The Universe, in Handy Book Form

Today is the official release date for The Rough Guide to the Universe. That’s in the US, mind you; in the UK, it’s already been out for a month, and I’m mildly confused as to why every single Briton has not gone to purchase their own copy. Well, it’s early yet.

Here in the US, of course, I whole-heartedly suggest that each and every one of you to mob your local bookstore and demand several copies — or, should you be far distant from a local bookstore, to purchase it online — say, here, or here, or even here. (Or, should you like to like to shop online, yet still support local business, here — there’s a couple of extra steps required, like entering my name and then entering your zip code. Still.)

Because I’m the author of the book, I got sent a number of author copies, most of which will be going to family and immediate friends, but to celebrate the release of the book, I thought it would be fun to have a little contest. So here it is: I will give one FREE, autographed copy of The Rough Guide to the Universe to the person who best completes this sentence:

“The Universe is…”

My personal answer to this is “The Universe is where I keep all my stuff,” but I’m sure you have your own personal insights on the matter.

To provide your answer, just drop a line in the comments thread for this entry. Enter as many times as you like BUT the cut-off for entries is 11:59 pm EST Friday, May 16. I will pick the response I find the most interesting and announce the winner on May 19. At which point the winner can contact me by e-mail and then I’ll send out the book.

Which is not to say you shouldn’t rush out and buy the book right this very instant. Far from it — when and if you win, you can surely gift your previously-purchased copy to a friend, or family member, or local library. Everyone wins!

Incidentally: In totally serious mode, you might actually think about buying a copy of this book (or, honestly, any book you like) for your local library. As you may or may not know, library funds are getting slashed left and right around the country; they’d appreciate the book, and your community would appreciate having books that weren’t incredibly old on the shelves. I of course donated the book to my local library as soon as it came in, and also donated all the books I bought and used for research and fact checking. It’s a worthy cause.

89 Comments on “The Universe, in Handy Book Form”

  1. The Universe is made better by the presence of great authors like John Scalzi (who give me signed copies of their books.)

  2. Just wanted to start the blatant ass kissing early.

    And, are you aware that while I’ve been thanked in the acknowledgements, I have no signed copies of any of your books? All of my other author-friends use lots of flowery language to say nice things about me, then sign their names in my copy of their books. What’s the deal?

  3. The universe is:

    Never tie sushi

    Far out, man!

    Bigger, and smaller, than we can ever imagine.

    A great place to be!

    Seven distinct particles with 8 properties each, interacting in a complex orgy of combinations that follow rules we know, and rules we have yet to discover.

  4. The Universe isn’t everything, young Horatio!

    This contest reminds me of the joke about the astronomy 101 final exam:

    “Define universe and give two examples.”


  5. The Universe is. . .

    like a grapefruit. It’s orange and squishy, and has a few pips in it, and some folks have half a one for breakfast.

    (Freshly Plagiarized)

  6. The Coke version:
    The universe is it.

    The Cotton version:
    The universe is the fabric of our lives.

    The GE version:
    The universe is bringing good things to life.

    The old Sears version:
    The universe has everything.

    The new Sears version:
    The universe, where else?

    The Walmart version:
    The universe is taking over the world.

    The Burger King version:
    The universe is flame broiled.

    The Trojan version:
    The universe is ribbed for your pleasure.

    The health food freak version:
    The universe is 100% all natural.

    The Super Man version:
    The universe is faster than a speeding bullet more powerful than a locamotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

    The Ragu version
    The universe is in there.

    The Ivory version:
    The universe is so pure it floats.

    The Iraqi foreign minister version:
    The universe is nowhere, it is not here it will never be here and has never been here.

    The AC/DC version:
    The universe is Back in Black.

    The Texan version:
    The universe is bigger ‘n Texas!

    And of course
    The Carl Sagan version:
    The universe is billions and billions and billions of galaxies.

  7. The Universe is the place that God created for me to play in.

    For the Athiests/Agnostics out there you can reword this to:

    The Universe is the place that arose so that I could have a place to play in.

    Yes my ego is that large!


  8. The Universe…well, OK I’d like to appologize. I’m sure you understand, I mean 7 days isn’t really much time, plus it was my first try, and did I mention I was going thru a divorse at the time…

  9. The universe is the spacial version of when you try to think about how long eternity is and your lil’ neural circuit breaker flips and you blink and forget what you were trying to think about.

  10. The Universe is…

    No, really man, the Universe just is.

    Like.. wow… man.

  11. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Universe is. You must experience it for yourself.

  12. The universe is merely the first step in the neoconservatives’ plan to rearrange heaven, hell, and all creation in their image.

  13. The Universe is what happens when a God with too much time on its hands starts messing with mathematics.

  14. The Universe is like the baddast-assed touchdown, score, home run, goal, set-and-match you’ve never seen ’cause you’re in the ball. Dig the velocity.

  15. The universe is what exists inside the limits of all that is, assuming that there are limits to the universe–something in which I vehemently believe thanks to a college course in ancient philosophy that left me with little besides a mental image of Greek men lounging in the marketplace and discussing what might lie outside the totality of everything, which struck me as a complete waste of time and the real reason that we now are taught about the Roman Empire and not a Greek one.

  16. The Universe is like an armadillo. It’s small and easy to torture. Oh yeah, and don’t forget that thick, candy shell.

  17. …some fine mystic shit from Julian of Norwich

    And in this he showed a little thing, the quantity of an hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as me seemed, and it was as round as a ball. I looked thereon with the eye of my understanding, and thought: What may this be? And it was answered generally thus: It is all that is made. I marvelled how it might last, for me thought it might suddenly have fallen to nought for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasteth and ever shall, for God loveth it; and so hath all thing being by the love of God.

  18. Well, mom, since you’re already on the “get one free” list, it’s not likely you’re going to WIN. I know, dreadfully unfair. But I never said I wasn’t totally arbitrary.

  19. The universe is a place where you type your own name into Google and find a guy with your same name who is apparently your same age and has your same profession. I’m weirded out. Send me a book. Oh, and you must have had your Italian blood diluted somewhere along the line cause you just ain’t looking like me much at all.

  20. THE UNIVERSE IS God’s toybox

    THE UNIVERSE IS Ted Turner’s and we’re just renting it from him

    THE UNIVERSE IS always open, rarely free and will never forward your mail

  21. The Universe isÖ

    Ölike my parentís house. No matter how hard I try, I canít quite leave.

    Öthe best place to get chinese food.

    Ö a nice place to live, but Iím looking for a nicer vacation spot.

    Ö home to such diverse creatures as aardvarks and zebras, crocodiles and wombats, Canadians and kangaroos. And thatís just on one planet!

    Ö big enough that the 2:30 appointment you are late for cannot possibly count as important in the end.

  22. The Universe is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

  23. The Universe is a very short poem. Beware the Universer – the world’s first poetry terrorist!

  24. the universe is just a big suburb of Earth. even now, Wal-Mart is scheming how to ruin all the shopkeepers in the sleepy little town of Vrrt on Planet Claire, and Starbucks ain’t far behind.

  25. The Universe is the consummate prankster.

    I am often the butt of its jokes.

    Damn that Universe anyway. It thinks it is so funny.

    Frankly, I’m not laughing.

  26. The universe is…a closed system tending towards entropy.

    Hey, somebody had to do it :)

  27. The universe is where I cut your uncles hair just like yours is to save the $12.00 he was paying the barber. Although he has even less than you do.

  28. Do my comments mean I have a real chance to win or are Don & I part of the lucky family to get a free (autographed) copy?

  29. The Universe is:

    …best experienced with your eyes and mind open.

    …an infinite speck.

  30. The universe is everything I sense right now. Everything and everyone else is a product of my imagination.

    (At least, that’s what my high school chemistry teacher told his class. Of course, by then he was on his fifth wife, so we tended to take personal advice from him with a grain or two of salt).

  31. Sounds good to me. Liked the pic of Krissy and Athena. Aunt Charlotte

  32. The universe is time spelled backwards…
    emit: to send out, to send forth

  33. Cool. I’ll pick my copy up at the end of the month. Since it came out one day after Astronomy Days at the Pacific Science Center, it’s topical. Will you be doing a book signing tour for this one?

    My feeble entry:
    The Universe is a great place to store your toys and lose your keys.

  34. Scott: Probably no tour with this one (which is not too much of a loss for me, since I have two books to write this summer).

  35. The universe is happier with a Hitchhiker’s guide than a Rough guide.

    I didn’t bother reading all of the responces so my appologies if there is a simular one there.


  36. I only skimmed above, please forgive any dupes.

    The universe is…

    …better than the alternative.

    …around here someplace. Wait a minute, I’ll find it.

    …mine. All mine!

    …the best place to find good sushi.

    …where the heart is.

    I’m sure I can come up with more, but I need to go back and re-read the list more slowly. :)

  37. The universe is…

    … the most realistic FPS ever.

    … one hell of a kegger, just waiting to happen.

    … yo’ momma.

    … now fat free.

    … politically incorrect.

    … in dire need of a new paint job.

    … encapsulated within a single blade of purple grass. (The Gunslinger reference. Stephen King. Read it.)

    … Dubya’s next target in the War on Terror.

    … not circumsized.

    ……. on that note, I think thats enough from me.

  38. The universe is the inverse of the transverse of the metaverse, in reverse. Except in leap years, when it’s just the opposite.

  39. The universe is one version of how it could be.

    I am your cousins’ fathers’ neighbors’ oldest sons’ ex-college roommates’ great stepcousin twice removed- can I get a free copy, or two if I win?

  40. The universe kinda reminds me of this guy, jim, and how he had to go down to the jail and bail out his uncle. But he didn’t have enough money, so his mother told him to go ask aunt berneice. Now, Jim didn’t have his car, it was in the shop – a little incident that involved the ups guy (don’t ask) – so he had to find his younger brother, lemuel, and borrow his bike.

    Riding down the street with training wheels on his transportation and a check from his amateur-vivisectionist aunt, he wonders about his ex-girlfriend and where she may be. Maybe she’s at the Matrix tonight.
    Jim doesn’t need that crap anymore, he’s done with it. It’s time to go to trade school and earn him a degree!

  41. The Universe is strangely resistant to anthropomorphism.

    The Universe is indifferent to humanity.

  42. The Universe is…

    …Only slightly less filled with random explosive gasses than my grandmother. Don’t walk behind her. Trust me.

    …Only slightly MORE cluttered with various chunks of stuff than John Scalzi’s desk. Slightly.

    … About to be torn down in the middle of the night by Richard Daley without any kind of notice. Look for the giant X on the moon.

    …not nearly as important or as impressive as John Scalzi. Not by a long shot. Doesn’t even come close.

  43. The universe is a great playground for us nerdy types.

    The universe is a scary deserted fairground for everyone else.

  44. The universe is a great place to park the truck and change your socks.

    (Apologies to the late, great Jim Murray.)

  45. The universe is like the human mind. Occasionally you find a bit of dirt, but it’s mostly just empty space. (unless you want to get technical with all this dark matter crap, in which case you’re just being picky.)

  46. Well, I guess its time for my two cents:

    The Universe is:

    …limitless beyond imagination.

    …evolution unchecked.

    …a perfect paradox.

    …losing its perspicacity. (Thank you Homer Simpson!)

    …the playground of our thoughts –
    a swingset for our hopes, seesaw for our fears, and sandbox for our dreams.

    Keep up the great work, and I love the new site, especially more now that you are posting daily.

  47. The universe can not be measured in meters and meteorites

    The universe is elvis leaving the building (so what, at least its not plagiarized)

    The universe is a cracker jack box filled with better prizes, cashews, and maple syrup

    The universe is watching and every thought has its counterpart in good and evil, ying and yang, ping and pong, published or unpublished, strictly absolutes, though, no glass half filled or half empty, only a sharp line of demarcation

    The universe has no present, only beyond

    Is it pass midnight?

  48. The universe is… so wonderful and complex that 4 days, 11 hours and 38 minutes was not long enough to find the answer. I doubt that any amount of time is, but the question certainly keeps me up at night contemplating.


  49. The universe is falling!
    The universe is available in all colours.
    The universe is coming to a brain near you soon.
    The universe is not.
    The universe is not cooperating, dammit!
    The universe is over there.
    The universe is thinking. So shush!
    The universe is too small for the both of us.
    The universe is quite comfy, don’t you think?
    The universe is hardly noticable, unless you look closely.
    The universe is astounding, and so are you!
    The universe is in reverse.
    The universe is sulking. PMT – Pre Millenia Tension.
    The universe is overstated.
    The universe is um… big. Yeah… big.
    The universe is totally indifferent to our descriptions.
    The universe is about to pounce.
    The universe is prone to repetition.
    The universe is blowing one vast, infinately long rasberry.
    The universe is just asking for it.
    The universe is not going to wait for us.
    The universe is the playground of the immortals.
    The universe is trying to wake up. Drank too much last night.
    The universe is yours, if you wish it, and can relinquish your humanity.
    The universe is doing the best it can. Why aren’t you?
    The universe is mmmmm…. sort of lemony flavour.
    The universe is made of thought. Everything else is matter.
    The universe is mostly hot gas, with a few curdled lumps.
    The universe is, um… oh heck, lets just fuck.

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