Monday, January 07, 2008

Review: Edward Harrison's 'Darkness at Night: A Riddle of the Universe'

Here's my review, but this is why I post this to a theology blog: I think that Olbers' paradox is one of those clues to a young-earth cosmology that is frequently overlooked. I'm indebted to the astronomer who brought this question to my attention, and obviously found this book to be a well-written overview of the subject. I hasten to add that the author is not a young-earth astronomer.

"I've been something of a minor astronomy geek all of my life, but until a few years ago, I'd never thought of the riddle we usually call "Olbers' paradox": if the universe is infinite, and contains an infinite number of stars, why is the sky dark at night? In other words, why is every spot in the night (or day) sky not filled with stars, if starlight should be coming at us from every point.

I first encountered this when reading a piece by a young-earth astronomer, and have been fascinated by it ever since.

This is a problem that goes back at least to Aristotle. Dr. Olbers (an ophthalmologist who was born in 1758) merely gave a name to this problem. And while if you've never thought about it, the issue may sound trivial, it's not. There are even some who consider this one of the primary concerns for cosmology.

Edward Harrison has done a bang-up job in covering this question. Harrison is a professor of physics and astronomy -- fields not noted for their lucid writing style -- but he writes clearly, interestingly, and well. He combines the ability to write well with a thorough (obviously) knowledge of the subject of which he's writing. It's a good read, a good well-written overview, and accessible to even a relatively ignorant lay reader like myself. It's a fun read, too."

No comments: