Friday, 2 June 2017

New Book - What Makes You So Special?

My latest book goes on sale today!

It tells your story and how the stuff you are made of came to be and found itself on a tiny speck in the cosmos where the conditions were right to make more stuff stuff that could reproduce itself.

It explains why, 3.8 million years later, you can look at the cosmos and wonder how it all happened.

This book tries to answer that question, not in the technical terms one scientist would use when talking to another but in terms that should be understandable to anyone who wants to know this amazing story - the story of you!

Like all good books it should leave you feeling satisfied but wanting more. Above all, it should leave you feeling both very special and very humble.

From Chapter 1 'Something for Nothing'
The singularity cannot have had a cause because there was nothing to cause it. It could not have exist anywhere because there was nowhere for it to exist. It cannot have had a before because there was no time for it to have been in. It did not exist in space or time because there was no space or time for it to exist in.

For all practical purposes, it did not exist. It is zero; nothing; nada; not.

And yet this nothing gave birth to the entire Universe!

From Chapter 10 'Walking With Dinosaurs":
From that small, unremarkable member of the Cambrian biota; those stiff little chordates that swam around amongst the trilobites and fearsome Anomalocaris with its huge, jaw–like appendages that were once thought to be a different species in their own right, big things were coming; in fact the biggest things to ever live – the blue whale. From that unpromising beginning were to evolve the fasted running animal, the fasted flying animal, birds that can soar on the wind and sing symphonies, two forms of powered flight, echolocation at least twice, a brain capable of doing calculus without realising it, and an ape that can go to the moon.

But first, it had to learn to walk on land and breathe air.

From Chapter 13 'The Final Steps'
So we enter the final chapter of your long journey through space and time. A history that has seen you go from as near to nothing as it can possibly be to energy in the form of gravity, electromagnetic radiation and weak and strong nuclear forces, to atoms of light and heavier elements. We have traced your history in suns and supernovae and accretion discs and planets and we have seen how natural forces conspired in the right conditions to create self–replicating molecules and eventually, given enough time to free–living, self–replicating entropy management machines we call life with the first genes that are still found in your cells.

We have seen how your ancestors learned to make sugar from sunlight and to split water to create Oxygen, not because it was planned but because it worked and because the billion to one chances come up regularly given a large population and lots of time. Then we saw how your ancestors evolved under nothing more than the selection pressure of their environments to make multicellular organisms, animals with backbones, and fish with lobed fins that could use them for walking. We have seen how your ancestors learned to gulp air to get the oxygen out of it and how this made them able to leave the water to catch the first land animals.

We have followed your ancestors through the steaming Carboniferous and saw how they survived the Carboniferous Forest Collapse to inherit the land as reptiles and the beginnings of mammals. We have seen how the dinosaurs made the night time your ancestors’ preferred time and how this helped them survive the K–T extinction and years of permanent winter. Then we saw how your ancestors learned to retain their eggs and maybe with the help of an ancient endogenous retrovirus, to become placental mammals, nourishing their young inside their mothers’ bodies and feeding them on breast milk.

We have followed your ancestors into the trees and back down again into the savannahs of East and South Africa. We have seen them learn to walk upright, grow a big brain and learn to learn and develop cultures and ethics and cooperative social groups. We have seen them diverge and spread and interbreed and populate the world.

And we have seen your ancestors win the evolutionary struggle with other humans and inherit the earth.

From Chapter 14 'The Meaning of Life':
Your journey through space and time has been an adventure of disasters, adaptation, survival and recovery, many, many time you will have been on the brink of extinction - the fate of 99% of all known ancient species - yet your ancestors survived and because they were good at surviving you are here and now.

You will live for a mere flash in the time-scale of the Universe but in the vast darkness of the cosmos there can surely be few flashes as bright as your bright spark of consciousness.

Be proud. Be very proud. But at the same time be humbled by the enormity of the events which produced you and the fragility of it all.

Stars died and because they died, you live. You are made by stars out of stardust and in a very real sense; because you are made of the same stuff the Universe is made of and are a part of it, there is something even more wonderful about you. Through you, though not just through you, and maybe not just here on this small planet, the Universe has gained self–awareness and can begin to understand itself.

Through you it can stand on the surface of this beautiful little jewel in the cosmos, can look up in awe at itself and think "Wow!"

If you really want to know the truth about your existence, this book is a good starting point. Hopefully, it will make you want to know more.

It is on sale now directly from the publishers as a paperback and will be available in a day or two from Amazon in Paperback or ebook for Kindle.


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