Introduction to the New Edition of ‘In the Beginning’, by John Gribbin
As I explain in the Prologue, In the Breginning was written at a time of great excitement in astronomy. Data from the COBE satellite had just confirmed that the Universe as we know it was born from a tiny seed of superdense energy, far smaller than an atom, which expanded rapidly to become a fireball the size of a grapefruit – the Big Bang – and then in a more leisurely fashion to produce the galaxies, stars, planets and even people that are aroound today. Over the past 25 years, more observations with even better satellites (and ground-based instruments) have confirme and refined this picure, until astronomers cn now say with confidence that “the beginning” happened 13.8 billion years ago, rather than just somewhere in the range between 13 ad 20 billion years ago that was the best they could come up with in the early 1990s. How that age has been pinned down with such precision is a story I told in my book 13.8. But nothing in that story compares with the heady excitement of the confirmation, a quarter of a century ago, that astronomers really did know what they were talking about, and that the Universe really was born in a Big Bang.
It was that excitement which stimulated me, as I explain in the Preface, to tackle the immense subject of the relationship between life and the Universe – the connection, as I put it then, between evolution and cosmology. Is it possible to make an analogy between the Universe and a living organism? And is the Universe unique, or just one of many possible universes, which are born, live, reproduce, and die like living organisms? These questions are as important now as the were in the 1990s, and none of the new discoveries made in the wake of COBE has undermined any of the ideas discussed here. Indeed, the discovery that vast numbers of stars have planetary systems similar to our own Solar System makes the story I tell here even more relevant. There is little doubt that the Universe is teeming with life; but is there a Multiverse teeming with universes?
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