Summary and book reviews of You Are Here by Christopher Potter

You Are Here

A Portable History of the Universe

by Christopher Potter

You Are Here by Christopher Potter X
You Are Here by Christopher Potter
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2009, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2010, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

You Are Here is a dazzling exploration of the universe and our relationship to it, as seen through the lens of today's most cutting-edge scientific thinking. Christopher Potter brilliantly parses the meaning of what we call the universe. He tells the story of how something evolved from nothing and how something became everything. What does a material description of everything and nothing look like? What is it that science does when it describes a reality that is made out of something? In between nothing and everything is where we live.

Here, for the first time in a single span, is the life of the universe, from quarks to galaxy superclusters and from slime to Homo sapiens. The universe was once a moment of perfect symmetry and is now 13.7 billion years of history. Clouds of gas were woven into whatever complexity we find in the universe today: the hierarchies of stars or the brains of mammals. Potter writes entertainingly about the history and philosophy of science, and he shows that science advances by continually removing humankind from a position of primacy in the universe, but the universe responds by placing us back there again.

With wisdom and wonder, Potter traverses the cosmos from its conception to its eventual end—while exploring everything in between.

Chapter One

Orientation

The eternal silence of these infinite spaces alarms me.
Blaise Pascal

You are here, it says on the map in the park, the train station and the shopping centre, an arrow, usually red, pointing to some reassuringly definite location. But where is here, exactly? Children know, or think they know. On the flyleaf of a first book, I wrote out, as we all did after our own fashion, my full cosmic address - Christopher Potter, 225 Rushgreen Road, Lymn, Cheshire, England, The United Kingdom, The World, The Solar System, The Galaxy - my childish handwriting getting larger and larger, as if each part of the address I knew to be bigger and more important than the preceding part, until, with a final flourish, that acme of destinations is reached: the universe itself, the place that must locate everything there is.

As children we soon become aware that the universe must be a strange place. I used to keep myself awake at night trying to imagine what ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

You Are Here is simply an amazing book. Christopher Potter takes his readers on a whirlwind tour that races from the vastness of the universe to the subatomic particles that make up all of creation, touching on scientific theory, history, and even evolution along the way. It is a fascinating journey that can leave one's head spinning. There is a lot of information packed into this slim volume. ...

... The reader is advised to peruse an excerpt before picking up a copy - You Are Here will not be everyone's cup of tea; and it's not a book that can be easily read in an environment full of distractions. Regardless of its difficulty, however, I did find the information Potter presented to be fascinating, and I was never tempted to abandon the book.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review (622 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

The Guardian - Steven Poole
Curiously, given the literary bent, what the book lacks is the narrative power and lucidity of the big pop expositions by actual scientists (Gribbin, Krauss, Kaku et al); and too often it devolves into mere inventory (lists of big animals or nearby stars).

New Scientist - Dan Falk
For the most part ... Potter is in command of his subject - especially when he guides us through the philosophical underpinnings of science itself. Anyone drawn to "the big questions" will enjoy this latest synthesis.

The New Yorker
Most compellingly, Potter examines the provisional nature of scientific inquiry, in which conjecture can lead to insight and a weakness of a hypothesis can become a strength.

The London Times - Rod Liddle
Potter's book works because he is not (quite) a physicist, but nor is he merely a layman. He is a publisher with a fairly modest (he suggests) academic background in mathematics and the history of science. And this is the root of the book's brilliance; Potter becomes a link between the bizarre and abstruse world of the quantum physicists and our own rather more confined imaginations.

Booklist
Starred Review. Potter confronts the paradox of science as an enterprise that denies Homo sapiens any special status in the universe yet proceeds only because of...reasoning abilities found in no other creatures. A marvelously capacious book that will attract serious readers everywhere.

Kirkus Reviews.
A well-executed, consistently readable layperson's exposition of the state of scientific knowledge. Drawing on everyday experience to put the most esoteric phenomena in perspective, he makes his subject clear without dumbing it down. One of the best short surveys of science and its history in recent years.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This clear and smoothly written look at the mind-boggling history of everything is both informative and provocative.

Reader Reviews

Peter Best

Some good answers to the Big Questions!
As a physicist of old, this book is a revelation as it maneuvers so easily between many technical subjects - in fact it reminds me of Peter Watson's "A Terrible Beauty" - a favourite- in its breadth and fluidity. It is not a "popular ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

A Brief Biography of Copernicus
Nicolaus Copernicus was one of the first scientists to remove the Earth (and consequently, humanity) from the center of the universe, countering the theological teachings of his day. As such, his theories are referred to often in You Are Here. He is regarded as one of the central figures of the Scientific Revolution, and is sometimes referred to as the founder of modern astronomy.

Copernicus was born Mikolaj Kopernik on February 19, 1473 in the Polish town of Torun, the youngest of four children. His father was a wealthy copper trader active in local politics (kopernik translates as "one who works with copper"), who died when Copernicus was still young. His maternal uncle, Lucas Watzenrode, ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Christopher Potter

If you liked You Are Here, try these:

  • Light jacket

    Light

    by Bruce Watson

    Published 2016

    About this book

    Although lasers now perform everyday miracles, light retains its eternal allure. "For the rest of my life," Einstein said, "I will reflect on what light is." Light explores and celebrates such curiosity.

  • Leaving Orbit jacket

    Leaving Orbit

    by Margaret Lazarus Dean

    Published 2015

    About this book

    Winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, a breathtaking elegy to the waning days of human spaceflight as we have known it.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Miracle Creek
    Miracle Creek
    by Angie Kim
    Miracle Creek, the debut novel from Angie Kim, hinges on the mysterious explosion of an oxygen tank....
  • Book Jacket: Courting Mr. Lincoln
    Courting Mr. Lincoln
    by Louis Bayard
    19 out of 21 of our First Impression Reviewers rated Louis Bayard's latest novel, Courting Mr. ...
  • Book Jacket
    Transcription
    by Kate Atkinson
    Over her two-decade-plus career, Kate Atkinson has reinvented herself as a writer several times by ...
  • Book Jacket: Exhalation
    Exhalation
    by Ted Chiang
    Exhalation is an assemblage of nine short stories and novellas written by Ted Chiang, a computer ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Guest Book
    by Sarah Blake

    "An American epic in the truest sense…"
    Entertainment Weekly
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Women Rowing North
    by Mary Pipher

    The instant New York Times bestseller from the author of Reviving Ophelia.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Her Kind of Case
by Jeanne Winer

A highly-recommended emotion-filled legal drama with three starred reviews!

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Miracle Creek

My husband asked me to lie. Not a big lie...

A thrilling debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I I T S Form O F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.