Is the universe infinite or just really big? With this question, the gifted young cosmologist Janna Levin announces the central theme of her intriguing and controversial book and establishes herself as one of the most direct and unorthodox voices in contemporary science. As Levin sets out to determine how big ''really big'' may be, she gives us an intimate look at the day-to-day life of a globe-trotting physicist, complete with jet lag and romantic disturbances. Nimbly synthesizing geometry, topology, chaos, and string theories, Levin shows how the pattern of hot and cold spots left over from the big bang may one day reveal the size and shape of the cosmos. She does so with such originality, lucidity--and even poetry--that <i>How the Universe Got Its Spots</i> becomes a thrilling and deeply personal communication between a scientist and the lay reader.