Thursday, May 7, 2009

"Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe" by Simon Singh

I recently read "Big Bang" by Simon Singh. Much of it is excellent, and he has also found a lot of high quality source material. However, in some places it is glib rather than good. In all fairness to Dr. Singh, he was trying to explain the entire history of cosmology from the time of the ancient Greeks through the early 2000s. It is difficult do to that without a little glibness. I also noticed a couple of errors. One of them is important.

On page 116 and, again on page 506, it says that special relativity cannot handle situations involving acceleration and deceleration, and that general relativity is required for those situations. This is just not true. General relativity is required for situations involving gravity, but special relativity can handle accelerations just fine. See, for example exercise 58 on the relativistic rocket in "Spacetime Physics" by Taylor and Wheeler.

In the second paragraph on page 297, the wording seems to imply that the emission of an alpha particle is considered fission. As far as I know, it isn't.

And, on page 351, it says that Hoyle wrote a play for children called "Rockets in Ursa Major"? Is this correct? He did write a science fiction novel by that name, and it is a bad one. (It is not nearly in the same class as Hoyle's early science fiction novels.)

Is it worth reading? Yes, definitely.

All these page numbers refer to ISBN 0-00-715251-5

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