Cover Image: Flashes of Creation

Flashes of Creation

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Member Reviews

3.5 stars    
An engaging narrative of advances in astrophysics & cosmology during the first half of the 20th C & the popularization of science writing & media during the same era, focusing on the contributions of George Gamow & Fred Hoyle.
[What I liked:]

•This was a fun book to read! While I was somewhat familiar with many of the concepts & theories discussed in the book, it was neat to see them presented in a chronological historical narrative, how the different ideas & research built on each other over time. 
•This book is written in an engaging way, covering the rivalry between two prominent physicists & science educators & how they each shaped the modern cosmology. The narrative structure & writing style make it easy to follow, even when difficult, abstract concepts are discussed.

[What I didn’t like as much:]

•At certain points the book was a bit repetitive. Certain points were re-stated later on in the narrative, I guess to remind the reader of a relevant point when it came up again, but to me it felt unnecessary.

[I received an ARC ebook copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Thank you for the book!]
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I remember learning about the lifecycle of a star, and red dwarves and supernovas and so on in school, and how reactions take place in stars and power life as we know it. I love books about the history of science- the slow buildup of observations, the painstaking documentation and verification of possibilities, and this book is perfect for that. Halpern traces all the work done to explain the formation of the Universe-to me , it seems perfectly obvious but these theories really aren't that old! It's obvious to me now, observational technology would need to develop enough for scientists to have enough data to analyse, and it took years of team effort to come up with coherent theories. While the book's ostensibly about Gamov and Fred Hoyle, with their competing theories of the origins of the Universe, Halpern makes sure not to ignore all the scientists involved, whose observations contributed to final theories. The book's very well-written and well-edited, and the science is lucidly explained, without it seeming too much like a school-level textbook. Given how keen both Gamov and Hoyle were on the popularisation of science, they would be proud of Halpern's work!
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I love reading books and watching programs about astrophysics. I watched both Cosmos' and anything on Nova and Discovery and the Science channel that I could. The big names like Galileo and Newton and Einstein were always talked about, but even though I knew the theories that these men discovered and worked through I never knew their names.
This book gives a thorough and humanizing look at not only the two men of Gamow and Hoyle, but the teams of people who's names you might not have heard before, and some you may have, around them as the scientific world tried to understand the make up of the universe, and how it came to be. It doesn't just look at the biography of the men, but it gives an accounting of the science as well, and while I do have a rather basic understanding of the topics being discussed in the book, Paul Halpern uses allegories and allusions to make it easy for the reader to understand. For anyone interested in how our current understanding of the creation of the universe came to be, and the understanding of nebulas, supernovae, black holes, how the elements are created, and to read the "not bird poop" Cosmic Background Radiation story yet one more time, this book is one to add to your TBR.
Thank you to NetGalley and Basic Books for the copy of this book.
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Today, pretty much everyone accepts that the universe began with the Big Bang. However, in the mid-20th c, the question of the origins of the universe were still being debated. In his book, Flashes of Creation, physics professor and author Paul Halpern looks at two of the main scientists involved, theoretical physicist George Gamow and physicist Fred Doyle with Gamow a strong proponent of the theory and Doyle arguing that the universe was always in the process of being created. Halpern gives a well-researched and in-depth look at their arguments on both sides. Best of all, he tells the story in language easily understood by us non-scientific types and makes it extremely interesting. For anyone who, like me, lacks a science background but wants to understand the science behind the big bang, I highly recommend this book.

<i>Thanks to Netgalley and Perseus Books for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review</i>
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This biography of physicists George Gamow and Fred Hoyle is told in the context of their ongoing debate over how the universe began: whether it started in a Big Bang, as Gamow proposed (though he didn’t use that term, which was coined by Hoyle), or has always existed in a steady state of renewal and decay, as Hoyle imagined. Told in language accessible to lay people, it portrays these larger-than-life men as uniquely human. Mavericks who weren’t afraid of pushing the boundaries of science, they contributed greatly to our understanding of how the elements in the universe were formed. The book also explores their work as science communicators who inspired the next generation of scientists. Informative and entertaining, this book is a pleasure to read.

Thanks, NetGalley, for the ARC I received.
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