John D. Barrow
The Origin of the Universe

The first couple of chapters in The Origin of the Universe were quite promising. I thought I'd finally found a book that will help clear up some of the confusions and misunderstandings I had when I read A Brief History of Time : From the Big Bang to Black Holes. The rest of the book though was more difficult to understand than Hawking. There are bits and pieces that were very interesting and thought-provoking, but a large portion went over my head. Without a background in physics and/or astro-physics, other readers may have the same opinion.

The cosmological discoveries of the past century are remarkable. It's difficult, after reading Barrow, to think that we will ever have 'all the answers' or be able to say we have the answer to the beginning of the universe and what (if anything) was here before with a great degree of confidence. Given the rapid progress made over the past few hundred years though, it is also easy to be somewhat optimistic that the level of knowledge and cumulation of evidence will continue to build as they have recently.

It would be nice if all the knowledge out there could be understood by non-professionals, but as Barrow alludes, the concepts are almost impossible to fully grasp without the mathematical and other cosmological models which are already under the professionals' belts. This was supposed to be a book for beginners, but after reading it, I don't think I count as one. The possibility of making a really lay-audience friendly book on the subject doesn't seem likely. There are some excellent points to ponder, but don't count on complete comprehension.

from the publisher:
There is no more profound, enduring, or fascinating question in all of science than that of how time, space, and matter began. Now John Barrow, who has been at the cutting edge of research in this area and has written extensively about it, guides readers on a journey to the beginning of time, into a world of temperatures and densities so high that we cannot re-create them in the laboratory. With new insights, he draws us into the latest speculative theories about the nature of time and the inflationary universe, explains wormholes, showing how they bear upon the fact of our own existence, and considers whether there was a singularity at the inception of the universe.

Here is a treatment so up-to-date and intellectually rich, dealing with ideas and speculation at the farthest frontier of science, that neither novice nor expert will want to miss what Barrow has to say. He shows how scientists, by exploring crucial points of contact between the behavior of matter during its early history and the observed structure of the universe today, came to understand more fully all the entities in the universe from elementary particles to great clusters of galaxies.