Flashes of Creation: George Gamow, Fred Hoyle, and the Great Big Bang Debate, published by Basic Books, tells the story of how the two eminent physicists engaged in a heated debate about the nature of reality. Was the universe created in a hot fireball, as Gamow suggested, or did it always exist, as Hoyle insisted in his steady-state theory, developed with Thomas Gold and Hermann Bondi? Together, Gamow’s theory of Big Bang nucleosynthesis and Hoyle’s competing theory of stellar nucleosynthesis turned out to complement each other perfectly in explaining how all the chemical elements–the building blocks of everything we see–were created. Truly, we are star-stuff, but also Big-Bang-stuff.
Based on archival research and numerous interviews with family members, Flashes of Creation reveals the hidden sides of Gamow and Hoyle, from their passions for biking and mountain-climbing to their clever popularizations, from their schoolboy days to their challenging later years. It shows how each loved Hollywood, and thus were able to convey their ideas in cinematic fashion. It is a must-read for anyone interested in vivid portrayals of two of the most colorful figures in the history of cosmology.
Paul Halpern is a professor of physics at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, and the author of seventeen popular science books, including Synchronicity, The Quantum Labyrinth, and Einstein’s Dice and Schrödinger’s Cat. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship, and an Athenaeum Literary Award. Halpern has appeared on numerous radio and television shows including “Future Quest,” “Radio Times,” several shows on the History Channel, and “The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special.” He has contributed opinion pieces for the Philadelphia Inquirer, blogs frequently on Medium, and was a regular contributor to NOVA’s “The Nature of Reality” physics blog. He lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia.