While I am fascinated by the subject, I have been unlucky in my last two reads about cosmology and the physics of cosmology. Both Black Holes, Wormholes, and Time Machines and the book I just finished today, Deep Time: The Journey of a Particle from the Moment of Creation to the Death of the Universe and Beyond by David Darling were plodding reads that left me feeling not the least bit enthused to read more on this subject ever again. Books that I do not like take me a long time to finish: Deep Time, at a mere 159 pages, took me nine days. I do wonder why I punish myself with books such as this, that draw me in by the titles and then disappoint me so thoroughly by page one.
I am not a scientist or physicist, yet Darling did not talk over my head, unlike Jim Al-Khalili in spite of his claim that he wouldn’t in Black Holes. Darling told the story, and a very boring story, of the interstellar travels of a single particle throughout space from the Big Bang to the eventual end of the entire universe. The first hundred pages were agonizingly slow and totally uneventful. I’d like to think that a particle’s journey through billions of years of space would seem more interesting, but reading about various particles’ collisions and physical transmogrifications tested my patience. Through the miracles of physics, the particle eventually became gold, which was mined by man and then found itself as coating for the recorded disc that was placed aboard the satellite Voyager II. So only when that satellite was launched–in 1977–was there a context that I could relate to and which didn’t seem so abstract. When Darling surpassed present time and wrote about the death of the universe, trillions and trillions of years in the future (for example, one octillion AD) I perked up and was moved to turn the pages for a reason other than I had to. To be a witness during the ultimate cosmic meltdown would be a sight to behold, and Deep Time made it possible through some dazzling cosmic Armageddons.
Darling wrote in a conversational style which incorporated many sentence fragments. Had I attended a lecture I would have encountered such an oral style, but I found it rather inelegant to read new paragraphs that started (and ended) by only the subject of a sentence. The subject. Which is how Darling often wrote. Which drove me absolutely crazy.
I will stick to TV documentaries on cosmology, as I have not been able to get my head around the last two books I have read on the topic. Surely someone out there has written a space history for nonscientists that is interesting.