How to Make an Apple Pie from Scratch

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What to expect

‘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

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

We probably all have a vague idea of how to make an apple pie: mix flour and butter, throw in some apples and you’re probably most of the way there, right? Think again. Making an apple pie from scratch requires ingredients that definitely aren’t available in the supermarket, ovens that can reach temperatures of trillions of degrees, and a preparation time of 13.8 billion years.

Inspired by Sagan’s famous line, Harry Cliff ventures out in search of the ultimate apple pie recipe, tracing the ingredients of our universe through the hearts of dying stars and back in time to a tiny fraction of a second after our universe began. Along the way, he confronts some really big questions: What is matter really made of? How does the stuff around us escape annihilation in the fearsome heat of the Big Bang? And will we ever be able to understand the very first moments of our universe?

In pursuit of answers, Cliff ventures to the largest underground research facility in the world, deep beneath Italy’s Gran Sasso mountains, where scientists gaze into the heart of the Sun using the most elusive of particles, the ghostly neutrino. He visits CERN in Switzerland to explore the ‘Antimatter Factory’ where this stuff of science fiction is manufactured daily (and we’re close to knowing whether it falls upwards). And he reveals what the latest data from the Large Hadron Collider may be telling us about the fundamental ingredients of matter.

Along the way, Cliff illuminates the history of physics, chemistry, and astronomy that brought us to our present understanding of the world, while offering readers a front-row seat to one of the most dramatic intellectual journeys human beings have ever embarked on.

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

Critics Review

  • Cliff’s engaging and personable writing style, along with his infectious enthusiasm, follows in the best traditions of Feynman and Sagan . . . a page-turner.

    Jim Al-Khalili
  • Witty, approachable and captivating . . . Every time you eat a pie, you’ll find yourself contemplating the universe and why exactly there is one in the first place – a wild ride through the remarkable adventures and thoughts that have led to a species beginning to work out why it is and why everything else is too.

    Robin Ince
  • 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
  • Science is all about successful recipes and here’s a mouthwateringly good one for life, the universe and everything. The cosmic detail in chef Cliff’s climactic de novo apple pie makes the efforts of celebrity cooks seem thin and insubstantial.

    Roger Highfield, Science Director at the Science Museum
  • 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

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