The unexpected--and unprecedented--success of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes created a big bang of its own in the world of publishing. The Cambridge University re- searcher's textual flight through space and time, published by New York's Bantam Books in April 1988, earned rave reviews the world over and spent 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, ringing up sales of some 1 million copies in its hardcover edition alone.

Publishers did double-takes, then scrambled to sign up scientists with stories to tell and theories to explain. As a result, popular science books--those that bring scientific knowledge to the public in a voice that the layman can understand and appreciate--have become something of a trend, and more scientists than ever before are venturing into the world of mass-market publishing.

Indicators are that the genre will continue to expand...

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