BOOKS

Tweeting the Universe

Tweeting the Universe

Two master science writers answer 140 of the biggest questions in physics, distilling the essence of each subject into tweets of 140 characters.

Marcus Chown and Govert Schilling take us on a unique tour of the universe, covering everything, from the most basic question – ‘Why is the sky dark at night?’ and ‘Why do stars twinkle?’ – to the most challenging – ‘What are quasars?’ and ‘What happened before the big bang?’.

Some of the questions in this brilliantly informative book are as surprising as the answers. ‘Is it possible that all the galaxies we see in our telescopes are nothing but an optical illusion?’. ‘Could you swim on Saturn’s moon, Titan?’. ‘Why doesn’t the Moon fall down?’ (Not a stupid question, it turns out). And ‘would Saturn float in a big enough bath of water?’.

BOOK DETAILS

  • Publisher: Faber
  • Publication date: March 7, 2013
  • ISBN: 9780571295708
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REVIEWS
  • One has to marvel at the innovative way in which writers Chown and Schilling have compressed big subjects – why the sky is blue, what makes rainbows, and how we know the age of the Earth – into tweets of 140 characters.

    Financial Times

  • A fine job condensing the universe into bite-sized morsels of text.

    The Space Review

  • A rich little knowledge bomb, recommended equally for consumption over  a weekend or as an occasional ‘dipper into’ before bed or between tube stops.

    5communicatescience.com

  • It’s ridiculous but ingenious, and wholly successful. The extreme compression forced upon the writers makes clarity imperative: the discipline seems to have liberated them. Everything you failed to understand in Stephen Hawking’s ridiculous books suddenly makes sense. You may learn more in an afternoon reading this book than you did in a whole childhood of science lessons.

    The Spectator

  • A box of luxury chocolates, all too easy to glut when you should savour. Because of the style, every sentence is an astonishment. Truly a book of the modern age.

    Astronomy Now

Afterglow of Creation

Afterglow of Creation

It’s the oldest fossil in creation… It accounts for 99.9% of all the light in the Universe … Its discoverers mistook it for the ‘glow’ of pigeon droppings (yet still carried off the Nobel prize). The discovery in 1992 of ‘cosmic ripples’ – slight variations in the temperature of radiation left over from the Big Bang – led to sensational headlines and a scramble among scientists to claim credit. ‘It’s like seeing the face of God’, declared one of the researchers. In this new and fully revised edition, Marcus Chown goes behind the hype and the hysteria to provide a clear and lively explanation of one of the biggest discoveries in modern science – and a brilliant picture of what happened next.

BOOK DETAILS

  • Publisher: Faber
  • Publication date: January 21, 2010
  • ISBN: 9780571250592
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REVIEWS
  • A very good piece of storytelling… Chown writes as if he were addressing his fellow human beings.

    New Scientist

  • Chown superbly captures the spirit of scientific endeavour… The story is told with panache and the science is so well explained it makes and effortless read. Afterglow of Creation is upbeat, witty and informed.

    The Sunday Times

  • It’s a long time since I read a popular science book that so accurately communicates the science involved while maintaining the reader’s interest through the beauty of the written word… Afterglow of Creation excels at portraying science as a human endeavour where personalities, ideas, egos, politics and money all mix in the endeavour we know asastronomy… This book should be in every middle school, high school and public library and on the shelves of anyone interested in either astronomy or the nature of science. A wonderful story, brilliantly told.

    The Science Teacher

  • Beautiful science, beautifully told.

    The Australian

  • The wonderful intro alone is worth the cover price. Witty and accessible science.

    Scott Pack, former chief buyer, Waterstones

The Magic Furnace

The Magic Furnace

Every atom in our bodies has an extraordinary history. Our blood, our food, our books, our clothes – everything contains atoms forged in blistering furnaces deep inside stars, which were blown into space by those stars’ cataclysmic explosions and deaths. From red giants – stars so enormous they could engulf a million suns – to supernova explosions – the most violent events in the universe – the birth of every atom was marked by cosmic events on an enormous scale, against a backdrop of unimaginable heat and cold, brightness and darkness, space and time. But how did we discover the astonishing truth about our cosmic origins? The Magic Furnace is Marcus Chown’s extraordinary account of how scientists unravelled the mystery of atoms, and helped to explain the dawn of life. It is one of the greatest detective stories in the history of science. In fact, it is two puzzles intertwined, for the stars contain the key to unlocking the secret of atoms, and the atoms the solution to the secret of stars.

