Just Six Numbers

Sir Martin Rees

The Astronomer Royal speculates about the existence of the universe and the multiverse

At least a dozen so-called popular books about cosmology are published each year. Unlike many of them, Just Six Numbers is highly readable, relatively short, entertaining and, above all, informative. Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, does occasionally force the non-specialist to pause for thought, but he rewards those of us who have enough curiosity and concentration with a glorious insight into the workings of the universe.

Rees explains how six numbers defined the earliest moments of the Big Bang and the subsequent evolution of the universe. If you think of our universe as a rather large cake, then the six numbers are the amount of each ingredient or the oven settings that decide its size and structure. In other words, if the numbers had been different in the beginning, our universe would be different today. In fact, a slight tweak in any of the numbers would have resulted in a sterile universe incapable of sustaining life…

(extract from Simon Singh’s review, Daily Telegraph, 7 January 1999)