Boston: Little, Brown & Co. - 2001 – 318 p. The world’s religions too speak of creation and transformation, of life and death and sometimes resurrection. The cycle of life — birth, death, and birth again — has occurred with clocklike regularity, on scales ranging from minutes to millennia, over the course of eons on Earth. But together, all these many lives and deaths represent merely a snapshot in cosmic time. The universe we understand existed for almost twice as long before Earth was formed as it has existed since the cosmic bits of rock and dust first coalesced together around a medium-size star at the edge of the Milky Way galaxy. And we know for certain that the universe will continue to exist, largely unchanged, for at least twice as long again, long after our own sun has puffed up and swallowed the Earth, and before it in turn slowly dies, like an ember in a fireplace losing its glow in the dark at the end of a long winter’s night. We are said to go from ashes to ashes, dust to dust. But though our nature compels us to think of our own experience as the defining feature of existence, it is not. All the while, the fundamental protagonists in the drama of life are the very atoms that make up our bodies. They may experience what we all desire: a chance at immortality. This book tells their story. Like all good drama, this story is not about all atoms, because atoms, like people and dogs, and even cockroaches, have individual histories. Rather, this is a story about one atom in particular, an atom of oxygen, located in a drop of water, on a planet whose surface is largely covered by water but whose evolution is for the moment dominated by intelligent beings who live on land. It could, at the present moment, be located in a glass of water you drink as you read this book. It could have been in a drop of sweat dripping from Michael Jordan’s nose as he leapt for a basketball in the final game of his career, or in a large wave that is about to strike land after traveling 4,000 miles through the Pacific Ocean. Contents The City on the Edge of Forevei Divine wind The Universe in an Atom The Right Stuf Time's Arrow Nature or Nurture? Ten Minutes to Die One Hundred Million Years of Solitude Things That Went Bump in the Nigh Voyage First Light A Pretty Big Bang The Galaxy Strikes Back Fire and Ice Cooking with Gas The Dangerous Energy Game The Wonder Years Return A Snowball in Hell, Humans, and Other Catastrophes The Best of Times, the Worst of Times Through a Glass Darkly Ashes to Ashes Dust to Dust Epilogue Sources and Acknowledgments Index
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