The Big Questions: The Universe

big question cover

Author: Stuart Clark
Publisher: Quercus Publishing
Price: £12.99
Format: Hardback
Rating: 4

This attractive little book forms part of a philosophical series called The Big Questions from publisher Quercus.

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It seeks to provide the lay reader with a detailed but comprehensible account of some of the hot topics in modern astronomy.

Contrary to what the title suggests, The Universe does not stick to tackling areas where current knowledge is lacking.

In fact, it often delves into fields that are not in themselves in serious doubt.

Some aren’t even questions that occupy the modern astronomer, such as ‘why do the planets stay in orbit?’.

In other words, the book should not be regarded as a definitive account of where the world’s astronomers are concentrating their efforts.

Some of these ‘big questions’ are simply those that occur to many inquisitive people.

Some topics, such as ‘how old is the Universe?’ and ‘what will be the fate of the Universe?’, could perhaps have been more conveniently combined in a single chapter.

This would have allowed other questions, such as the exact nature and source of high-energy cosmic rays, to be covered.

Having said that, the book is well written and will appeal to anyone interested in physics and the more theoretical side of astronomy.

You may require a little concentration to get through to the conclusions, but Clark guides you through modern science with patience and easy-to-follow language.

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With 20 pivotal questions covered, this is a great book to see you through those cloudy nights this coming winter.


Alastair Gunn is a radio astronomer at Jodrell Bank