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Cosmology - the study of the origin, structure, and continuing evolution of the universe - is the most speculative of all sciences and religion. In "Ancient Light" astrophysicist and science writer Alan Lightman takes the reader on a grand tour of cosmology, exploring its history, the theories and the evidence, the new discoveries, the outstanding questions, and the controversies that have revolutionized this field. Thoughout history, as far back as the early Babylonians and Greeks, each culture has crafted its own story of the beginning of the universe. The modern story of cosmology began with the big bang model, but recent observations of the location and motions of galaxies are challenging this conventional view. The "Great Attractor", the "Great Wall" and other unexpected findings have thrown into chaos the previous assumption of a smooth and homogeneous cosmos so critical to the big bang model. Aided by the application of particle physics to cosmology, a new generation of scientists have launched a host of elaborate hypotheses to grapple with the inconsistencies that threaten the standard model. But current explanations - ranging from the inflationary universe model to the cold dark matter model to the anthropic principle - have run into difficulties of their own. In "Ancient Light", the human story behind cosmology is enhanced with biographical sketches of the key figures, past and present, including Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Vera Rubin, Alan Guth, and Margaret Geller. [via]