Wrinkles in Time

Wrinkles in Time

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by George Smoot, Keay Davidson
     
 

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Astrophysicist George Smoot spent decades pursuing the origin of the cosmos, "the holy grail of science," a relentless hunt that led him from the rain forests of Brazil to the frozen wastes of Antarctica. In his search he struggled against time, the elements, and the forces of ignorance and bureaucratic insanity. Finally, after years of research, Smoot and his

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Overview

Astrophysicist George Smoot spent decades pursuing the origin of the cosmos, "the holy grail of science," a relentless hunt that led him from the rain forests of Brazil to the frozen wastes of Antarctica. In his search he struggled against time, the elements, and the forces of ignorance and bureaucratic insanity. Finally, after years of research, Smoot and his dedicated team of Berkeley researchers succeeded in proving the unprovable—uncovering, inarguably and for all time, the secrets of the creation of the universe. Wrinkles in Time describes this startling discovery that would usher in a new scientific age—and win Smoot the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Smoot's claim to have found the ``fifth pillar of cosmology''--the earliest large-scale structure that the Big Bang would have produced--is modest in the context of his prolific career in astrophysics. The book, tightly edited, Smoot notes, to appeal to a wider readership, scants the physicist's early work and focuses on the dramatic conclusions (``the wrinkles in the fabric of time-space'') drawn from the 1992 Cosmic Background Radiation Explorer (COBE) probe. More's the pity: the diary-like details describing Smoot's early high-atmosphere balloon and U-2 plane experiments capture more of the flavor and excitement of working science than do the summaries of cosmological debates. With science writer Davidson, Smoot offers a highly compressed view of his career that tracks a cloud-chamber trail through the present ``golden age of cosmology.'' While many readers will wish to see more of his working life on record, even this fast-forward account of a great moment of affirmation for Smoot and the other contributors and team members he meticulously credits, is a wonder. (Jan.)
Library Journal
In April 1992 a scientific team led by Berkeley astrophysicist Smoot analyzed data gathered by NASA's COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) satellite and discovered the oldest known objects in the universe--so called ``wrinkles'' in time--thus finding a long-anticipated missing piece in the Big Bang cosmological model. The story of Smoot's breakthrough, though, began some 20 years ago. Along the way, he experienced numerous setbacks, frustrations, and dramatic moments. Some of the team's adventures include searching for a lost hot-air balloon in the Badlands of South Dakota, conducting upper-atmosphere tests from U-2 spy planes based in Peru, and gathering data from a scientific research station at the South Pole. While the book starts slowly, it steadily gathers momentum as Smoot recounts the events of his career, the colorful people with whom he has worked, and his personal thoughts leading up to the triumphant discovery. This readable and genuinely exciting piece of popular science writing is recommended for all libraries.-- Gregg Sapp, Montana State Univ. Libs., Bozeman
Booknews
Tells the story of the search that lead to Dr. Smoot's cosmological theory that after the Big Bang, wrinkles formed in space ultimately to become stars, galaxies, and even greater delicate structures. Smoot searched for his answers in the frozen wastes of Antarctica, on mountaintops, with experiments aboard high-altitude balloons, U-2 spy planes, and finally a space satellite. The engaging story is written for the layperson, with eight pages of color plates and many black and white photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
A nova-burst of fine astronomy writing, as physicist Smoot and San Francisco Examiner science writer Davidson tell the story behind the discovery of the cosmic "seeds," implanted by the Big Bang, that grew into galaxies, planets, and us. Actually, Smoot and Davidson serve up three overlapping courses: a history of astronomical cosmology from Galileo to Guth; a memoir of the hothouse world of contemporary scientific research; and the details of the COBE satellite experiments that resulted in Smoot's groundbreaking 1992 discovery. The history is familiar stuff, considerably enhanced by the authors' fondness for obscure or oddball figures like Georges LeMaŒtre, the Catholic priest who devised the Big Bang theory in the 1920's (calling it the "primordial atom"), or British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, who, inspired by the horror film Dead of Night, conceived the opposing—and now as dead as that film's ghosts—Steady State theory. Into this feud strode Smoot, fresh from MIT and graduate research in subatomic physics. His first forays into cosmology consisted of balloon launches in search of antimatter. Balloons gave way to U-2 flights and other experiments, during which Smoot uncovered clues that the universe was not as homogeneous as believed. Then came the COBE studies to map these "wrinkles in space"—a multiyear project that led Smoot to the Brazilian rain forest and the South Pole—providing powerful evidence that the Big Bang initiated the world we inhabit today. Nary a wrinkle here, in one of the best scientific popularizations of the year, infused not only with clear, lively scientific explanations but also with Smoot's infectious optimism ("to me the universeseems quite the opposite of pointless...there is a clear order to [its] evolution"). (Eight pages of color photographs, 50 b&w illustrations—not seen)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061344442
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
09/18/2007
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
746,512
Product dimensions:
7.78(w) x 11.02(h) x 0.86(d)

