If you believe the words of Heinz Pagels, we are on the way to a complete understanding of the universe. Not only that, but the door to this understanding is open to all. In this skillfully crafted blend of storytelling and factual delivery, no galaxy is left unturned. The book is divided into four equally interesting parts. Parts one and two cover the basics of astronomy knowledge of the twentieth century--quantum mechanics, galaxies, gravity, quasars, black holes, star formation, cosmology and much more--in a sweeping style that reads more like a good novel than a piece of nonfiction. Pagels mixes the necessary astronomical data with stories of discovery from the standpoint of the people who made them. Herschel, Einstein and Hubble are just a few of the characters Pagels uses to make astronomy shine.
In part three we are led on a journey of speculation to pinpoint the precise moment of birth of our universe. In these pages are introduced the Grand Unified Theories (GUTs) and the Inflationary Universe, as well as Magnetic Monopoles and the idea of a Fifth Dimension.
Finally, the last part of the book contains two essays written by Pagels that bring the reader into his head to examine subjects that he feels are important for the student of science.
Essay one considers the universe as a cosmic computer. Essay two deals with the topic of subjectivity in science.
The book is full of black and white illustrations that are used to further explain material Pagels covers in the text. In addition there are photos of astronomical objects and scientists at the end of the first section which prove that the science itself and the humanity that studies the science are equally important. Published in 1985, this book won't give you up-to-the-minute scientific news, but it is an easy-to-read addition to the amateur astronomer’s library, especially if you are stumped by the complexities of quantum mechanics and early cosmology.