‘What is the universe eating?’ Review: A pocket guide for the cosmos

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As the pandemic ebbed and flowed that summer, we saw the spectacle of billionaires hurtling to the edge of space. Shortly after he reached 85 miles in his rocket plane, Richard Branson heralded “the dawn of a new space age,” while Jeff Bezos – who flew more than 10 miles higher nine days later – said he wanted to “build a road, space so that our children and their children can shape the future. ”While Mr. Branson dreams of a hotel in orbit, Mr. Bezos of a base on the moon and Elon Musk of a colony on Mars, the physicist Paul Davies is researching in his introduction to cosmology “What’s Eating the Universe? This “scientific detective story”, Mr. Davies tells us, travels “from the very edge of time itself through our own epoch into the infinite future” and interweaves “the vastness of space with the innermost recesses of subatomic matter”.

Mr. Davies begins with the amazing discoveries of the 20th century, discoveries that are now so well established that despite their extraordinary nature, they are becoming more common sense. The universe is 13.8 billion years old, a huge, expanding menagerie of stars filled with exotic animals like quasars, supernovas, and black holes. In its early history, the universe was hot and dense – a fact that can be seen in the faint remains that fill the sky. This cosmic microwave background, first mapped in 1990 by the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite, shows traces of the subtle variations that seeded galaxies, stars and planets. Mission lead scientist George Smoot stated, “It was like looking into the face of God.”


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