Out on 05 August 2021

How to Make an Apple Pie from Scratch

Harry Cliff

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05 August 2021
400 pages

‘If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.’ Carl Sagan

We all know what an apple pie is made of: flour and apples and butter. They are made of fats and cholesterol and proteins. They, in turn, are made of molecules of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen and other chemical elements. But what are they made of?

If we are truly to understand something as everyday and ordinary as an apple pie, we will in the end not only need to know what are the constituents of the chemical elements, but what fundamental matter the universe is made of, what banged in the Big Bang, and how matter arose from nothing into the world in which we live.

Inspired by Sagan’s famous line, Harry Cliff begins his exploration of the nature of the universe by burning an apple pie to see what he can learn of its chemical makeup, before setting out in pursuit of answers to these bigger questions and others even more ambitious: Where does matter come from? Why does the universe exist?

Cliff ventures to the largest underground research facility in the world, deep beneath Italy's Gran Sasso mountains, where scientists look into the heart of the Sun using the most elusive of particles, the ghostly neutrino. He visits CERN in Switzerland to behold the ‘Antimatter Factory’, where this stuff of science fiction is manufactured daily (and we're close to knowing whether it falls up).

Cliff illuminates the history of physics and chemistry that brought us to our present understanding - and misunderstandings - of the world, while offering listeners a front row seat to the dramatically unfolding quest to unlock, at long last, the secrets of our universe.

A transfixing deep-dive into the origins of the world, How to Make an Apple Pie from Scratch investigates not just the makeup of our universe, but the awe-inspiring, improbable fact that it exists at all.

A fascinating exploration of how we learned what matter really is, and the journey matter takes from the Big Bang, through exploding stars, ultimately to you and me.

Sean Carroll, author of Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime

A delightfully fresh and accessible approach to one of the great quests of science . . . Harry Cliff has found a recipe for an easily digestible approach to this subject, and the results go down a treat.

Graham Farmelo, author of The Strangest Man

Covers a vast amount of ground whilst remaining easy to read: from the birth of modern chemistry through to the very latest ideas in particle physics. All done with a light-hearted rigour . . . Brilliant.

Jeff Forshaw, Professor of Particle Physics, University of Manchester