Review: Calibrating the Cosmos
by Jeff Foust
|Calibrating the Cosmos is aimed at a particular audience: people who don’t know much about cosmology, but who are relatively intelligent and motivated to learn.|
Levin starts with some basic principles regarding how distances are measured, be they on the Earth or in the universe, as well as some basics about electromagnetic radiation, then builds up the reader’s knowledge about the universe and its origins. He examines some key issues in astronomy and cosmology, including the lives and deaths of stars, the expansion of the universe, and the origins and early history of the universe. Unlike many other astronomy books, there’s very little in the way of colorful imagery of stars and galaxies in Calibrating the Cosmos; instead, Levin makes far more use of charts and graphs to illustrate his discussion of astronomical concepts like the Hubble Constant.
Calibrating the Cosmos is aimed at a particular audience: people who don’t know much about cosmology, but who are relatively intelligent and motivated to learn. (Levin based the book on a course on cosmology he developed for adult education programs.) As a result, the book starts on some very basic foundations, but builds up quickly, and Levin is not afraid to pepper the text with relatively advanced terminology, variables, and a few equations. This is not Cosmology for Dummies, but instead a useful book for those who don’t know a lot about cosmology but are interested in learning more and who don’t need their education sugarcoated with a lot of pretty pictures. It won’t help you understand why, for example, there’s a hole a billion light-years across in the universe—not even the astronomers who found it know why it exists—but it will help you understand the significance of such discoveries.