Book: WRINKLES IN TIME

Wrinkles in Time is a popular book on cosmology authored by George Smoot and Keay Davidson. It was published in 1994 by William Morrow in hardback and is now available in paperback from Avon in the United States. It is available from many other publishers in other countries and languages (e.g. Little Brown (English), Penguin (Australian), Flammarion (French), Plaza & Janes (Spanish), Kachi (Korean), Mondadori (Italian), Haase (Danish), more in progress.

"Wrinkles in Time" is at your book store or from Amazon Books.

Book Reviews

    New York Times

    New York Times Notable Books of 1994 Award

    Sunday N.Y. Times Book Review January 9, 1994

    The Cosmologist's Holy Grail. A first-person account of the search for the primordial seeds of the universe.

    WRINKLES IN TIME By George Smoot and Keay Davldson. Illustrated. 331 pp. New York. William Morrow & Company. $25.

    By David Darling

    COSMOLOGY rarely makes front-page news. Still more rarely does it dominate world headlines and prime-time television. Yet this is exactly what happened when a team of American scientists announced, on April 23, 1992, that they had found the primordial "seeds" from which our present-day universe has grown. The lead investigator on the team and its chief spokesman was George Smoot, an astrophysicist from the University of California, Berkeley. In his book "Wrinkles in Time," written with the help of Keay Davidson, a science writer for The San Francisco Examiner, he tells the remarkable tale of his quest for what has been called the cosmologists' Holy Grail.

    How did the universe begin? With a titanic explosion about 15 billion years ago, most astronomers agree. In 1964, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of Bell Laboratories first glimpsed the afterglow of that outburst, a faint hiss of radiation coming from all parts of the sky that is known as the microwave background. Supporters of the big-bang theory breathed a collective sigh of relief. The much-cooled relic of the fireball that engulfed our cosmos just 300,000 years after its birth had been found.

    But a nagging problem remained: the microwave background looked uncompromisingly the same in every direction. By contrast, the universe today is distinctly lumpy, condensed into galaxies, clusters of galaxies and even larger structures, with gaping voids in between. To create clumpiness on the present scale, theorists realized, slight irregularities must have existed in the ancient fireball. These denser regions ought to show up as "hot spots" in the microwave background. The question was, where were they?

    In his book Mr. Smoot revisits the rocky, winding road at the end of which he found the seeds that spawned today's structured, lumpy universe. Along the way he brings the reader up to date in cosmology, giving one of the best brief introductions to the subject that I have seen recently. Mr. Davidson's influence -- crisp, clear writing -- is apparent throughout.

    Judging from the escapades he describes here, Mr. Smoot is as much an adventurer as he is a scientist. Much of his early work, first his search for cosmic antimatter and later his search for subtle variations in the microwave background, involved lofting equipment high into the stratosphere with giant helium-filled balloons. Unpredictability was the norm. On one occasion the precious gondola carrying his equipment went into free fall, leaving a crater in the ground near the farmhouse of a bemused South Dakota couple. Back at the lab, Mr. Smoot opened a new file, "Lost in the Badlands." During another flight, over Brazil, the explosive bolts designed to release the payload failed. The balloon drifted away, apparently lost forever. All ended happily, however, when Mr. Smoot received an unexpected phone call from Brazil and his colleague struck a bargain with a poacher in the rain forest.

    Mr. Smoot's efforts to lift his equipment away from sources of earthly interference led him to an even stranger platform—a U-2 spy plane. A sensitive antenna fixed to a U-2 brought back data that led Mr. Smoot and his colleagues to a remarkable conclusion: Our galaxy is hurtling through space at around a million miles per hour, apparently in the gravitational grip of some hitherto unknown giant mass. In other words, the universe is even lumpier than anyone had imagined.

    But where had the lumps come from? By the late 1980's, the big-bang theory teetered on the edge Of disaster as cosmologists ran out of ways to explain the apparent smoothness of the early universe. Then, in the nick of time, came Mr. Smoot and his team's momentous experiment aboard COBE, the Cosmic Background Explorer. Launched atop a Delta rocket in late 1989, the COBE satellite sent back the most detailed measurements yet of the microwave background, including, buried deep among the data, our first sighting of the long-awaited cosmic seeds for lumpiness—Mr. Smoot's "Wrinkles in Time."

    Here is a rewarding entree to modern cosmology, a rare glimpse of important science in the making and a rollicking adventure yarn, all rolled into one. "Wrinkles in Time" breathes life and romance into science, and for that reason alone deserves to be widely read.

    David Darling, an astrophysicist, is the author of "Equations of Eternity: Speculations on Consciousness, Meaning, and the Mathematical Rules That Orchestrate the Cosmos."

    Publisher's Weekly

    PUBLISHERS WEEKLY NOVEMBER 11, 1993

    * WRINKLES IN TIME

    George Smoot and Keay Davidson. Morrow, $25 (388p) ISBN 0-688- l2330-9 Smoot's claim to have found the fifth pillar of cosmology"— the earliest large-scale structure that the Big Bang would have produced— is modest in the context of his prolific career in astrophysics. The book, tightly edited, Smoot notes, to appeal to a wider readership, scants the physicist's early work and focuses on the dramatic conclusion ("the wrinkles in the fabric of time-space") drawn from the NASA Cosmic Background Radiation Explorer (COBE) probe. More's the pity: the diary-like details describing. Smoot's early high-atmosphere balloon and U-2 plane experiments capture more of the flavor and excitement of working science than do the summaries of cosmological debates. With science writer Davidson, Smoot offers a highly compressed view of his career that tracks a cloud-chamber trail through the present "golden age of cosmology." While many readers will wish to see more of his working life on record, even this fast-forward account of a great moment of affirmation for Smoot and the other contributors and team members he meticulously credits, is a wonder. (Jan.)