Review: The Universe In Your Hand: A Journey Through Space, Time and Beyond by Christophe Galfard

26145707Edition: Hardcover, 436 pages
Published by: MacMillan, 28th August 2015
Genre: Science, Non-fiction
Rating: 3 stars
Completed: 19th October 2015 

An instant popular science classic that explains the mysteries of physics for readers of all ages

Imagine if The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy were a real, practical book about the mysteries of the universe…

The Universe In Your Hand takes us on a wonder-filled journey to the surface of our dying Sun, shrinks us to the size of an atom and puts us in the deathly grip of distant Black Holes. Along the way you might come to understand, really understand, the mind-bending science that underpins modern life, from Quantum Mechanics to Einstein’s theory of General Relativity.

Through brilliant storytelling and humour rather than headache-inducing graphs and equations, internationally renowned astrophysicist Christophe Galfard has written an instant classic that brings the astonishing beauty of the universe to life – and takes us deep into questions about the existence of God, the beginning of time and the future of humanity.

If you’re like me and you are really fascinated by the universe and how it was created (The Big Bang Theory), then you’re going to want to pick this one up! I was browsing in Waterstones, (like I usually do) checking out the new releases when I saw this book, picked it up and thought, ‘I need to read this!’ I’ve had an interest in astronomy ever since I studied a small module of it in Science, but my knowledge of it has not progressed since then, so this book was the perfect opportunity for me to find out more about the universe.



This book is divided into 7 parts. Part 1 – 2 was easier to understand, but as we go into parts 3 – 7 of the book it gets a bit more complicated with cosmic, black holes, energy, quantum, vacuums and electrons. The only equation was E = mc 2 this made it a little less complicated.

I bookmarked the pages that were interesting to me and as for the rest, it was history! Aha, what I mean is it went through one ear and out the other.

“The Sun, being a star, is not a big ball of fire – fire needs oxygen, and although the Sun creates bits of it along with other elements, there’s not enough free oxygen in outer space to sustain any fire whatsoever.”

It was very intriguing to learn about the sun. The sun is already half way into its life span but it has another 5 billion years before its energy, hydrogen and helium ran out and thus becoming a red giant. The sun is the sole reason why we’re alive. Without the sun, the water will evaporate and Earth will not survive. Did you know the sun is actually white?! It’s actually all the colours of the rainbow. Mind blown.

My cousin asked me a trick question: Can the speed of light travel faster than time? I said light travels faster. It was a right mild guess, as I had no idea. I just assume that maybe time is slower than light. I asked my colleague and she said that it’s a trick question because light is controlled by time. According to the book, I have my answer at page 151:

“In outer space, light travels at around 300,000 kilometres per second.”

In Chapter 4 of Part 4 A Drive into the Quantum World, talks briefly about magnets and why it can’t collide through a fridge – it will only be stuck to it because of electrons keeping them apart. I don’t think I ever thought about magnets analytically much in Science, all I knew that it has a magnetic force that attracts metal. This is part of a quantum-mechanical principle called Pauli Exclusion Principle, discovered by Swiss theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli, who was also awarded the 1945 Noble Prize.

One thing I am curious about is: where the did all the water come from?! It covers about 71% of the Earth. When the Earth first formed, it was constantly hit by comets and asteroids, and this is where the water came from. Having watched a documentary about it, it is still a mystery to me. This universe is a mystery… its often said that the universe was created 13.8 billion years ago but no one knows for sure, it could be more than that.

“Without radioactivity, life on Earth would be impossible.”

Polish French Scientist called Marie Curie, who is the first person ever to be awarded the Noble Prize in Physics, discovered radioactivity. Radioactivity is particles that released from nuclei because of nuclear instability.

Overall I give this a 3 solid stars. I think Galfard did a good job of writing it, so that everyone could follow and understand it, but I was still confused. Since I have no background in Science, this was still a struggle to read (the reason for my rating). That was how Science class was for me because I was always learning about metals and rocks, which didn’t exactly, piqued my interest. But nonetheless, it provided me with an eye-opener that there is much much more to the universe than I imagined.



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