Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe

Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe

by Jeremiah P. Ostriker
     
 

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Heart of Darkness describes the incredible saga of humankind's quest to unravel the deepest secrets of the universe. Over the past thirty years, scientists have learned that two little-understood components--dark matter and dark energy--comprise most of the known cosmos, explain the growth of all cosmic structure, and hold the key to the universe's fate. The

Overview

Heart of Darkness describes the incredible saga of humankind's quest to unravel the deepest secrets of the universe. Over the past thirty years, scientists have learned that two little-understood components--dark matter and dark energy--comprise most of the known cosmos, explain the growth of all cosmic structure, and hold the key to the universe's fate. The story of how evidence for the so-called "Lambda-Cold Dark Matter" model of cosmology has been gathered by generations of scientists throughout the world is told here by one of the pioneers of the field, Jeremiah Ostriker, and his coauthor Simon Mitton.

From humankind's early attempts to comprehend Earth's place in the solar system, to astronomers' exploration of the Milky Way galaxy and the realm of the nebulae beyond, to the detection of the primordial fluctuations of energy from which all subsequent structure developed, this book explains the physics and the history of how the current model of our universe arose and has passed every test hurled at it by the skeptics. Throughout this rich story, an essential theme is emphasized: how three aspects of rational inquiry--the application of direct measurement and observation, the introduction of mathematical modeling, and the requirement that hypotheses should be testable and verifiable--guide scientific progress and underpin our modern cosmological paradigm.

The story is far from complete, however, as scientists confront the mysteries of the ultimate causes of cosmic structure formation and the real nature and origin of dark matter and dark energy.

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.
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.
From the Publisher
Jeremiah P. Ostriker, Co-Winner of the 2015 Gruber Cosmology Prize for Theoretical and Experimental Explorations of the Universe (with John Carlstrom and Lyman Page), The Gruber Foundation
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 buff."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

"What does come through in [this book], is a real sense of the excitement that these scientists feel in not knowing everything, together with the confidence that one day we'll work it out."—Clive Prince, Magonia Review of Books

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691134307
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
01/22/2013
Series:
Science Essentials Series
Pages:
288
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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