Before the big bang The origin of the universe and what lies beyond

Laura Mersini-Houghton

Book - 2022

One of the world's leading experts on the multiverse and the origins of the universe presents a revolutionary new account of the events leading up to the Big Bang.

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 523.1/Mersini-Houghton Due Jun 6, 2024
Boston : Mariner Books [2022]
Main Author
Laura Mersini-Houghton (author)
First edition
Item Description
Includes index.
Physical Description
xxi, 216 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
  • Prologue: My Albanian Universe
  • 1. Is Our Universe Special?
  • 2. How Did Our Universe Start?
  • 3. A Quantum Leap
  • 4. Fine-Tuning
  • 5. Are We Alone?
  • 6. Eleven Dimensions
  • 7. First Wave
  • 8. Into the Multiverse
  • 9. The Origin of Our Universe
  • 10. Fingerprints of Other Universes
  • 11. Infinity and Eternity
  • Epilogue: A Place to Dream
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Cosmologist Mersini-Houghton melds memoir and scientific discovery in her mixed bag of a debut. Growing up in Albania when the country was under a totalitarian government, Mersini-Houghton developed a love of space, as "the only place that was open to us was the... stars above. The state could not prevent us from looking up." She eventually left the country after winning a scholarship to the University of Maryland. Alongside the stirring personal narrative, the author lays out her theory of the universe, which, she writes, changes "how we conceive of our world and our place in it." She's on shakier ground here: her "quantum landscape multiverse" theory, she posits, disproves the notion that there's just one universe and offers a look at what happened before the big bang. While she calls the theory a game changer, the science behind it is often imprecise or unclear ("I had missed a crucial piece of the puzzle: the separation or decoupling of the different entangled branches of the wave function of the universe"). This one's worth it for the hard-won personal success story, but the theory end of things doesn't quite land. Agent: Peter Bernstein, Bernstein Literary Agency. (July)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

An enthusiastic exploration of the early universe. Mersini-Houghton, a professor of theoretical physics and cosmology, was born in Albania. She witnessed its 1991 revolution as a university student and became the first in her nation to win a Fulbright scholarship to study the natural sciences in the U.S. Fascinated by both mathematics and physics, she took up cosmology, the study of the universe, concentrating on events before its birth. There is no shortage of books exploring this subject, and this is a solid addition to the literature. As the author explains, roughly 14 billion years ago, everything slammed together, and the universe went through an accelerated expansion. While there is evidence (the cosmic microwave background radiation) for such an explosion in the distant past, problems remain. Our cosmos is surprisingly homogenous. Around 1980, physicists proposed the idea of cosmic inflation, a spectacular expansion an instant after the Big Bang. By the 2000s, string theory offered tantalizing solutions that were also replete with difficulties and complications. It seemed to predict not one but a landscape of potential big bangs, an idea in ill-repute because no test could detect them. Intrigued, the author considered the matter and found a solution that combines quantum theory with gravitational theory (both long accepted) and string theory (still under debate), producing a testable concept that required innumerable worlds: a multiverse. Mersini-Houghton's long explanation of her concept will be heavy going for those unfamiliar with physics, and she does not deny that it remains controversial, but the possibilities suggested by her research are undeniably intriguing. A well-informed cosmology lesson for dedicated readers. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.