What does an astrophysicist do when he retires? Keep exploring the universe, of course.
Canadian-born Shaver spent his career peering out into the universe, much of it based at the European Southern Observatory. But it must have left him with a sense of tunnel vision. So he reset his sights to scan other dimensions. Cosmic Heritage is the result.
The author takes us along on his magical mystery tour, a kaleidoscope of all that enthralls him. His voracious appetite covers the origins of the universe and of life, sex, ageing, consciousness, death and the search for alien life.
Much of it reads like a survey rather than a narrative, but the perspective of one who has spent their career peering at the universe from high places is worth hearing. As Martin Rees, Britain’s Astronomer Royal, enthuses on the dust jacket, “It offers a splendid overview of the intricate processes that connect us to the universe.”
Overall, the reader gets drawn into Shaver’s sense of awe and wonder. In his final chapter, ‘Why should we be able to understand the universe at all,’ the author is back on home ground. He settles into a virtuoso voice and ponders a mystery: the most effective tool we have to probe this universe (and others) is mathematics, a product of our apish brain.
Will this apish brain discover other universes? Shaver doubts it, but concludes, “…science always seems to have a way of surprising.”