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How It Began: A Time-Traveler's Guide to the Universe

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


“Impey combines the vision of a practicing scientist with the voice of a gifted storyteller.”—Dava Sobel

In this vibrant, eye-opening tour of milestones in the history of our universe, Chris Impey guides us through space and time, leading us from the familiar sights of the night sky to the dazzlingly strange aftermath of the Big Bang.

What if we could look into space and see not only our place in the universe but also how we came to be here? As it happens, we can. Because it takes time for light to travel, we see more and more distant regions of the universe as they were in the successively greater past. Impey uses this concept—"look-back time"—to take us on an intergalactic tour that is simultaneously out in space and back in time. Performing a type of cosmic archaeology, Impey brilliantly describes the astronomical clues that scientists have used to solve fascinating mysteries about the origins and development of our universe.

The milestones on this journey range from the nearby to the remote: we travel from the Moon, Jupiter, and the black hole at the heart of our galaxy all the way to the first star, the first ray of light, and even the strange, roiling conditions of the infant universe, an intense and volatile environment in which matter was created from pure energy. Impey gives us breathtaking visual descriptions and also explains what each landmark can reveal about the universe and its history. His lucid, wonderfully engaging scientific discussions bring us to the brink of modern cosmology and physics, illuminating such mind-bending concepts as invisible dimensions, timelessness, and multiple universes.

A dynamic and unforgettable portrait of the cosmos, How It Began will reward its readers with a deeper understanding of the universe we inhabit as well as a renewed sense of wonder at its beauty and mystery.

From Publishers Weekly

Jan 02, 2012 – Impey (How It Ends: From You to the Universe) takes readers on a mesmerizing journey through the labyrinth that is our universe, following atoms through generation after generation of stellar cores from the Big Bang onward. Impey s time travelers are astronomers doing cosmic archeology in which the farther out in the universe one goes, the farther back in time one can see. Impey begins close to home, and closest in time, with the formation of our solar system, displaying both lyricism and wit ( the Moon splashes off the molten Earth. Venus is knocked on its ass such that it rotates opposite to all other planets ). Moving outward in the universe (and back in time toward the Big Bang), Impey discusses how to measure stellar distances and detect planets orbiting other stars. Stretching farther back, Impey explores galactic evolution, relativity, the large-scale structure of the universe, and the Big Bang. Fictional vignettes narrated by a space/time traveler ( The massive galaxy swims into view beneath my feet ) bookend each chapter to personalize the material. Impey vividly illustrates the most complex topics, like string theory and dark energy, bringing a fresh, original voice to a much-told tale, making cosmology pleasurable to all readers. 75 illus.
How It Began: A Time-Traveler's Guide to the Universe
View in iTunes
  • $14.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Astronomy
  • Published: Mar 26, 2012
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • Seller: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
  • Print Length: 448 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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