Spaceship Earth is a science fiction novel by Tom Schwartz.
Scientists have discovered that the universe is a "closed system" and that the rate of expansion is slowing. This means that eventually the universe will stop expanding and begin collapsing upon itself, ultimately resulting in the opposite of the "big bang" - the "big crunch". This period of contraction should then result in a new "big bang" and the universe will once again begin expanding. While this is clearly not going to happen tomorrow, to have any chance of the human race surviving such an eventuality at some point in the very distant future (ie billion's of years) they must devise a method of moving out of harms way.
In a bid to escape this demise of the human race, scientists come up with the idea of turning the earth into a spaceship over the course of several millennia with a plan that will involve all the nations of the world committing the resources and determination to create Spaceship Earth...
This story is set on an absolutely epic scale and covers over 70 billion years, the whole cycle of the universe from big bang to big crunch and has to be the biggest scale story I have ever read - surpassing even Stephen Baxter's works (just about anyway). After a brief section covering the background to the big bang etc we are catapulted forward to a distant future where the human race has evolved significantly from today's standards. These humans average 3 metres in height, are hairless and very thin with a lifespan measuring centuries. The book moves through the ages as the plans to built the planetary spaceship heat up and it's a nice, easy going and relaxed journey for the most part.
The majority of the story does involve a relatively small space in this vast time-line when the time is nearing ready to fit the engines and this is where the novel's protagonists and antagonists take center stage. As you can imagine not everything goes smoothly and this does speed up the pace of the novel which does add nicely to the tension. The book works very well in what the author has aimed it to do, and that is to introduce one theory of the creation of the universe and then provide one interpretation which allows the reader to consume, understand and postulate. This theory is written in an easy to understand and friendly manner allowing those of limited scientific knowledge the ability to easily grasp the concepts discussed.
With the launch of Stephen Hawkings new book along with his headline seeking claim that "the concept of God is not needed to explain the existence of the universe", this book feels very topical. Personally I don't agree with either Hawking, or those that claim dark matter exists (read this article here for more information: Bang goes the theory) but the very fact that this book has encouraged me to once again ponder this weighty issue is something of a triumph. It's also the ideal novel for Dustin Hoffman who wants to see more science in science fiction. This book encapsulates the whole idea behind science fiction stories, projecting the author's ideas to his audience in an engaging manner.
Spaceship Earth is a great book full of interesting ideas and works very well as both a gentle introduction to the "closed system" big bang theory and as a science fiction book in it's own right.
Written on Friday 24th September 2010 by Antony.
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