Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe

Overview

"The invisible rules the visible while the infinitesimal determines the cosmic. This is not fuzzy mysticism. It is the clear-eyed logic of the world observed by astronomers, described here with precision and verve by Ostriker and Mitton. Read this book and let them guide you to enlightenment."—Robert P. Kirshner, author of The Extravagant Universe

"If you want a clear and fair assessment of the astonishing recent progress in understanding the cosmos—and of the mysteries that remain to be addressed—then this is ...

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Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe

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Overview

"The invisible rules the visible while the infinitesimal determines the cosmic. This is not fuzzy mysticism. It is the clear-eyed logic of the world observed by astronomers, described here with precision and verve by Ostriker and Mitton. Read this book and let them guide you to enlightenment."—Robert P. Kirshner, author of The Extravagant Universe

"If you want a clear and fair assessment of the astonishing recent progress in understanding the cosmos—and of the mysteries that remain to be addressed—then this is the book for you. Ostriker and Mitton write with authority, and with style as well."—Martin Rees, Master of Trinity College, University of Cambridge, and Astronomer Royal

"Heart of Darkness offers an engaging historical perspective on cosmology, and fluently moves onto the key modern issues in the dark sector. It is full of anecdotes and insights that will intrigue a general readership."—Joseph Silk, author of On the Shores of the Unknown: A Short History of the Universe

"Heart of Darkness offers a fresh perspective on the development of cosmology from one of its pioneers and most original thinkers, Jeremiah Ostriker, in collaboration with an exceptional science writer, Simon Mitton. This engaging history introduces nonexperts to the discoveries and basic concepts behind our current understanding of the universe."—Abraham Loeb, author of How Did the First Stars and Galaxies Form?

"Heart of Darkness is a penetrating and thorough narrative of how humans discovered the universe. Ostriker and Mitton are strong advocates for the tenacity and creativity of physicists and astronomers. This is an upbeat and inspiring story, told with vigor and enthusiasm."—Alan Dressler, author of Voyage to the Great Attractor: Exploring Intergalactic Space

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For Conrad, it was the Congo; for Ostriker (Formation of Structure in the Universe) and Mitton (The Young Oxford Book of Astronomy), it’s deep space, dark matter, and dark energy. In this stimulating study, the Princeton astrophysics professor and University of Cambridge scholar offer a compelling insider’s take on how astronomers have worked to reveal the mystery that is our universe. After a quick review of the long history of astronomy, the duo dive headlong into the 20th century and Einstein’s paradigm-crushing work on relativity, gravity, and time, which—coupled with technological improvements—laid the foundations for a modern cosmology based on “expansion—of vision, mind-set, and of the physical universe itself.” Indeed, the Big Bang sent galaxies racing outward, and the resulting universe is a “quantum soup” riddled with “‘holes,’ ‘filaments,’ and ‘walls.’” Here the authors prove their scientific mettle, exploring current research into the structure of the universe, including dark matter that holds galaxies together, and mind-boggling dark energy, whose strength uniquely increases in proportion to expanding intergalactic distances. Ostriker and Mitton’s knowledge is vast, and while they acknowledge that our understanding of the universe is far from complete, this thought-provoking presentation is as accessible as it is exciting. Photos & illus. (Feb.)
New Scientist
This is a strong, confident book, easily one of the best guides to why cosmologists make the claims they do.
Nature
Jeremiah Ostriker and science historian Simon Mitton seamlessly blend historical narrative with lucid scientific explication, from the deeps of classical time to the data-fuelled hyperdrive of the past 50 years.
Astro Guyz
[H]eart of Darkness . . . traces the implications of modern cosmology and more. The path is a fascinating history from the first debates over the cosmic redshift and the Hubble constant through the discovery of the cosmic microwave background by Penzias and Wilson in the 1960s right up to the big questions being raised today.
From the Publisher
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles Top 25 Academic Books for 2013

Honorable Mention for the 2013 PROSE Award in Cosmology & Astronomy, Association of American Publishers

"In this stimulating study, the Princeton astrophysics professor and the University of Cambridge scholar offer a compelling insider's take on how astronomers have worked to reveal the mystery that is our universe. . . . Ostriker and Mitton's knowledge is vast, and while they acknowledge that our understanding of the universe is far from complete, this thought-provoking presentation is as accessible as it is exciting."—Publishers Weekly

