If one can set aside personal religious dogma and indoctrination, the Universe represents a fascinating field of study. I have never been able to reconcile the vastness of the Universe with religious traditions, teachings, or Faith on a personal scale. Nor have I been able to achieve any relationship at scales below atoms, neutrons, protons, and electrons with spirituality or religion. Science and Religion represent two mutually exclusive domains. I do not read the Bible to understand chemistry or physics or biology. However, Science can be applied in very real ways to Biblical notions and concepts. I am not clear how Religion applies to Science, other than to encourage blind or ignorant beliefs.
I struggle with the daily knowledge of people walking among us who refuse to believe the earth is 4.3 billion years old. Or who cannot accept stars burning in the night-time sky are more distant than 6,000 light-years away, thus visible for longer than any timeline of human existence created from Biblical events.
If you follow in with people who acknowledge only a 6,000 year-old earth, or fall in with the people who believe the Universe was created in 7 days, you will find Paul’s book offensive. But, you should stop being ignorant and read his book. Or, read “The Mind of God,” also by Dr. Davies, and receive knowledge and be illuminated.
Paul is an excellent communicator. Divided into a few chapters, each chapter is further subdivided into sections which address topics even specific detail. For example, Chapter Two, "The Universe Explained," contains 13 sections covering such topics as the "Big Bang and the Expanding Universe," to "Hiding Dimensions of Space." Helping tie material in each section together is a Key Points list at the end of each chapter. Some physics and cosmology books I have read aren’t really broken up into easy to manage chunks. These authors must write textbooks.
Paul seems to grasp having small sections allows a reader with 15-20 minutes to kill will encourage the reader to stay focused, without seeming to overburden the reader with so much information and concepts which honestly require frequent contemplation.
Here is a notion I have trouble wrapping my brain around: humans will never be able to see the true horizon of the Universe. The far-flung edges of the Universe are so far away and moving away from us so fast light emitted from stellar objects will never reach any of our instruments. Never. When we discuss the Universe, we have to set some rules. Are we discussing the entire Universe, including the parts we will never see? Or, are we only talking about the part of the Universe only observable to humans? Or, does our discussion include the Multiverse, a collection of universes of which our universe is simply one, like one bubble in a bubblebath. Some scientists use the term, megaverse.
The reader will also be introduced to the cast of characters responsible for developing many of our current insights into the realm of cosmology. Einstein receives considerable credit, but he was not the first nor last scientist to contemplate our universe. Edwin Hubble, Charles Wheeler, Alan Turing, Oskar Klein, Edwin Abbot, and Theodor Kaluza are a few people who have contributed to the field of cosmology and the philosophy surrounding the intellectual pursuit of understanding our galactic domain and human’s place among the stars.
Paul’s book is not merely limited to the stellar objects of enourmous scale. To understand how galactic objects work, we have to change our scale from light-years to Planck lengths. We have to understand what comprises a neutron and a proton. We have to discuss how atomic level energies contribute to the formation of stars, how stars explode, and how stars use energy. The forces at the quantum level are as important as time-space force of gravity.
Paul will introduce Dark Matter and Dark Energy. We can see Dark Matter, we simply do not know what dark matter is. We cannot appear to measure Dark Energy, though. Scientists can only see the effects of the energy. As of 2012, we have no idea about the nature of Dark Energy. Potential understanding lies with experiments at the Large Hadron Supercollider (LHC) at CERN. 2012 promises to be one of the most significant years in human history. The LHC will collide particles at record-setting energies. The results could lay bare the Higgs Boson, which scientist theorize contributes mass to everyday matter.
The final few chapters of the book deal with more philosophical ideas of universe existence, creation, present state, and future conditions. Though I know I am not using the term correctly, I would call Paul a "cosmolopher." A "cosmolopher" is a person knowledgable in cosmology and can think and contemplate pre-universe, current universe, and optional universe conditions in logical and rational ways, i.e. without having to resort to introducing a Prime Mover to fill in gaps to cover their limited understanding.
Both of Paul’s books, the "Goldilocks Enigma," and "The Mind of God," are books for people interested developing a basic understand of the universe, both from a real, physics-based perspective, and also from a more metaphysical viewpoint, allowing for the potential of Intelligent Design. Paul also refrains from using any mathematics. He talks about Euclidian and non-Euclidean geometry, scalar fields, and tensors, but only enough to tell you why these elements matter to quantum mechanics, quantum physics, and cosmology.
"The Goldilocks Engima" can be found used via Amazon. Click the book image above for direction to Amazon.
Paul Davies is a cosmologist and physicist at Arizona State University.