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BOOK REVIEW: What’s Eating the Universe? by Paul Davies

| 20 September 2021 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: What’s Eating the Universe? by Paul Davies

Allen Lane | Penguin Books
September 2021
Hardcover, $35.00
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Science / Astrophysics / Cosmology / Particle Physics

85% Rocking



Combining the latest scientific advances with storytelling skills unmatched in the cosmos, an award-winning astrophysicist and popular writer leads us on a tour of some of the greatest mysteries of our universe.
In the constellation of Eridanus there lurks a cosmic mystery: It’s as if something has taken a huge bite out of the universe. But what is the culprit? The hole in the universe is just one of many puzzles keeping cosmologists busy. Supermassive black holes, bubbles of nothingness gobbling up space, monster universes swallowing others—these and many other bizarre ideas are being pursued by scientists. Due to breathtaking progress in astronomy, the history of our universe is now better understood than the history of our own planet. But these advances have uncovered some startling riddles. In this electrifying new book, renowned cosmologist and author Paul Davies lucidly explains what we know about the cosmos and its enigmas, exploring the tantalizing—and sometimes terrifying—possibilities that lie before us.

As Davies guides us through the audacious research offering mind-bending solutions to these and other mysteries, he leads us up to the greatest outstanding conundrum of all: Why does the universe even exist in the first place? And how did a system of mindless, purposeless particles manage to bring forth conscious, thinking beings? Filled with wit and wonder, What’s Eating the Universe? is a dazzling tour of cosmic questions, sure to entertain, enchant, and inspire us all.



When our solar system formed four and a half billion years ago, it scooped up a potpourri of this stellar detritus, which is why astronomers are fond of saying our bodies are made of stardust. More prosaically, we are made of nuclear ash.

As someone who never paid enough attention in mathematics (though I was apparently able to grasp it enough to be in advanced classes), and for whom it’s been a while between drinks from the astrophysics pool, this book was put together well enough, and easy enough to understand, that I only needed to go back over what I’d just read a few times throughout the course of this book to double-check I understood what was going on. 

That said, the shorter chapters and the colloquial writing here manage to make the book entertaining, relatable, and informative all at once, without getting too bogged-down in the mathematics behind the conclusions our scientists have come to over the years, for those of us who didn’t pay enough attention in maths class. 

On the list of Really Big cosmic Big Questions, they don’t come much bigger than this: how many universes actually exist? As the answer is unlikely to be, say, 153, the choice would seem to be 1, 2 or infinity. We can be sure there is at least one. In Chapter 12, I floated the notion of a matching Anti-World to balance everything, so that would make two. How about infinity? If the big bang was a natural event, surely it could happen more than once? Might there be many bangs scattered throughout space and time? Why would there be any limit to this process? The argument is persuasive, and these days most cosmologists I know think that there is indeed an infinity of universes.

As Davies takes us on a journey from the foundations of science and space observation, to where we are now and what we might hope to discover solid-answers to in the future, one can’t help but be amazed by how far our fascination of the universe has brought us in the last few-hundred years, with a massive increase in our knowledge in the last 150 years especially.

The end result here is a book that looks at quite a few cosmic questions, offered in bite-size chapters, and leaves you with something of a paradox… as you have likely discovered a bit more about the universe, but also realised just how much you still don’t know. 

At around 170 pages, with 20 chapters running typically around four to six pages, this is a quick read for an astrophysics book, bound to appeal to fans of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, who have been looking for something similar, albeit without deGrasse Tyson’s voice reading it aloud to you in your mind… 



Category: Book Reviews

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