The book starts out looking at some of the history of astronomy, and opinions as to our place in the universe – it covers the likes of Copernicus and Galileo amongst others. It then moves on to look at the Drake Equation – what are the chances of finding other intelligent life in the galaxy (the idea is the universe is too big and too distant, if we find any other life it will be in our galaxy). It then covers the search for Extraterrestial Life (SETI), both original SETI and its modern expanded search. SETI has been going for decades, and the biggest question yet is ‘Why haven’t we found a signal yet?’. The book considers this question too.
This book isn’t just a rehash or script of the tv series, as one reviewer put it the tv series acts as a trailer for the book. The book goes into a lot more detail. Some of it is quite technical, but generally is very readable. There are a few formula, but the author explains these relatively simply. You can fairly easily figure out what this is about if you want, or just skip over it if you are not interested (these are only a tiny part of the book, the odd paragraph here or there).
The first section on the history of astronomy and man’s view of our place in the universe is the weakest section in my mind, but that’s perhaps because I’m quite familiar with the story. When the book gets into the discussion about the Drake Equation, SETI and the big question it gets, much, much better.
Like other books I’ve been reading recently, this book also verges on the political at times, in the context of science. I think this adds a lot to the book. The book covers lot of ground that is in other books (legitimately, it is a summarizing and simplifying of a lot of basic science and cosmology), but Brian Cox adds a nice personal touch, relating his early experiences and inspiration and giving his own perspective on the way the world is going.
I’m giving this a solid 8/10