The most intriguing chapters in the book are the First Three Minutes (Chapter 5) and First One-Hundred Seconds (Chapter 7). Standard model of cosmology proposes that the universe is made of , well known, four fundamental physical forces; weak nuclear force, strong nuclear force, electromagnetic force and gravitational force. When the universe was 10(e-43) seconds old (the first moment of the universe), the temperature was about 10(e32) K, and all the four forces were considered unified. (Just like the postulates of Qunatum Mechanics, where the first one is that the Universe was a smooth flow of Energy in the beginning, when matter came later!- but holds still good)
The author, being a Nobel Laureate, is one of the pioneers in this field of research and proposed the existence of unified of weak and electromagnetic forces for which he was awarded Nobel Prize. When the universe was above the critical temperature of 3*10(e15)K, these two forces were symmetrical and had the same strength, and the symmetry broke as the cooling of the universe decreased the heat below the critical temperature. It is during the symmetry breaking epoch matter acquired the mass through Higgs Bosons. Between the first 10(e-43) to 10(e-36) seconds of the universe's birth, all the four forces were unified, but after 10(e-36) seconds strong nuclear force separated and the universe went through an inflationary epoch (sudden exponential expansion) between 10(e-36) and 10(e-32) seconds.
Reheating of the universe between 10(e-32) and 10(e-12) seconds resulted in the production of hot quark-gluon plasma. Particle interactions in this phase were energetic enough to create large numbers of W bosons, Z bosons and Higgs bosons, which are most the fundamental forms of matter. There after when the universe was about 10(e-12) seconds, the production of W and Z bosons stopped. This was followed by the quark epoch, between 10(e-12) to 10(e-6) seconds, the four natural forces took the form that is prevalent in the current universe. This was followed by the Hadron epoch, between one microsecond to one second, quarks started binding together to form hadrons (protons and neutrons), which are held together by the strong force. One second after the big bang, the lepton epoch began when neutrinos stopped interacting with other forms of matter. Leptons includes; the electron, the muon, the tauon (tau particle), and the associated neutrinos (electron neutrino, muon neutrino, and tau neutrino). Leptons and anti-leptons were annihilated except for a small residue, and this was followed the photon epoch where photons dominated the universe. Nucelo-synthesis of helium occurred during the first 3 to 20 minutes; after about 380,000 years after the Big Bang the temperature of the universe fell to the point where nuclei could combine with electrons to create neutral atoms. As a result, photons no longer interacted frequently with matter, the universe became transparent and the cosmic microwave background radiation was created. Then we were to coin the formation of Amino acids after certain drastic reactions and the events unfold.
During the very first minute, when the universe was in thermal equilibrium, the numbers and the distribution of all particles were determined statistically and not by prior history; cause - effect relationship did not exist! The universe started with equal number of protons and neutrons, and the conversion of neutrons to protons (that form the basics of Nuclear Chemistry like photonuclear reaction) occurred through its interaction with; electrons, positrons, neutrinos and anti-neutrinos. Hydrogen and helium were produced in abundance prior to the evolution of galaxies and stars. Stars evolved using hydrogen as a nuclear fuel to generate energy and their existence.
The detection of background cosmic microwave radiation (CMR) in 1965 by Penzias and Wilson, was one of the most important discoveries of 20th century. Other chapters give a historical and simplified development that lead to the prediction of of CMR, a remnant of the big bang, and also history of cosmological theories of nucelo-synthesis of heavier elements.
This book is a must read for all the undergraduates in Physics and Chemistry. Recent advances in cosmology might have rendered some information contained in this book as obsolete. Nevertheless, this book is very well structured with useful glossary of physics terms and concepts and a mathematical supplement.