Before the Big Bang

NASA / James Webb Telescope

The Origin of the Universe and What Lies Beyond (2022)

Laura Mersini-Houghton

John Fraim / Review

8/9/22 at 9:17 pm est

Miles Davis / In A Silent Way


Part One

I was a funny kid in my reading habits. When my other sixth grade classmates were dutifully following the assigned reading topics. And I was reading a little paperback magazine called Fate. It was about things no one talked about. Hauntings. Ghosts. UFOs. Science Fiction. In fact, in some of my homeroom classes in the sixth grade, my teacher let me read whole parts of it. Fate Magazine developed quite a subscription list with my classmates. 

Fate magazine for me was a type of early introduction into the late-night radio programs l later listened to. Like Art Bell and today’s Coast-to – Coast program. I still subscribe to it today. In those years, I remember Fate coming in the middle of the month with the model train magazines and the Go Kart magazine and the body building and football magazines.  

One of the Earliest Fate Magazines / July 1953

The ideas I read about in Fate Magazine did not influence me as much as they confirmed to me that at last others felt the same way towards certain things as I felt. This was not a small task in those years I started reading about theories of the universe maybe around fifth or sixth grand. My head was in the universe and the little pocketbooks on relativity or a detective tales, I carried around with me in those years. I certainly didn’t carry around schoolbooks in those years. For those who know what I mean, it was the original Coast-to-Coast radio program for perpetually dispensing “conspiracy” theories, if nothing else, were contrary to the popular (governmental) narratives broadcasts to us each day. 

But Fate Magazine was different from all the other hobby and sports magazines a lot of boys got in the mail in those years. The stories were pretty much off the old beaten path of even some of the weird stories we heard at the time. Fate magazine lead me onto another path towards reading and writing science fiction stories and reading about the universe and relativity. Perhaps my favorite book in this area was George Gamow’s One, Two, Three Infinity. I was reading books on relativity all the way through my middle school years. Amazing I got through high school with the little attention I books from the school. 

Gamow’s One Two Three … Infinity

The book I’m reviewing arrived today and it sits beside my office desk ready for me to open that first page. Yet it seems it would be remiss if I didn’t say that the very fact of this speculation about these vast topics – as in the title and subtitle of the book alone – bringing back questions that were once asked by great scientists who focused on the universe in their writings. Bringing back a particular time in my life. It was a time when my mind was focused so far away from things. Certainly school. 

Without even opening the book I read an excellent short review of the book in the Washington Post. Again, thanks to Mike in SF for the tip on many interesting things and subjects in life today. This is all from a link that Mike sent to me a few days and got the book from our local library just as I’m going on vacation out to Sonoma, California. Before I even get the book, I’ve read the article in the Post above and did some Googling of her around the internet. Perhaps the leading cosmologist of our times. The real successor to perhaps Stephen Hawking’s or Carl Sagan. Someone who is proposing the two great questions that have been forgotten today: the origin of our universe and want lies beyond it.

Could there be larger questions about things in our world then these two above questions that are never questioned today. Always directed away from these big questions. Leading it for that fading academic discipline of philosophy for its weakening answer to the crisis.

* * *

So, all of this in the background, the baggage I guess one would say. It is “baggage” that all readers bring to their reading of a particular work. Here, the recently published Before the Big Bang by cosmologist Laura Mersini-Houghton. I bring much past baggage to this book because it brings up a past in my life and one that popularized interest in those big questions of the universe again. I’m sure the study of all of this must have a name. Maybe online clubs are for readers coming to books with their baggage? Perhaps this is the definition of Book Clubs? 

She is not only the great cosmologist of our times, but she is also the first new voice that helps to pull our minds above the earth and perhaps helps us focus more on the stars above than the light all around from earth. I can see her as a rising symbol of a new niche that will help to popularize science today – in much the same say – that foreign things like science were popularized and explained to me in those days. 

There are some popularizers of science today. Just like there was a popularizer of science at the time by that person who books on relativity aimed at kids like me. Mersini-Houghton just might be this new Sagan for out times. Asking the greatest questions in life. 

An Early Fate Magazine

Without opening the first page of this book, just the main questions of it takes me back to those grand questions at the top of my mind in those years. This book brings me back to those years when I had so much interest and fascination with the universe. My high school years. It is a book that speculates about the two great things about the universe, I guess all life for that matter, I’ve ever thought about: what was before the origin of the universe and what lies beyond the universe. 

Certainly not the only person to ever think about these two grand ideas of life. Are there any greater ideas? What comes before. What lies beyond. Are there much bigger questions any of us have in life? But here, in a story woven into a life, about the speculations on this idea in the present – these two grand questions of ours. I have the book in front of me now. It is a short book. The type I like. 

* * *

The recent publication of Before the Big Bang by Laura Mersini-Houghton brings two grand speculations back into hopefully more interest. Written by mixing her life with her ideas. There is the truth and there is the fiction of it all. Perhaps much of her childhood searching has come out in her scholarship path, pushing her in a certain direction? Her theories are fascinating, though, and speak of multi-verses and meta-verses. 

Here, a magic story for me that brings back those old years of Fate Magazine and relativity. When multi-verses first seemed to appear in the form of that little magazine Fate I read religiously in those years. 

The outward handing fruit of the “baggage” I bring to reading the book next to my desk as I type this review of the book.

On My Desk (next to a decent – but by no means great – pinot grigio)


About Laura Mersini-Houghton

Author of Before the Big Bang is an internationally renowned cosmologist and theoretical physicist and one the world’s leading experts and author of the origin of the universe from the quantum multiverse. She proposed to use quantum entanglement to test the multiverse and made a series of predictions for anomalous signatures, notable the Cold Spot, imprinted in our sky. All of the predicted anomalies were confirmed by the Planck satellite experiment. She is a full professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a visiting professor at numerous universities around the world, including University of Cambridge in the UK and CITA, University of Toronto in Canada. She has been the subject of hundreds of articles in leading popular science magazines, newspapers, and documentaries, in the Science Channel, Discovery Channel, PBS, National Geographic, and BBC-Horizon, BBC Radio 4 and NPR.


Part Two

(To Be Continued … after I read Before the Big Bang. But good getting all this baggage out on the old table. Maybe I see the book as more than it really is and all this BS. Somewhat like getting it checked through at curbside baggage claim so the anxiety on your trip is suddenly reduced. Getting rid of excess baggage has this powerful connection to one of the horrors in the travel industry of having to wheel around baggage at an airport. In one of the modern twists to cliches, it is interesting that the title of the piece has two words from the title of one of largest television shows in history – The Big Bang Theory. In fact, some TV addicts might confuse the book to be about TV before The Big Bang Theory was on. There are some interesting questions in what we’re exploring here. For instance, the area of cosmology seems rather shielded from current political divisions. Yet, does it imply a particular political stance? Are the grand questions asked in Before the Big Bang as well as the speculations proposed ones encouraged or discouraged by the popular narrative today? The words multi and meta – as in multi-universe and meta-universe – are popular with mainstream media. How much is Mersini-Houghton’s ideas an expression of what Jung called the collective unconscious of the world? Is there a time when we think about the largest questions of life? Is there a time when we think about the smallest questions of life?)

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