Paul Halpern has just come out with a book, Flashes of Creation, that tells the story of debates about the history of the cosmos as a whole, debates conducted before the “big bang” hypothesis became the consensus theory. Halpern is a professor at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.
Halpern’s book is valuable because it illustrates that the history of science is not a bloodless dialectic in which some ideas emerge out of others. Nor should it be seen as a “epiphenomenon” of other sorts of history. Rather, the history of science from one (important) point of view is the big shelf of the biographies of scientists, who were and are all passionate beings. The important ones were all both insightful and partial.
Strange New Worlds:
As distinct from relativity, or quantum mechanics, the issue of the origin of the universe is a straightforward one for the understanding of the ordinary intelligent non-physicist. That is why it is so often a tempting subject for popularizers of science. Discussing a possible big bang and whether the expansion it began is destined to continue into a heat death or reverse into a big crunch, and discussing the once live hypothesis that the universe has always been more-or-less as it is now, existing in a steady state — even the vocabulary for it all, as indicated in the italicized terms, emphasizes its accessibility.