Robert E. Smolinski is an author with a deep history in science and engineering, which he applied to writing his book, Understanding The Universe, a layman’s guide to Earth, the solar system, and the universe beyond.
I applaud Mr. Smolinski for wanting to make the science behind our view of the cosmos more accessible to the public. But how well he succeeds is another matter entirely. To be frank, I don’t doubt the accuracy of any of the data he presents in his book. Rather, it’s the style of his writing and the nature of his arguments that I have some trouble with.
As to its style, I wasn’t sure if this book was trying to be either an astronomy textbook or a scientific discussion book like The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. It ultimately ends up as neither. The author’s tone has a tendency to ramble, referring back to divergent thoughts or personal opinions right in the middle of explaining important facts to the reader. It also doesn’t help that the text all too often is nothing but run-on paragraphs with no clear beginning, middle, or end.
Then there are his overall arguments. Beyond wanting to inform his audience about the nature and composition of the cosmos, Mr. Smolinski’s key thrust is to argue his position about the origins of the universe–namely, that he has evidence that supports the Steady State theory over the Big Bang theory.
That the author supports a theory that goes against the prevailing cosmological theory is not as much a problem for me as is the tone and nature of his arguments. He provides numbers and interpretation in support of his position, but then says that it’s all on the “Big Bang boys” to disprove his data. He scorns concepts like dark matter, claiming it’s not observably proven science. For someone who rails against the close-mindedness of those who hold to the Big Bang theory, he certainly seems to take an equally hard line about the Steady State theory when most of the scientific community has already fielded several criticisms and refutations about its claims.
I would defend Mr. Smolinski’s right to discuss and defend his cosmology, even though I don’t accept it myself. I applaud him for upholding the scientific method in his writing and work, although I feel the writing may need some work. Understanding The Universe is neither a simple textbook nor a thesis on cosmology. It’s a ill-paced, rambling document. But if you want to get some perspective from Mr. Smolinski, I’d recommend it.
For just a comprehensive view about astronomy and nothing else, I’d recommend Wikipedia.
I received a complimentary copy of Understanding The Universe as a member of the Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit dorrancebookstore.com to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.
Bibliography: Smolinski, Robert E. Understanding The Universe. Pittsburgh: Dorrance Publishing, 2011.