A break down of the great debate over the Big Bang and the continuing quest to understand the fate of the universe. At the center of the debate were Russian American physicist George Gamow and British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle. Gamow insisted that a fiery explosion explained how the elements of the universe were created. Attacking the idea as half-baked, Hoyle countered that the universe was engaged in a never-ending process of creation. The battle was fierce.
Halpern skillfully brings [Gamow and Hoyle's] fascinating stories to light ... Halpern also poses fundamental questions about how science should be done ... Throughout the book, Halpern provides many helpful metaphors and analogies ... Halpern doesn’t shy away from the characters’ flaws. In particular, he shows how Hoyle’s work later in life lay on the fringes of physics.
Two things make the book stand out, apart from the clear and accessible writing that we have come to expect from Mr. Halpern. First, it rehabilitates the steady-state idea, which is sometimes looked back on with the benefit of hindsight as a cranky notion that flew in the face of the evidence. Far from it: The two rival cosmologies were for a long time on an approximately equal footing, and until the early 1960s the evidence tilted the balance in favor of the steady state. The historical perspective of Flashes of Creation highlights the importance of debating scientific issues and not jumping to premature conclusions. The second stand-out feature of this book deals with the way ideas were developed in those simpler days, only a couple of generations ago, when important insights could come from individuals essentially working alone ... The main problem with Flashes of Creation is that it is far too short to do justice to such a big story, and this is presumably the reason why some of its details are handled rather superficially ... a readable and mostly accurate account of one of the most significant eras in the development of our understanding of the universe. But independent of its actual subject matter, the most important message to take away is that science proceeds not as an orderly progression of insights and discoveries, but as an often messy confrontation with the complexity of the universe.
An expert and entertaining account of the first great controversy in cosmology ... Halpern’s nuanced biographies give equal space to [his subject's] other accomplishments, which were not only important, but Nobel-worthy ... Two iconic scientists come together in an outstanding dual biography.