In the emerging cosmological scenario the Universe, at the epoch of the big bang, instead of being a "new born baby" was actually a rather "aged" creature in the middle of its possibly infinitely enduring evolution. The aim of this book is to convey this picture in non-technical language accessibile also to non-specialists. The author, himself a leading cosmologist, draws attention to ongoing and future observations that might reveal relics of an era before the big bang.
Many people have a sketchy idea of the work of cosmologists, but Professor Levin’s experience in teaching both scientific and liberal arts students has enabled him to impart much of our current thinking without resorting to difficult mathematics. Theoretical concepts are emphasized, in particular the symmetries of homogeneity and isotropy enjoyed by our universe on the largest scales, how these symmetries lead to only one quantity being needed to describe the growth of the universe from its infancy to the present time, and how the so-called parameters of the universe are the ingredients used to construct the model universes to which ours – the real thing – is compared.
Levin includes the 2003 results from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) and the 2003 and 2004 results of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to ensure that the book is up to date. He explains the relevance of the discoveries done by the new physics Nobel laureates Smoot and Mather!
Background material is provided in the first four chapters; the current picture and how it was attained are discussed in the next four chapters; and some unsolved problems and conjectured solutions are explored in the final chapter.
The book is based on the undergraduate course taught by Alex Vilenkin at Tufts University. It assumes no prior knowledge of physics or mathematics beyond elementary high school math. The necessary physics background is introduced as it is required. Each chapter includes a list of questions and exercises of varying degree of difficulty.
The new profile of scientists in fundamental physics ideally involves the merging of knowledge in astroparticle and particle physics, but the duration of modern experiments is such that people cannot simultaneously be practitioners in both. Introduction to Particle and Astroparticle Physics is designed to bridge the gap between the fields. It can be used as a self-training book, a consultation book, or a textbook providing a “modern” approach to particles and fundamental interactions.
In this second, significantly revised and expanded edition of his widely popular book, Webb discusses in detail the (for now!) 75 most cogent and intriguing solutions to Fermi's famous paradox: If the numbers strongly point to the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations, why have we found no evidence of them?
Reviews from the first edition:
"Amidst the plethora of books that treat the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence, this one by Webb ... is outstanding. ... Each solution is presented in a very logical, interesting, thorough manner with accompanying explanations and notes that the intelligent layperson can understand. Webb digs into the issues ... by considering a very broad set of in-depth solutions that he addresses through an interesting and challenging mode of presentation that stretches the mind. ... An excellent book for anyone who has ever asked ‘Are we alone?’." (W. E. Howard III, Choice, March, 2003)
"Fifty ideas are presented ... that reveal a clearly reasoned examination of what is known as ‘The Fermi Paradox’. ... For anyone who enjoys a good detective story, or using their thinking faculties and stretching the imagination to the limits ... ‘Where is everybody’ will be enormously informative and entertaining. ... Read this book, and whatever your views are about life elsewhere in the Universe, your appreciation for how special life is here on Earth will be enhanced! A worthy addition to any personal library." (Philip Bridle, BBC Radio, March, 2003)
Since gaining a BSc in physics from the University of Bristol and a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Manchester, Stephen Webb has worked in a variety of universities in the UK. He is a regular contributor to the Yearbook of Astronomy series and has published an undergraduate textbook on distance determination in astronomy and cosmology as well as several popular science books. His interest in the Fermi paradox combines lifelong interests in both science and science fiction.