The Age of Everything: How Science Explores the Past

Paperback | September 15, 2008

byMatthew Hedman

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Taking advantage of recent advances throughout the sciences, Matthew Hedman brings the distant past closer to us than it has ever been. Here, he shows how scientists have determined the age of everything from the colonization of the New World over 13,000 years ago to the origin of the universe nearly fourteen billion years ago.

Hedman details, for example, how interdisciplinary studies of the Great Pyramids of Egypt can determine exactly when and how these incredible structures were built. He shows how the remains of humble trees can illuminate how the surface of the sun has changed over the past ten millennia. And he also explores how the origins of the earth, solar system, and universe are being discerned with help from rocks that fall from the sky, the light from distant stars, and even the static seen on television sets.

Covering a wide range of time scales, from the Big Bang to human history, The Age of Everything is a provocative and far-ranging look at how science has determined the age of everything from modern mammals to the oldest stars, and will be indispensable for all armchair time travelers.
 
“We are used to being told confidently of an enormous, measurable past: that some collection of dusty bones is tens of thousands of years old, or that astronomical bodies have an age of some billions. But how exactly do scientists come to know these things? That is the subject of this quite fascinating book. . . . As told by Hedman, an astronomer, each story is a marvel of compressed exegesis that takes into account some of the most modern and intriguing hypotheses.”—Steven Poole, Guardian
 
“Hedman is worth reading because he is careful to present both the power and peril of trying to extract precise chronological data. These are all very active areas of study, and as you read Hedman you begin to see how researchers have to be both very careful and incredibly audacious, and how much of our understanding of ourselves—through history, through paleontology, through astronomy—depends on determining the age of everything.”—Anthony Doerr, Boston Globe 

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From the Publisher

Taking advantage of recent advances throughout the sciences, Matthew Hedman brings the distant past closer to us than it has ever been. Here, he shows how scientists have determined the age of everything from the colonization of the New World over 13,000 years ago to the origin of the universe nearly fourteen billion years ago.Hedman d...

Matthew Hedman is a research associate in the Department of Astronomy at Cornell University.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:264 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:September 15, 2008Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226322939

ISBN - 13:9780226322933

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Customer Reviews of The Age of Everything: How Science Explores the Past

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Very Serious Look at Various Dating Methods As indicated in the introduction, the aim of this book is to provide the public with a sampling of the methods that are used to measure the ages of various things. It is based on a series of lectures that the author has given on this subject. Using as tools the precession of the earth’s axis, the decay of radioactive isotopes of certain elements, DNA, light from distant stars, cosmic background radiation, etc., the items whose ages are explored include (but are not limited to) the Classic Mayan civilization, Egyptian pyramids, various archaeological artifacts, events in human evolution, meteorites, stars and even the universe. Since the book is aimed at the general public, mathematical details have been omitted. However, the author pulls very few punches regarding the level at which each case is presented. As a result, readers may find some chapters challenging if they have little or no prior familiarity with the basics of the topics presented. The book contains many diagrams and plots that complement the main text very well. The writing style is clear, authoritative, generally friendly but occasionally dry. This book can be enjoyed by the more serious general reader but it will likely be appreciated the most by science buffs. There is much too learn from this book. As a result, it would likely make a useful reference in university courses on this subject.
Date published: 2009-05-01

Extra Content

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
 
1. Introduction
2. The Calendars of the Classic Maya
3. Precession, Polaris, and the Age of the Pyramids
4. The Physics of Carbon-14
5. Calibrating Carbon-14 Dates and the History of the Air
6. Carbon-14 and the Peopling of the New World
7. Potassium, Argon, DNA, and Walking Upright
8. Molecular Dating and the Many Different Types of Mammals
9. Meteorites and the Age of the Solar System
10. Colors, Brightness, and the Age of Stars
11. Distances, Redshifts, and the Age of the Universe
12. Parameterizing the Age of the Universe
 
Glossary
Index

Editorial Reviews

"A concise, readable, and instructive work that succeeds in explaining a sampling of methods for measuring age and modern applications of their use."--"Choice"