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Three Steps to the Universe: From the Sun to Black Holes to the Mystery of Dark Matter

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If scientists can't touch the Sun, how do they know what it's made of? And if we can't see black holes, how can we be confident they exist? Gravitational physicist David Garfinkle and his brother, science fiction writer Richard Garfinkle, tackle these questions and more in Three Steps to the Universe, a tour through some of the most complex phenomena in the cosmos and an accessible exploration of how scientists acquire knowledge about the universe through observation, indirect ...
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Three Steps to the Universe: From the Sun to Black Holes to the Mystery of Dark Matter

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Overview

If scientists can't touch the Sun, how do they know what it's made of? And if we can't see black holes, how can we be confident they exist? Gravitational physicist David Garfinkle and his brother, science fiction writer Richard Garfinkle, tackle these questions and more in Three Steps to the Universe, a tour through some of the most complex phenomena in the cosmos and an accessible exploration of how scientists acquire knowledge about the universe through observation, indirect detection, and theory.
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Editorial Reviews

Booklist

"[The authors] construct a fluid, crystalline presentation of how scientists think. The foundation of their depiction is what is manifestly perceived, such as the presence of that bright orb in the sky. To discover anything about the sun, scientists depend on detection of its emissions, such as light and neutrinos, while ideas of how these emissions arise emanate from the realms of various physical theories. With this three-tiered structure of perception, detection, and theory, the Garfinkles systematically instill how confident lay readers can be in what they read in the popular-science format."
Choice
"This book is not only an excellent introduction to the sun, black holes, and dark matter, but also a very good book about
the scientific process. . . .This work offers a great introduction to astronomy and to science. This reviewer envisions using it in either an introductory astronomy course or a general science course. . . .  Essential."
Choice

"This book is not only an excellent introduction to the sun, black holes, and dark matter, but also a very good book about
the scientific process. . . .This work offers a great introduction to astronomy and to science. This reviewer envisions using it in either an introductory astronomy course or a general science course. . . .  Essential."
Publishers Weekly
Meshing their complementary skill sets, physicist David (of Oakland University) and his brother, science fiction writer Richard (Celestial Matter, All of an Instant), explore some of the knottiest problems facing modern cosmologists in this tough but informative primer to modern cosmology. Aside from revealing the science behind the sun, black holes and dark matter, the Garfinkles' demonstrate how science develops, encouraging readers always to ask, "'How do they know that?' as a way of understanding science." The "three steps" of the title begin in the 19th century, when scientists realized that the Earth was, at minimum, millions of years old; they then asked, "How old is the Sun?"-the first sally in a campaign that would unravel the mystery of nuclear energy, reveal how a star becomes a "white dwarf, a neutron star, or a black hole," and spark a fierce, ongoing decades-long debate about the possibility of "black hole evaporation." Arguing that "it is necessary to jump the barrier of user-friendliness and discover the fascinating world beyond that layer of comfort," the Garfinkles aren't afraid to get technical, but this smart, rewarding read is helped by a welcome voice, a feel for narrative and a useful glossary.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226283463
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2008
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

David Garfinkle is professor in the Department of Physics at Oakland University. Richard Garfinkle is the author of two books of science fiction, Celestial Matters and All of an Instant.

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Table of Contents

1 Look, don't touch 17

2 What's that bright thing made of? 33

3 Fusion : energy hidden in plain sight 45

4 Old gravity and new gravity 67

5 Black holes in relativity 85

6 The lives of stars 95

7 Black hole hunting 123

8 Gravitational waves 147

9 Galactic scale 159

10 What is dark matter? 167

11 All the way out 195

12 Dark energy, antigravity, and Einstein's fudge 205

13 Road maps 217

14 Science as it is written 245

Glossary 261

Suggestions for further reading 265

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