"Jeremiah Ostriker and science historian Simon Mitton seamlessly blend historical narrative with lucid scientific explication, from the deeps of classical time to the data-fuelled hyperdrive of the past 50 years."—Nature

"A lucid history of cosmology. . . . With infectious enthusiasm, diagrams and even a little high school math, the authors deliver the available answers along with the increasing confusion. A fine introduction to cosmology but rich enough to inform readers familiar with introductions."—Kirkus Reviews

"This is a strong, confident book, easily one of the best guides to why cosmologists make the claims they do."—New Scientist

"[H]eart of Darkness . . . traces the implications of modern cosmology and more. The path is a fascinating history from the first debates over the cosmic redshift and the Hubble constant through the discovery of the cosmic microwave background by Penzias and Wilson in the 1960s right up to the big questions being raised today."—Astro Guyz

"An excellent book celebrating the contribution to cosmology by many unsung heroes such as Tinsley, Slipher, Lemaitre and Friedman."—Dave Mannion, Popular Astronomy

"Here is a new and welcome perspective on modern cosmology that any reader can easily grasp and appreciate. Excellent archival photos and a very useful appendix that clearly and simply explains some of the essential mathematical concepts add to the pleasure of reading this book. Written with authority and flair, this is one of the very best books on the topic. Recommended reading for any science bluff."—Choice

"Ostriker's and Mitton's book is a lively and informative account of the story of modern cosmology . . ."—Helge Kragh, Journal for the History of Astronomy

"I enjoyed Heart of Darkness hugely. Rare among astronomy books, it was a 'page-turner', an exciting, intriguing, authoritative historical review of past cosmological endeavors coupled with an informed assessment of where we are at the present time. It is accurately aimed at the general reader and non-expert."—David W. Hughes, Observatory
"Heart of Darkness is a cheerful and accessible introduction to some of the most fascinating topics in astronomy today. It presents the concepts clearly, tells the stories about the discoverers with remarkable detail, and explains the logic leading to the hypotheses of dark matter and dark energy. I would not hesitate to recommend it for both general readers and scientists."—John C. Mather, Physics Today

Kirkus Reviews
A lucid history of cosmology. Ostriker (Astrophysical Sciences/Princeton Univ.; Development of Large Scale Structure in the Universe, 1992, etc.) and British science historian Mitton (Fred Hoyle: A Life in Science, 2005, etc.) illustrate J.B.S. Haldane's famous quote that "the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose." The Greeks proved that the Earth was round and determined its circumference. Copernicus placed the sun at the center of the solar system, and Kepler described planetary movements. Newton founded cosmology by asserting that his laws applied everywhere. Einstein showed how gravity rules the universe, and Hubble proved that it was expanding. By 1970, scientists agreed that everything (matter, energy, space, even time) began with the Big Bang 14 billion years ago. Having delivered the history, the authors pose obvious questions: Will the universe expand forever, or will gravity reverse matters? Since the Big Bang produced a uniform soup of energy and simple elements, how did stars, galaxies and planets form? Where did heavier elements come from? Where did we come from? Astrophysicists can explain how galaxies formed and how exploding stars produced heavier elements and eventually us. The universe's future seemed comprehensible until two discoveries muddied the waters. By 1980, it was clear that most matter in the universe is "dark"--literally invisible, detectable only because of gravitational effects. By the 1990s, researchers realized that most energy is also "dark," permeating space, opposing gravity and accelerating expansion. With infectious enthusiasm, diagrams and even a little high school math, the authors deliver the available answers along with the increasing confusion. A fine introduction to cosmology but rich enough to inform readers familiar with other introductions.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691134307
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 1/22/2013
  • Series: Science Essentials Series
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 227,158
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeremiah P. Ostriker is professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University. His books include "Formation of Structure in the Universe" and "Unsolved Problems in Astrophysics" (Princeton). Simon Mitton is affiliated research scholar in the history and philosophy of science and a fellow of St. Edmund's College, University of Cambridge. His books include "Fred Hoyle: A Life in Science" and "The Young Oxford Book of Astronomy".

