now. Many of them are suffering from being closed during the pandemic. You can check if your local bookstore is shipping by visiting their website or finding them on IndieBound.org. In each post during the pandemic, I’ll be linking to some stores that are still shipping, last I heard.
Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe by Brian Greene
In this instant New York Times bestseller, world-renowned physicist Brian Greene takes us on a journey from the big bang to the end of time, exploring how lasting structures formed, how life and mind emerged, and how we grapple with our existence through narrative, myth, religion, creative expression, science, the quest for truth, and a deep longing for the eternal. From particles to planets, consciousness to creativity, matter to meaning—Brian Greene allows us all to grasp and appreciate our fleeting but utterly exquisite moment in the cosmos.
The Beginning and the End of Everything: From the Big Bang to the End of the Universe by Paul Parsons
Authoritative and engaging, former BBC Focus magazine editor Paul Parsons takes us on a roller coaster ride through billions of light years to tell the story of the Big Bang, from birth to death.
“This is a wonderful introduction to one of the most exciting and engaging aspects of science.” —Popular Science
The Cosmic Revolutionary’s Handbook: (Or: How to Beat the Big Bang) by Luke A. Barnes and Geraint F. Lewis
For all those who wonder about our bizarre universe, and those who want to overthrow the big bang, this book gives you ‘just the facts’: the observations that have shaped established ideas and theories. The authors pull back the curtains, and show how cosmology really works.
“Overthrowing all of modern cosmology isn’t easy, but it could happen. Maybe you will be the one to do it! If you’re up for the challenge, Luke A. Barnes and Geraint F. Lewis tell you exactly what you have to accomplish. Even if you don’t topple the stodgy edifice of modern science, you’ll certainly learn some exciting things about the universe along the way.” —Sean Carroll, author of Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime
Space at the Speed of Light: The History of 14 Billion Years for People Short on Time by Dr. Becky Smethurst
From the big bang to black holes, this fast-paced illustrated tour of time and space for the astro-curious unlocks the science of the stars to reveal fascinating theories, surprising discoveries, and ongoing mysteries in modern astronomy and astrophysics. Oxford University astrophysicist and popular YouTube personality Dr. Becky Smethurst presents everything you need to know about the universe in ten accessible and engagingly illustrated lessons.
The Little Book of Cosmology by Lyman Page
Written by one of the world’s leading experimental cosmologists, this short but deeply insightful book describes what scientists are revealing through precise measurements of the faint thermal afterglow of the Big Bang and how their findings are transforming our view of the cosmos. This incisive book also describes the search for ever deeper knowledge at the field’s frontiers―from quests to understand the nature of neutrinos and dark energy to investigations into the physics of the very early universe.