wonder what would it be like to have a world-class scientist
sit down beside you and explain how the universe works?
If these audiobooks are any indication, it would be wonderful,
moving, and overwhelming, but not always for the reasons
you might think. Taken together, these three new popular-science
audiobooks give a great map of the current soundscape of
First Three Minutes
First Three Minutes refers to the first three minutes of
the universe - the opening crescendo of the Big Bang. During
this time the universe exploded from a single dense and
undifferentiated state into something closer to the mix
of matter and energy that we now enjoy. Weinberg's book
is twenty years old, but is rare in that it remains the
classic account of this period.
First Three Minutes"
by Steven Weinberg
read by Raymond Todd
Blackstone Audiobooks / 2000
4 tapes /6 hours
you couldn't ask for a better guide to these very busy three
minutes. The author, Steven Weinberg, won the 1979 Nobel
Prize for Physics; in 1991 he won the National Medal of
Science. In addition to his university lecturing, he was
dedicated to making science accessible, and did extensive
lecturing for the general public, reworking his delivery
of key scientific principles until they were understandable,
and then reworking those lectures into this popular presentation.
Todd reads the book with clarity and apparent understanding,
bringing enthusiasm and skilled pacing to a narrative already
full of drama. My only quibble with the book is that some
of these concepts really, really need visual aids - for
example, this listener got lost during the formation of
Theory of Everything:
The Origin and Fate of the Universe
two books really belong together. Weinberg provides a classic
explanation of where the universe came from; Hawking gives
that model a few quantum tweaks, and tells us where it is
likely to go.
Theory of Everything:
The Origin and Fate of the Universe"
by Stephen Hawking
delivered by the author (using a voice synthesizer)
New Millennium Audio / 2002
4 tapes / 4 hours
you've read Hawking's "A Brief History of Time"
or "The Universe in a Nutshell", then most of
this material will be familiar to you; even some of the
jokes are the same. This book was put together from a series
of lectures Hawking delivered in which he repackages his
take on black holes, time, symmetry, and how his own work
relates to each of these fields.
this audiobook is worth listening to for two very distinct
reasons. First, Hawking organizes these lectures in an exceptionally
lucid fashion, making the material accessible. Second, he
delivers the lectures himself, using a voice synthesizer.
Working against the limitations of the synthesizer, often
joking about it, Hawking shows just how powerful the focused
human mind and will can be.
Future of Life
Edward O. Wilson's "The Future of Life" shows
us why we might all need to focus our minds and wills in
this way. We don't live during a Big Bang. Nor do we live
in the neighborhood of black holes, or any of the other
phenomenon Hawking discusses. We live, Wilson's book reminds
us, in a much more delicate and limited environment.
Future of Life" is a sweeping and sobering review of
our planet's biodiversity. It is also, in many ways, a love
letter to nature. Wilson begins with an extended address
to Henry David Thoreau, his spiritual predecessor, and alternates
his review of statistical methods with detailed accounts
of personal contact with the wonders of nature. He is impressively
grounded in economics as well, offering good economic reasons
why we should act now to preserve the environment.
Future of Life"
by Edward O. Wilson
Read by Ed Begley, Jr.
New Millennium Audio / 2001
6 cassettes / 9 hours
Ed Begley Jr. is so widely known for his dedication to the
environmental movement that he's been mocked on sitcoms
such as "Friends" and "Dharma and Greg".
That said, his love of the environment fuels his reading,
making it one of the most powerful and emotional audiobooks
I've ever heard.
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