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Preface xiii

  • Cosmology Becomes Data-driven Science xiii
  • Outline of the Journey We Will Take xix

Prologue: From Myth to Reality 1

  • Astronomy: The Endless Frontier 1
  • Charting and Modeling the Heavens 3
  • Copernicus: "The Last of the Greek Cosmologists" 6
  • Galileo: A New Approach to Mechanics and Cosmology 9
  • The Impact of Copernicus: Kepler's Laws 13
  • Isaac Newton and Gravity 15
  • William Herschel Discovers the Universe 20
  • Understanding the Universe Becomes a New Kind of Science 24

One: Einstein's Toolkit, and How to Use It 27

  • Overconfidence among the Cognoscenti at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century 27
  • Revolution in Physics: The Inception of Quantum Theory and Relativity 30
  • Special Relativity 33
  • General Relativity 36
  • General Relativity Is Tested, Passes the Test, and Is a Sensation 41
  • Cosmological Solutions to Einstein's Equations 47

Two: The Realm of the Nebulae 52

  • New Instruments in a Better Climate Unveil a New World 52
  • A Universe of Galaxies Is Confirmed 63
  • A Cosmological Model to Fit the New Data: Enter, Georges Lemaître 66
  • Physical Cosmology and the Expanding Universe 70
  • Lemaître's Synthesis Model Foretells the Contribution of Dark Energy 75
  • Hubble's Achievements 79
  • Big Science to Attack the Big Problem 81
  • The Steady State Model Universe and the Big Bang 84

Three: Let's Do Cosmology! 89

  • The Big Bang: A Starting Point That Cannot Be Escaped 89
  • Observational Cosmology, the Biggest Puzzle to Be Solved with the Biggest Telescope 93
  • The Grand Project Was Initially Too Difficult 97

Four: Discovering the Big Bang 102

  • Did Our Universe Have an Explosive Birth? 102
  • What Makes the Stars Shine? 104
  • Nuclear Astrophysics Moves to the Cosmos 109
  • The Fireball in Which the First Chemical Elements Were Made 114
  • Direct Radio Observations of the Big Bang Fireball 118
  • Understanding the Big Bang 125

Five: The Origin of Structure in the Universe 130

  • "In the Beginning"—Why an Explanation Is Needed 130
  • Structure within the Expanding Universe 136
  • The Elusive Standard Candle: Beatrice Tinsley Changes the Game 139
  • Real Cosmic Structure Found and Cataloged by Fritz Zwicky 146
  • Understanding the Origin of Structure Becomes Serious Science 149
  • Cosmic Inflation 155
  • The Seeds of Cosmic Structure Are Discovered 162
  • Closing the Loop: How Do Seeds Grow to Galaxies? 168

Six: Dark Matter—or Fritz Zwicky's Greatest Invention 174

  • How the Earth Was Weighed 174
  • Finding the Mass of the Andromeda Galaxy 181
  • Zwicky Finds Dark Matter in Clusters of Galaxies in the 1930s 184
  • The Rediscovery of Dark Matter in the 1970s 187 Rotation Curves Confirm the Case for Dark Matter 193
  • More Recent Multiple Lines of Evidence for Dark Matter 197

Seven: Dark Energy—or Einstein's Greatest Blunder 202

  • A Curious Situation 202
  • Will Gravity Lead to a Collapse of the Solar System? 203
  • Expected and Unexpected Motions of Thrown Stones and Hubble's Universe 205
  • The Invention of the Cosmological Constant or Dark Energy: 1915 209
  • The Revival of Dark Energy in the 1970s 215
  • New Arguments and New Evidence—Dark Energy Confirmed in the 1990s 220
  • Dark Energy Fills the Gap, Allowing the Flat, "Just Right" Universe 222

Eight: The Modern Paradigm and the Limits of Our Knowledge 229

  • We Have Come a Long Way 229
  • The Matter and Energy Content of the Universe 231
  • The Global Cosmological Solution and the Cosmic Triangle 238
  • In the Beginning 244
  • Structure in the Universe 245
  • The Supercomputer Approach 248

Nine: The Frontier: Major Mysteries That Remain 253

  • Dark Matter 253
  • Dark Energy 255
  • Inflation 257
  • Giant Black Holes 260
  • Fine-Tuning 261
  • Summing Up 262

Appendixes 263
Glossary 281
Bibliography 291
Index 295

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