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The Big Picture

On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself

Sean Carroll

‘Fascinating’ – Brian Cox, Mail on Sunday Books of the Year

Where are we? Who are we? Do our beliefs, hopes and dreams hold any significance out there in the void? Can human purpose and meaning ever fit into a scientific worldview?

Award-winning author Sean Carroll brings his extraordinary intellect to bear on the realms of knowledge, the laws of nature and the most profound questions about life, death and our place in it all.

From Darwin and Einstein to the origins of life, consciousness and the universe itself, Carroll combines cosmos-sprawling science and profound thought in a quest to explain our world. Destined to sit alongside the works of our greatest thinkers, The Big Picture demonstrates that while our lives may be forever dwarfed by the immensity of the universe, they can be redeemed by our capacity to comprehend it and give it meaning.

  • Publication date: May 4, 2017
  • ISBN: 9781786071033
  • RRP: £12.99
  • Pages: 480
  • Publication date: September 1, 2016
  • ISBN: 9781780746067
  • RRP: £20.00
  • Pages: 480
  • Publication date: September 1, 2016
  • ISBN: 9781780746074
  • RRP: £5.99
  • Pages: 480


‘It’s very much in the tradition of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, which is one of my all-time favourite science books. Books like that are not only about science, they put science in the wider context of our society…they explain and present not only the things we’ve learned about a relatively esoteric subject, but link those discoveries to our experience. Learning about nature teaches us about ourselves and how we should behave. I think that the best science books make that connection.’

Professor Brian Cox, ‘science writers on the books that inspired them’, Guardian

‘An extraordinarily ambitious synthesis of science and philosophy…The Big Picture impresses. Carroll is a lively and sympathetic author who writes as well about biology and philosophy as he does about his own field of physics.’

Clive Cookson, Financial Times

‘ in detail and absorbing.’

Tim Radford, Guardian

‘Sean Carroll’s lucid The Big Picture reveals how the universe works and our place in it. Carroll, a philosophically sophisticated physicist, discusses consciousness without gimmicks, and deftly shows how current physics is so solid that it rules out ESP for ever.’


‘A humane and compelling story for our increasingly secular age.’

Manjit Kumar, Literary Review

‘A highly enjoyable and lucid tour through a wide range of topics…even if you don’t agree with what [Carroll] says, you are unlikely to be enraged by such an urbane and engaging lecturer; more likely, you will be enthralled.’

Wall Street Journal

‘Language, philosophy, quantum mechanics, general relativity – they’re all in The Big Picture. Sean Carroll is a fantastically erudite and entertaining writer.’

Elizabeth Kolbert, author of New York Times bestseller The Sixth Extinction

‘Weaving the threads of astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and philosophy into a seamless narrative tapestry, Sean Carroll enthralls us with what we’ve figured out in the universe and humbles us with what we don’t yet understand. Yet in the end, it’s the meaning of it all that feeds your soul of curiosity.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

‘Carroll beautifully articulates the world view suggested by contemporary naturalism. Thorny issues like free will, the direction of time, and the source of morality are clarified with elegance and insight... This is a book that should be read by everybody.’

Carlo Rovelli, author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

‘A tour de force that offers a comprehensive snapshot of the human situation in our infinitely strange universe, and it does this with highly accessible language and engaging storytelling.’

‘[Carroll] sets out to show how various phenomena, including thought, choice, consciousness, and value, hang together with the scientific account of reality that has been developed in physics in the past 100 years. He attempts to do all this without relying on specialized jargon from philosophy and physics and succeeds spectacularly in achieving both aims.’


‘From the Big Bang to the meaning of human existence, The Big Picture is exactly that – a magisterial, yet deeply fascinating, grand tour through the issues that really matter. Blending science and philosophy, Sean Carroll gives us a humane perspective on the universe and our place in it. As gripping as it is important, The Big Picture can change the way you think about the world.’

Neil Shubin, author of Your Inner Fish

Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is Homewood Professor of natural philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. He won the Royal Society Winton Prize for his book on the search for the elusive Higgs boson, The Particle at the End of the Universe, and The Big Picture was an international bestseller. His most recent book is Something Deeply Hidden. He lives in Los Angeles. @seanmcarroll

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