The Big Bang

Why have none of you pointed this out to me before?

In Simon Singh‘s fantastic book, Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe, he writes this about the background of theoretical physicist and cosmologist George Gamow:

Having attended Communion at the local Russian Orthodox church, he dashed home with a piece of bread and a few drops of wine secreted in his cheeks, He put them under the microscope and compared what he saw with everyday bread and wine. He could find no evidence that the structure of the bread had transformed into the body of Christ, and he later wrote, “I think this was the experiment that made me a scientist.”

And if you haven’t read Big Bang or my other favorite Singh book, Fermat’s Enigma, you’re missing out. For anyone interested in science and math, they’re fascinating books than explain very complicated subjects in easy-to-understand ways.

I’m in the middle of Big Bang right now and seriously addicted to it. That doesn’t happen very often for me — especially when it comes to topics involving astronomy/space. If you want an in-depth background on what the Big Bang theory is and how it was developed, go get this book. You won’t regret it.


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Hemant, stop it. I’ve got so many books to read that I can’t possibly add another to the list. It’s simply too much. I haven’t even read yours yet.

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de MorseCode

    Nice. I think I have this book. I bought it just because I figured I needed to learn some cosmology. Haven’t started it yet, but glad to know it’s good!

  • cipher

    Hemant, to be fair – my understanding of Roman Catholic teaching concerning the Eucharist is that the physical substance doesn’t transform; the transformation takes place at a higher, “insubstantial” level – or something like that. I don’t believe any serious Catholic theologian would claim that Gamow would have seen anything different.

    I don’t know what the Eastern/Russian Orthodox position is.

  • Aaron

    Yeah, as funny as the story is, it does show a huge lack of knowledge about the Eucharist. Transubstantiation doesn’t mean they turn to literal “body” and “blood”, since the accidents don’t change. While they become “body” and “blood”, they still appear to be bread and wine.

  • JimboB

    My library has this book and I checked it out at one point, but I never got to reading it because I was trying to read like 5 other books at the same time.

    How much math is in this book anyway? Math is not my strong suit, but I loves me some science!

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    How much math is in this book anyway? Math is not my strong suit, but I loves me some science!

    Not a lot of math. A few equations, but none that you “need” to remember to enjoy the book.

    Hemant, to be fair – my understanding of Roman Catholic teaching concerning the Eucharist is that the physical substance doesn’t transform; the transformation takes place at a higher, “insubstantial” level – or something like that. I don’t believe any serious Catholic theologian would claim that Gamow would have seen anything different.

    You’re probably right. Not to shortchange the comment, but I don’t think that’s the point. I just love that what helped turned Gamow into a scientist was hearing in church that the bread and wine were the body and blood of Christ. and he wanted to test that theory. Not theologically true, but a great way of thinking about it.

  • cipher

    I just love that what helped turned Gamow into a scientist was hearing in church that the bread and wine were the body and blood of Christ. and he wanted to test that theory. Not theologically true, but a great way of thinking about it.

    Of course – agreed.

  • Raghu Mani

    JimboB said

    How much math is in this book anyway? Math is not my strong suit, but I loves me some science!

    I’d second Hemant’s recommendation heartily. This is an amazing book and it is extremely easy to read. Not much math at all but it explains the concepts so clearly that a child could understand it and yet it does offer a lot for adults. Talking of children, I read the book to my 10 year old and she absolutely loved it. Some of it went above her head but for the most part, she was able to understand the material quite well.

    As an aside, talking about Catholicism – one of the key scientists behind the big bang theory was a Catholic priest – Georges Lemaitre – who figures quite prominently in the book.

    Raghu

  • Iztok

    Ha, guy used reason to figure out how religion is fake. Now fast forward to today:

    What’s Behind the Saudi Monotheism Summit?

    Distressed by what he described as disintegrating family ties, a rise in atheism and “an imbalance of reason, ethics and humanity,” the king announced plans for a new interfaith dialogue in which “believers of the three main religions: the Torah, Bible and Quran will be of priority.”

    Wow, religious people talking about imbalance of reason?????

  • Karen

    I’d second Hemant’s recommendation heartily. This is an amazing book and it is extremely easy to read.

    I’ll third, and add that I’m definitely not a math person and I had no trouble with the math in the book. You can let your eyes glaze over the equations and pick up the narrative without the least problem. ;-)

    As a fundy, I was raised to be suspicious and even hostile to science. As I was deconverting, I decided to check out science more objectively. To that end, I read this book and “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. They totally turned me around on science. Both highly recommended for the non-science, non-math individual who wants to dip their toes in.

  • JimboB

    Alright, I’ll have to check it out again. I’ll need another week to finish ‘The Portable Atheist’ but ‘Big Bang’ will be next in line :D

  • http://steingrueblwe.blogspot Heather

    I’m so glad you mentioned this book-it’s the one that jump started my brain again after motherhood set in. (Try keeping your brain fresh when your primary interactions are with toddlers.) It’s also the book that got me into amateur astronomy, and convinced me that it was okay to come out as an atheist.

    Maybe I should go reread it…

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Alright, I’ll have to check it out again. I’ll need another week to finish ‘The Portable Atheist’ but ‘Big Bang’ will be next in line :D

    JimboB — I picked up The Portable Atheist, but haven’t read it yet. How do you like that one?

  • JimboB

    There are some really wonderful writings in ‘The Portable Atheist’ from a variety of free-thinkers. It seems to go in a relatively chronological order, starting with Lucretius and ending with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. And the viewpoints come from a variety of backgrounds. Whether you’re more interested in philosophy & religion (like Spinoza) or physical science (like Vic Stenger).

    Right now I’m reading Ian McEwan’s “End of the World Blues,” which I really like, but I also enjoyed Mark Twain’s contributions, a section of Charles Darwin’s autobiography, and an essay by Elizabeth Anderson (whom I previously had never heard of).

    There’s a lot of great stuff in this comprehensive anthology. I give it two opposable thumbs up!

  • JimboB

    Okay I’m just about finished with Big Bang, and all I can say is… wow. I am in shock and amazement due to the overwhelming amount of win in this book. Thanks for recommending it, Hemant!

    Now, if I could just find a book on evolutionary theory that parallels what Simon Singh did with the Big Bang. Any ideas?


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