This shorter volume from Krauss marks his transition from talented science expositor to science champion. His crisp, clear and thorough discussion combines with a strong problem-focussed narrative to make this book a deserving popular science landmark. Some discussion retraces developments in physics that Krauss meticulously covers in previous longer books but this is necessary for a one-stop treatise on one of the most important topics in modern physics. Notes and references are omitted, acceptably in my opinion considering the briefer nature of this book. The development of the topic, the provision of a context through his intimate familiarity with the work of earlier physicists, and Krauss's offhand capacity to reduce complexity and hyperbole to a well rounded paragraph make this book pleasurable, rewarding and complete.
Krauss charts the development of theories regarding the universe's dimensions, mass, energy, inflation and homogeneity, touching on the importance of quantum fluctuations, dark energy and related phenomena. With this background, he explains Perlmutter's challenge, in 1996, to Krauss's statement that empty space might contain energy. With perfect timing, this book arrives just as Perlmutter, Reis and Schmidt gain their Nobel Prizes for confirming the accelerating expansion of the universe and as WMAP experiments hint at dark photons, all grist for the mill in the universe from nothing theory.
The treat at the end of this exposition is Krauss's scenario that humanity now enjoys the best opportunity, in terms of available evidence, to understand the universe's origin, evolution and fate. During this period, albeit billions of years long, we are able to still detect cosmic background radiation and view receding galaxies before they red-shift out of existence. We live at a good time and I am pleased that Hitch got to savour this scenario. Characteristically, Krauss then takes a sweep through and at the anthropic cosmological principal and string theory to frame the scientific method as a sometimes fuzzy, sometimes chicken and egg, but always logical way to investigate our existence. He logically extends this thinking in the `Brave New Worlds' chapter to collate some existing ideas and advance an analysis which is powerful and positive for science. His Epilogue comment from Camus, that "Sisyphus is smiling", appeals. Dawkins's quote from Carlyle in the afterword caps off the good humour with which Krauss has explored this topic.
Clearly Krauss has some fun with this book - the reader is left in no doubt of this plan after the first line in Chapter 1. The burst of early snipes at lazy thinkers and obfuscators risked the book taking a combative edge but readers can rest assured these remarks remained measured, valid and totally justified given the damage some obscurantists wilfully cause to scientific progress, increasingly to the future peril of humanity and the planet. Krauss introduces an allegory about his wallet card which diagrammatically explains how the abundance of different elements in the universe verifies the Big Bang Theory. He notes that the card has little value because the usual kind of challenger of his proposition has usually made up his or her mind. Herein lays the challenge and, no doubt, fate of this book.