BOOK DETAILS

  • Publisher: Vintage
  • Publication date:
  • ISBN: 9780099578017
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REVIEWS
  • All the narrative devices you’d expect to find in a Harry Potter book are here, and they transform the story of the quest to unlock the secret of the atom into a giddy page-turner.

    The Daily Mail

  • I heartily enjoyed Marcus Chown’s impressive book. This is the story of ultimate alchemy – not the sorcerer’s simple fantasy of transmuting lead into gold, but the mighty creation of all elements from none. With excitement and admirable skill, Chown narrates a complex epic on the grandest and smallest scales, peopled by the rogues and geniuses who deciphered the universe.

    Dava Sobel, author of ‘Longitude’

  • I am reading it on the plane and thoroughly enjoying it – you really have a very lucid style, which makes even the likes of me feel like I know what you’re talking about!

    Brian May, ‘Queen’

  • Marcus Chown recounts how scientists had to understand atoms before they could understand what made the stars shine, and how this led to the realisation that the atoms on Earth were themselves forged in ancient stars. In tracing this intellectual quest, Chown highlights the advances made by many important but under appreciated pioneers in the field. His fascinating chronicle of their achievements deserves to be widely read.

    Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees, ‘Natural History’

  • Suspense is the mark of a good storyteller, and The Magic Furnace keeps readers anxious for the next puzzle piece to fall into place. Reads like a Sherlock Holmes novel.

    Astronomy Magazine

The Universe Next Door

The Universe Next Door

Can time run backwards? Can we live forever? Could our universe have been created as a DIY experiment by superior beings in another universe? These questions may sound crazy but they explore the limits of our current knowledge and highlight the key issues modern scientists are wrestling to understand. As Cosmology Consultant at New Scientist, Marcus Chown often comes across ideas that leave his head spinning. In this hugely entertaining, accessible and mind-blowing book, he explores the ramifications of, as he puts it, science with the ‘wow!’ factor.

BOOK DETAILS

  • Publisher: Headline
  • Publication date: January 6, 2003
  • ISBN: 9780747235286
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REVIEWS
  • For sheer intellectual exhilaration, few books offer more.

    Booklist

  • Marcus Chown is a latter-day Carl Sagan. Writing with wit and humor, he popularizes complex theories for laypersons untutored in physics, biology, chemistry, and cosmology. Congratulations to Mr. Chown for another stimulating and provocative work.

    The [Nashville] Tennessean

  • Punchy, conversational and well-stocked with reader-friendly analogies. Read this for a wonderful collection of exceedingly strange ideas.

    Scotland on Sunday

  • The deeper I delved into The Universe Next Door the more I became suffused with a fervour for the subject. Science is great. It stretches you. It expands the mind. It transports you to the frontiers of the unknown. And my, what frontiers these are. Chown has deliberately set out to be thought-provoking and disturbing. And he succeeds superbly.

    New Scientist

  • An exuberant book. A parallel universe where science is actually fun.

    The Independent

The Never-Ending Days of Being Dead

The Never-Ending Days of Being Dead

Where did we come from, and what the hell are we doing here?
Is Elvis alive and kicking in another space domain?
What’s beyond the edge of the Universe?
Did aliens build the stars?
Can we live forever?
Acclaimed popular science writer Marcus Chown takes us to the frontier of science, revealing that the questions asked by today’s most daring and imaginative scientists are in fact those very ones which keep us up at night. An ambitious yet superbly readable exploration of the mysteries of the universe.

BOOK DETAILS

  • Publisher: Faber
  • Publication date: September 20, 2007
  • ISBN: 9780571220564
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REVIEWS
  • It will make you hug your knees, and rock back and forth saying ‘Whoa!’

    Dazed & Confused

  • A masterpiece. Unputdownable. I cannot find fault with this book. The style is yummy, the mathematics non-existent and the concepts surprising.

