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Hardcover Measuring Eternity: The Search for the Beginning of Time Book

ISBN: 0767908279

ISBN13: 9780767908276

Measuring Eternity: The Search for the Beginning of Time

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Format: Hardcover

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

The untold story of the religious figures, philosophers, astronomers, geologists, physicists, and mathematicians who, for more than four hundred years, have pursued the answer to a fundamental question at the intersection of science and religion: When did the universe begin? The moment of the universe's conception is one of science's Holy Grails, investigated by some of the most brilliant and inquisitive minds across the ages. Few were more committed...

Customer Reviews

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Readable history of a religious and scientific inquisition

Martin Gorst's "Measuring Eternity" is a scientific history book describing the attempts in the last 400 years to discover the age of the Earth (and of the universe, when it becomes clear that the two are not necessarily the same). It starts slowly, with a long chapter about the life of the Irish bishop who used the Bible and non-Christian histories to build a timeline back to what he declared was the beginning of creaton, an exact time and date in 4004 B.C. However, it picks up steam as rationality and the new science of geology begin an inexorable assault on the 6000-year age of the world. There are interesting stories about the personalities involved, such as Descartes' panicked response to Galileo's arrest; he completely rewrote his groundbreaking work to make it as palatable as possible to the religious authorities. Nevertheless, from the work of Descartes, other philosophers built on the idea that rocks and fossils are more instructive guides than Scripture to the history of the world. Gorst does a good job of showing how the scientists had to battle not only their peers and the limited technology of the day, but the religious leaders who opposed every challenge to the idea that the earth was created in literally six days. By the beginning of the twentieth century, experiments with radioactive dating estimated the earth's age at a few billion years, but at that point the astronomers began to take over and the last quarter of the book examines their exploits in determining the age of the universe. As the telescopes got bigger and more sensitive, a race developed to accurately determine how far away other galaxies are and how fast they are travelling; by extrapolating from this data back to the Big Bang, the age of the known universe could be determined (13.3 billion years by the latest estimate). Gorst was able to interview some of the astronomers involved, and again leavens the narrative with some interesting background about the main players and the climate of scientific competition. "Measuring Eternity" is a solid read, very accessible and wide-ranging in scope as it touches on religion, history, geology and astrophysics in its overview of the search for the age of the world.


What a shame this little gem of a book hasn't received the large promotion it does to get it out into the mainstream! Expecting a dry little book about mans obsession with time, I was extremely surprised to find a compelling and overwhelmingly fascinating book which tells a tale of mankind's efforts to find out how old the Earth is. The story is very character driven, dipping into the fascinating (if opressed) lives of men of science and religion, driven over the last 400 years to work out exactly how old is the Earth. Of course, initially, the results are hopelessly tangled in religious boundaries but gradually, the questing minds of scientists eventually begin to push back the religious boundaries. Gorst has written an absolutely magical book here - worth reading whether even if only looking to kill a few hours - because it is so well written, so easy to read and so interesting! Its been a long time since I read such a great work of non-fiction and would recommend this book to anyone with the slightest hint of curiosity or interest in history!

Measuring Eternity: The Search for the Beginning of Time

Measuring Eternity: The Search for the Beginning of Time written by Martin Gorst is a real jewel as he writes about man's obsession to find out when time or when did the universe began. This is a well written book of character driven narrative, making interesting reading as the cast of characters tell a well-crafted story.I'm sure that at least once in your life time you wanted to know when the universe started. Well, that very question lies at the crosshairs of religion and science, nd for four hundred years philosophers, astronomers, geologists, physicists and mathematicians all tried to figure out the answer to this most vexing question.Poor Bishop James Ussher who came up with an answer of 4004 BC at 6:00PM on a Suturday, October 22 noless was really off by billions of years, but he only had the bible for reference... no wonder he made such an inaccurate calculation.. if only he opened he eyes and mind to see the expanse of time in eons. Aristotle had it better pegged when he said, "Time is infinite and the universe eternal," and that was the fourth century B.C. Plato had his magnus annus a span of 36,000 years.I found this book to be very interesting as the author writes in an easily read style making you well aware of the history involved in this age old question of chasing rainbows and expanded horizons... the moment that time began. And as science slowly put the pieces together via Darwinism, thermodynamics, radioactivily and most recently the astronomers with the Hubble space telescope, we begin to see what deep time means... 13.4 billion years give or take a billion. Thus, making time almost incomprehensible nevertheless, plausible.You'll enjoy reading the history involved with calculating when time began and how each thought that they were on the right track, later to be found that they too were not thinking billions of years. There are some very eccentic characters in this book... knowing that they were serious when they took on the caluclation of time, but later we see the error in their thinking.

Excellent, excellent, excellent

The beauty of this book is that you don't have to know anything about science to be mesmerized by it. Its reads as though a grand wizard of storytelling is telling you an especially wonderful story. Briefly, this book tells the story of how we as human beings came to question the world around us, and eventually the universe. The style of writing is plain, simple english, like a good documentary. Gorst explains the science in examples that don't interfere with the narrative. The search for the beginning of time involved countless scientists, and Gorst seamlessly blends each person's contribution, smoothly moving from one person or era to another. The book is lively and engaging and would make a great present for just about anyone; it's a nice change from the usual bestseller that leaves you with nothing when you're done.

From 4,004 To 13.8 Billion

If you have an old family Bible published as recently as the early 20Th Century, or about 1910, you will find a notation that is remarkable. This was the last year that Bibles gave not only the year that the world began, but also the date, the day, and the time down to the minute. Specifically, the world was to have been created on Saturday October 22 at 6:30 in the year 4,004b.c. An Irish Bishop, James Usher had calculated the date in the early 17th century, and his date prevailed despite challenges for almost 300 years. His methodology was superficially simple, however his source material contained a variety of time spans that were in conflict. Various ancient texts provided reference points when a variety of Biblical events took place, and these contradictions all had to be reconciled or eliminated to arrive at Bishop Usher's Date. Stated simply, he began with Genesis and then added together all of the lives that were listed, and the times they spanned to arrive at his date.At first glance his thinking appears terribly flawed, however the reality of dating the creation of our universe from the, "Big Bang", was only agreed upon after the Hubble Telescope was in orbit for several years, and even the present date comes with a margin of error of plus or minus 10 percent. In practice this amounts to just under 1.4 billion years. It also took until the end of the 20th Century to prove the Universe is expanding, and to agree on the rate of expansion, sort of. For even those who adhere to the present numbers know that few theories never change, and the rate at which the Universe is expanding is still being refined.The centuries that encompassed the search for the origin in time of the space that our planet calls home, was pursued without pause and by familiar and brilliant minds. Throughout the process the Church was always watching carefully for no one knew whether Faith and Science would somehow be reconciled, or whether Science would somehow shatter beliefs held for millennia. Failing to place scientific thought, if not in step with The Church, then at least not in obvious opposition was both critical and potentially fatal to those who espoused such perceived heresy. When the theory of all matter originating from a void at a single moment in time was put forth, The Vatican was so relieved that Pope Pius The XII literally spoke and wrote embracing the theory. Scientists rushed to suggest that their theory was just that and the Pontiff would do well to not continue to celebrate what was not fact. He did not speak publicly on the subject again."Time", is a man-made construct that is relevant only to us. Even to our species, Albert Einstein demonstrated that time was relative, depending on a person's point of view, their position relative to a specific event. "Measuring Eternity" by Mr. Martin Gorst documents the history and the men and woman who sought to measure an area that was both real and had an age, and to use our definition of time to arrive at
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