One of the most surprising achievements of contemporary physics has been its ability to investigate the history of our universe and to offer narratives that extend back to the very first fractions of a second of its existence. The awesome explosion of the big bang, the formation of stars and galaxies, the production of the heavy elements necessary for life, the emergence of pockets of increasing complexity and self-organization are all key events in our family history as living organisms. Reviewing our present understanding of these events puts us in touch with some of the fundamental questions about our existence: where do we come from? is there design behind this wonderful universe? are we here by chance or by necessity? where is it all going?

For a popular narrative about cosmology and black holes, see, e.g., Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, Bantam Books, London, 1988