Meet the Author

Winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics, George Smoot has been an astrophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 1974 and has been a physics professor at University of California–Berkeley since 1994. He lives in Berkeley, California.

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Wrinkles in Time 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Stephen Hawking, one of the most prominent geniuses of our time, called George Smoot and his colleagues' discovery of wrinkles in time, 'the scientific discovery of the century, if not of all time.' The cosmological discovery of ripples in the universe's background radiation has indeed changed our concept of the origins of an expanding and evolving universe. In the words of George Smoot: 'Our discovery of the wrinkles in the fabric of time is part of that eternal quest and marks an important step forward in this golden age of technology. Suddenly, pieces of a larger puzzle begin to fall together: Inflation looks stronger, and dark matter more real. Our faith in the big bang is revitalized... The creativity of the universe is its most potent force, forming through time the matter and structures of stars and galaxies, and, ultimately, us. The wrinkles are the core of that creativity, assembling structure from homogeneity.' Perhaps one does not understand such complex terms as 'background radiation,' as was my case when I began reading Wrinkles in Time. The authors, George Smoot and Keay Davidson, successfully explain these complicated concepts in lay terms. The book first guides the reader through the history modern cosmological theory, beginning with Ptolemy's picture of the Universe through to the origin of the Big Bang theory formulated by Georges-Henri Lemaître. Once the reader understands the evolution of cosmology and astrophysics, George Smoot begins his detailed account of the search for 'dipoles,' 'quadrupoles,' and, ultimately, 'wrinkles in time.' His discovery, of tremendous significance to both science and philosophy, required decades of research, billions of dollars, and a highly specialized team of cosmologists, physicists, chemists, and engineers. After many frustrating attempts to discover the secret of the universe by launching their equipment on giant helium balloons and World War II U2 aircraft, Smoot and his team turned to NASA. After many months of hard work, they finally saw their instruments launched into space on a Delta rocket. Once in orbit, the device detected what the team sought to find. However, one can never be too confident in science. To make sure that the readings obtained in space were not simply a result of radio interference, the team set off for Antarctica. There, only a few miles away from the South Pole, and at temperatures of -73oF, George Smoot and Giovanni D Amici, among others, confirmed what they had detected in the Northern Hemisphere: fluctuations in the universe' background radiation. These wrinkles in time are the seeds of galaxies; some found through the study to be hundreds times larger than ever imagined. The implications of this discovery are colossal. Wrinkles in Time, however, does not elaborate on the philosophical significance of an infinite universe as do some other works. For example, Gary Zukav's The Dancing Wu Li Masters and Fritjof Capra's The Tao of Physics advance the notion that the universe bloomed out of zero volume, creating time and space as it grew. For readers who have never picked up a science book in their lives, do not start with Wrinkles in Time. There are long, detailed chapters that explain the technicalities of the equipment and of the study. On the other hand, for anyone interested in learning about mystifying concepts of the universe, Wrinkles in Time is an enlightening book that is well worth the time investment of a prolonged reading. As John L. Casti, author of Paradigms Lost: Images of Man in the Mirror of Science, affirms, the book is 'a must read for anyone interested in the way science is really done.'