The Secret Melody: And Man Created the Universe

Overview


If the cosmos is vast, says astrophysicist Trinh Xuan Thuan, it is by no means silent. Nature, he writes, "delights in continuously sending us her notes of music." Like some far-off orchestra, it tantalizes us with fragments of a symphony, but the melody linking the bits and snatches of song is missing. The task of science is to unravel the secrets of that hidden melody, so that we can listen to the composition in all its glory.
In The Secret Melody, Trinh Xuan Thuan examines ...
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Overview


If the cosmos is vast, says astrophysicist Trinh Xuan Thuan, it is by no means silent. Nature, he writes, "delights in continuously sending us her notes of music." Like some far-off orchestra, it tantalizes us with fragments of a symphony, but the melody linking the bits and snatches of song is missing. The task of science is to unravel the secrets of that hidden melody, so that we can listen to the composition in all its glory.
In The Secret Melody, Trinh Xuan Thuan examines our many attempts to capture the music of nature and hear the cosmic fugue. First, as prelude, he describes the many other cosmologies that preceded the modern Big Bang theory of creation--the magical universe of cavemen, the ancient Chinese idea of the universe (which Thuan compares to a gigantic bureaucracy), the mathematical universe introduced by Pythagoras, and the heliocentric universe of Copernicus--and he explores the work of Galileo, Tycho Brahe, and other early scientists. He then describes in a clear, vivid, and poetic language our current understanding of the cosmos, painting a sharp picture of how modern astronomers study the universe, the equipment they use, the most prominent scientists, and the major discoveries. A mind-boggling portrait of the cosmos emerges in these pages. We read, for instance, of the incredible size of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, which is some 90,000 light-years in diameter, with several hundred billion stars orbiting its center. More amazing, we discover we live in a universe where stars, like human beings, are born, live, and die, leaving behind such strange and exotic objects as neutron stars and black holes; where time may expand and space may contract; and where billions of galaxies have sprung from a tiny primordial speck that was infinitely smaller than a hydrogen atom in a gigantic explosion, the Big Bang. And, of course, any examination of the origin and nature of the universe inevitably raises philosophical and religious questions, and Thuan examines these issues as well, presenting a provocative case for the anthropic principle (which argues that the universe has been fine-tuned to an extreme precision to produce living creatures with consciousness and intelligence) and illuminating the place of God in a Big Bang cosmology.
Here then is an intriguing look at modern cosmology, blending up-to-the-minute descriptions of the forefront of astronomy with thoughtful reflections on science's possible impact on philosophical and religious belief. With many beautiful and informative illustrations, The Secret Melody is an enthralling look at our endless efforts to understand the cosmos and to hear the music of the stars.

Like some far-off orchestra, the cosmos tantalizes us with fragments of a symphony, but the melody linking the bits and snatches of song is missing. This book examines our many attempts to capture the music of nature and hear the cosmic fugue, blending vivid descriptions of modern astronomy with thoughtful reflections on science's impact on religion and philosophy. 41 illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A delightful book which resonates with the rich and stirring harmonies which vibrate throughout the visible universe. Beginning with epic myths about the origin of the universe, Thuan brilliantly summarizes the dazzling discoveries in the bewildering but breath-taking world of cosmology. Thoughtful, compelling, and inspired, The Secret Melody is a sheer delight to the reader, a sure guide to the teasing apart the delicious, timeless melodies which have fascinated our finest poets and challenged our greatest scientists."--Michio Kaku, author of Hyerspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension

"Imaginatively organized and beautifully written. It presents a clear, engrossing account of the most fascinating aspects of our universe."--Lyman Spitzer, Jr., Department of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University

"Clear, comprehensive, well written (and well translated), this is a fine introduction to the key issues of modern cosmology."--Kirkus Reviews

"Readers...should devour Thuan's gateway presentation."--Booklist

"One of the better books written for the educated lay reader on the modern theory of cosmology."--Library Journal

Gilbert Taylor
In this math-free introduction to the universe, Thuan adopts as his theme the gradual replacement, from ancient myths to the present Big Bang model, of an anthropocentric cosmos with a scientific one. His writing style is welcoming and conversational, as if anticipating questions from the freshmen in the class he teaches at the University of Virginia, and he expands his general narrative with condensed topics to which fellow physicists qua authors have devoted popular books (e.g., Kip Thorne on black holes; Steve Weinberg on the infinitesimal moments after creation). Thuan's score, to conform with his metaphor, arranges all the instruments by which science "hears" the cosmic symphony, with solos for measurements of distance, and Dr. Doppler's effect holds center stage. The finale will come when science breaks back through "Planck time" to discover what initiated the Big Bang and peers forward to whether the universe will infinitely expand or collapse on itself. Readers new to these open issues or to the history of the Big Bang interpretation should devour Thuan's gateway presentation.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195073706
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/15/1995
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
Trinh Xuan Thuan is Professor of Astronomy at the University of Virginia. The Secret Melody first appeared in France, where it was a major bestseller and where Thuan is widely known for his popular science books and television appearances. In fact, he has been sometimes called "the French Carl Sagan."

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Table of Contents

1 Past Universes 3
2 From the Milky Way to the Universe 35
3 The Actors in the Drama: The Galaxies and the Space-Time Couple 56
4 The Big Bang Today 86
5 The History Book of the Universe 116
6 The Invisible and the Fate of the Universe 186
7 An Accidental or Necessary Universe? 223
8 God and the Big Bang 240
9 The Secret Melody 250
Appendix A: Light and the Doppler Effect 275
Appendix B: The Elasticity of the Space-Time Couple 279
Appendix C: Black Holes 283
Appendix D: The Uncertainty Principle in Quantum Mechanics 287
Appendix E: The Cosmological Parameters and the Evolution of the Universe 289
Glossary 293
Bibliography 305
Index 307
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