It is safe to say that I grew up reading Paul Davies; my first real introduction to physical sciences such as astronomy and physic was the television series 'Cosmos'; that inspired me to purchase the companion text, which further inspired me to join the Astronomy Book Club two dozen years ago. One of the first books offered, and the first book I received from them, was Paul Davies' 'Other Worlds' -- from then on, I was hooked. I have nearly a dozen books by Paul Davies, all on topics of theoretical physics, astrophysics and cosmology -- he is consistently readable, entertaining and educating with the same style that compels the reader to want more (which he then provides). It was not surprising to me to see his name on the Science Masters Series. The series has basic introductions to many of the key issues in science today -- evolution, origins of life, cognitive science, time, computer science, and more. Each volume is relatively short -- 'The Last Three Minutes' has a mere 150 pages of text that is not too dense, sparing technically and mathematically without losing much conceptually. The issue of the end of the universe is one of the 'hot spots' of astrophysics and cosmology, and so there are elements of this book that are already a bit out of date, despite being less than a decade old. However, given the speculative nature of many 'discoveries' in this field, it is impossible to say if anything is truly out of date or false at the present time. Davies explores the end of the universe by setting the stage -- drawing from current thinking about the origins of the universe, in fact one of the options for conjecture, in a closed universe system, would be that the last three minutes would resemble quite closely the first three minutes. Davies looks at the various processes -- stellar evolution and decay, gravitational issues, overall radiation depletion, energy-fuel consumption -- and draws these together for the various theories about the end of the universe. Davies shows the ideas of the closed/collapsing universe (a view not widely held today) and of the infinitely expanding universe (the current reigning theory), giving ideas about the variables required to tip the scales in one direction or the other. Even with an infinitely expanding universe, however, all is not necessarily well with the world -- the universe runs the risk (in the future so distant there is no realistic way of expressing it in terms of time we know) of becoming a dark, deep freeze with no activity left, and all matter becoming inert and inactive in every respect. Davies speculates on what this means for the survival of humanity and human history -- how can information be preserved? How can our species go on in the face of this? Such speculation is pure conjecture; the time distances are so far removed that nothing we devise will likely come close to resembling an actual answer to this. However, it is interesting as a mental exercise, and leads the reader hopefully to further reading.
This book takes you the end of the universe. Paul Davies' descriptions of the various potential fates for the universe are both engrossing and easy to understand (which is not always the case with this genera). He describes the implications of both a closed universe, one that will eventually re-collapse in on itself, and an open universe, which will continue to expand forever. Although current studies performed by the international "BOOMERANG" consortium indicate that the universe is likely to be flat, Davies' accounts of the various potential fates of a closed universe remain fascinating. Moreover, as nothing in science is ever certain, new observations could turn the tables on this cosmic debate. Paul wrote this book with the knowledge that only one of the theories described in his book will be applicable to the universe in which we live. I think that anyone with a curiosity about the universe will find this book intensely satisfying. When people heard the news that "The Universe Is Flat," many breathed a sigh of relief, mostly because the idea of the universe collapsing in a giant fireball doesn't sound like much fun. But, if the universe is flat, and if the universe does not collapse, what will be it's ultimate fate? What will life be like in such a universe? Paul Davies has some answers to these questions. And when you learn what life would be like in the inconceivably distant future, you may decide that a flat universe is not the best place after all.
I found Davies' "The Last Three Minutes" a fascinating read. I meant only to read the preface while I was waiting in the store, but I became immediately engrossed and realised that I had to buy it so that I could finish it. His descriptions about the 2 options of the ultimate fate of the universe (whether it will collapse on itself, or expand forever) are made incredibly clear. Unfortunately, the book was published merely a year before scientists discovered that the universe will indeed expand forever (Deemed "the breakthrough of the Year" for 1998 by the journal Science). This makes all discussion of "the Big Crunch" (and about half of the book) purely conjectural. My only problem with the book was his attempts to discuss the ultimate fate of humans and their descendants. I thought that it was a little irrelevant and ought to be left to philosophers rather than cosmologists. All in all, an informative read.
Sorry, but I don't agree with you 'email@example.com from St. Louis'. This is a great subject for Mr. Davies to expound upon. He does what he does best here, makes you think, gives ideas and the tools to come up with your own philosophies on life and the Universe. Many people say this is a doom and gloom book but I found it quite refreshing to know the Universe may actually continue to exist forever and Humankind may find a way to exist along with it. This is not just a cut and dry here's what'll happen book. It begins like a great Novel that ties you up in suspense and not just another physics textbook. Great EASY reading for anybody curious about our possible future. Some understanding from his previous books is helpful, but NOT a prerequisite. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK MR. DAVIES.
Davies promises that the last 3 minutes are as important as the first 3 minutes, a la Hawking et alia. He does not support that statement in this small book. Most of Davies series is far better than this book. He should have left the topic alone.