    Astronomy Now

  • This has one of the year’s best titles and some of the year’s best cosmological concepts. Chown looks at moments before the Big Bang, the four-line formula that may contain all our universe’s complexities, whether stars are artefacts and particles just vortices in a field. At the end, he offers a conclusion to space-time that would see us all immortalised inside a cosmic computer. Prepare to go ‘Cor!’ twice on every page.

    New Zealand Listener

  • Reading this book is a little like being at a party with an almost perfect DJ.

    The Independent

  • A limousine among popular-science vehicles.

    The Guardian

We Need to Talk About Kelvin

We Need to Talk About Kelvin

Look around you…

The reflection of your face in a window tells you that the universe at its deepest level is orchestrated by chance.

The iron in a spot of blood on your finger tells you that out in space there must be a furnace at a temperature of 4.5 billion degrees.

The static on a badly tuned TV screen tells you that the universe began in a big bang.

In fact, your very existence tells you this may not be the only universe but merely one among an infinity of others, stacked like the pages of a never-ending book.

With the aid of a falling leaf, or a rose, or a starry night sky, Marcus Chown shows how familiar features of the world reveal profound truths about the ultimate nature of the Universe.

BOOK DETAILS

  • Publisher: Faber
  • Publication date: September 2, 2010
  • ISBN: 9780571244034
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REVIEWS
  • This book will literally change the way you see the world.

    Bookhugger

  • Chown writes with ease about some of the most brain-bending of concepts.

    BBC Focus magazine

  • Wow, what can you say apart from ‘great title!’ A fantastic piece of popular science writing. Marcus Chown has a real talent for explaining complex scientific ideas to the layperson, and his latest offering employs the premise of using everyday observations of the world around us to explain why deeper scientific truths must indeed be a reality (and also why we take for granted some fairly remarkable things). A great book that makes we want to understand the universe better. Surely there can be no higher praise.

    Bookgeeks

  • The award for the cleverest title of the year goes to the popular science writer Marcus Chown for We Need to Talk About Kelvin. The content also doesn’t disappoint.

    The Independent

Felicity Frobisher and the Three-Headed Aldebaran Dust Devil

Felicity Frobisher and the Three-Headed Aldebaran Dust Devil

What do you say when you wake up to find your bedroom in most terrible mess? ‘It wasn’t me, Mum, it was a Three-Headed Aldebaran Dust Devil?’ Try saying that – and see how far you get!

All Felicity Frobisher wants is a quiet life. But she’s being bullied by the school bully, her parents take no notice of her, and all of her teachers are stark-staring nuts. Now, to cap it all, she’s been befriended by Flummff, Aldebaran-4’s most badly behaved Three-Headed Aldebaran Dust Devil. Flummff can make a “wormhole” go anywhere he likes. And he uses it to get Felicity into the most awful trouble. She is food good and polite and never does anything naughty. But she gets accused of cheating in the school cross-country run, visits a terribly dusty, gritty planet halfway across the Galaxy, and accidentally sets a killer wombat loose!

BOOK DETAILS

  • Publisher: Faber
  • Publication date: March 20, 2008
  • ISBN: 9780571239030
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REVIEWS
  • One of the books most likely to fire children’s imaginations.

    The Sunday Times

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  • Reminiscent of the playful stories of Douglas Adams, this high adventure is full of furious fun and fast facts.

    Edinburgh Book Festival

  • What a wonderful story! I giggled all through it, re-read it, then seized the chance to read it out loud to my 7-year-old grandchild, who devoured it in two sittings.

    Alison Jolly, author of Bitika the Mouse Lemur

  • Its chaotic anarchy reminded me of Roald Dahl, with an underlying morality which puts paid to bullies… I laughed out loud at his description of the misery of the school cross-country run, with PE teacher Miss Sprint staying behind in the warmth and comfort of the changing room with her feet up, picking her toes with a toothpick and flicking through the latest issue of Practical Tank Maintenance.

    thebookbag.co.uk

Solar System

Solar System

Did you know that…?

Today’s sunlight is 30,000 years old

There is mountain range twice as high as Everest that was built… in an afternoon

The body that generates heat at the fastest rate in the Solar System is not the Sun

When Galileo pointed his telescope at Saturn, he declared it a planet… with ears!

The planet Uranus was originally not called Uranus. It was called George!

This is the book of the award-winning Solar System for iPad. Written by former CalTech astronomer, Marcus Chown, and with the very best of the 800 images of the interactive book, Solar System is an awe-inspiring introduction to our cosmic backyard.

BOOK DETAILS

  • Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal
  • Publication date: November 17, 2011
  • ISBN: 978-1579128852
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The Quantum Zoo: A Tourist's Guide to the Never-Ending Universe

The Quantum Zoo: A Tourist's Guide to the Never-Ending Universe

The two towering achievements of modern physics are quantum theory and Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Together, they explain virtually everything about the world we live in. But, almost a century after their advent, most people haven’t the slightest clue what either is about.

Marcus Chown, himself baffled by other attempts to explain these ideas to a wider audience, thought that there must be a better way. This book is the result. In simple language, in a book that can be read in a morning, he illuminates the two most brilliant and exhilarating ideas of the last century.

BOOK DETAILS

  • Publisher: Joseph Henry Press
  • Publication date: September 4, 2008
  • ISBN: 9780309096225
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REVIEWS
  • Readers will experience happy eureka moments.

    The Times

  • Weird, sexy and mind-blowing.

    Nature

  • A must-read for anyone who wants to better understand this crazy universe we live in. Superb.

    Astronomy Now

  • For a quick briefing on the biggest ideas behind modern physics you would be hard-pressed to find a better guide than Marcus Chown.

    New Scientist

  • An effective antidote to some of the baloney that now and then creeps into popular introductions to quantum physics. Chown’s brief primer on quantum physics and relativity introduces the reader to a series of weird and wonderful physics: time travel, multiple realities, multiverses, superfluids. Mind blowing. But, best of all, good physics as told by a good physicist.

    Simon Singh, Los Angeles Times

What a Wonderful World

What a Wonderful World

Why do we breathe? What is money? How does the brain work? Why did life invent sex? How does capitalism work – or not? Does time really exist? How can something invisible that comes down a wire power our civilisation? How did an advanced breed of monkey like us get to dominate the Earth? Why is there something rather than nothing?

Marcus Chown applies his deep understanding of complex things to simple questions about the workings of our everyday lives. Lucid, witty and hugely entertaining, the book explains the essence of our existence, stopping along the way to show us how babies are powered by rocket fuel, how money permits trade to time travel, why the crucial advantage humans had over Neanderthals may have been sewing and why we could all be living in a giant hologram.

If everything in our information-overloaded society has passed you by in a high-speed blur, this book will bring you quickly and painlessly up to speed on how the world of the 21st century works.

BOOK DETAILS

  • Publisher: Faber
  • Publication date: October 3, 2013
  • ISBN: 9780571278398
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REVIEWS
  • A brilliant book that makes you realise how much you don’t know.

    Love Reading

  • A pretty wonderful book.

    Richard Dawkins

  • Reading a well-written popular science book is one of the great pleasures of modern times, and this guided tour through life, the universe and everything affords that pleasure in abundance.

    The Independent

  • Crammed with brain-boggling facts.

    The Mirror

  • In this thought-provoking book, Chown endeavours to deepen our understanding of the existence of a wide range of things including time, brain, civilisation, capitalism, communism and quantum theory… He succeeds marvelously… Lucidly written and hugely entertaining. A great read.

    Good Book Guide

The Ascent of Gravity

The Ascent of Gravity

Gravity is the weakest force in the everyday world yet it is the strongest force in the Universe. It was the first force to be recognised and described yet it is the least understood. It is a ‘force’ that keeps your feet on the ground yet no such force actually exists.

Gravity, to steal the words of Winston Churchill, is “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. And penetrating that enigma promises to answer the biggest questions in science: What is space? What is time? What is the Universe? And where did it all come from?

Award-winning writer Marcus Chown takes you on an unforgettable journey from the recognition of the ‘force’ of gravity in 1666 to the discovery of gravitational waves in 2015. And, as we stand on the brink of a seismic revolution in our worldview, he brings us up to speed on the greatest challenge ever to confront physics.

BOOK DETAILS

  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
  • Publication date: April 6, 2017
  • ISBN: 978-1474601863
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