The contentious history of the idea of the black hole—the most fascinating and bizarre celestial object in the heavens For more than half a century, physicists and astronomers engaged in heated dispute over the possibility of black holes in the universe. The weirdly alien notion of a space-time abyss from which nothing escapes—not even light—seemed to confound all logic. This engrossing book tells the story of the fierce black hole debates and the contributions of Einstein and Hawking and other leading thinkers who completely altered our view of the universe. Renowned science writer Marcia Bartusiak shows how the black hole helped revive Einstein’s greatest achievement, the general theory of relativity, after decades during which it had been pushed into the shadows. Not until astronomers discovered such surprising new phenomena as neutron stars and black holes did the once-sedate universe transform into an Einsteinian cosmos, filled with sources of titanic energy that can be understood only in the light of relativity. This book celebrates the hundredth anniversary of general relativity, uncovers how the black hole really got its name, and recounts the scientists’ frustrating, exhilarating, and at times humorous battles over the acceptance of one of history’s most dazzling ideas.
Marcia Bartusiak is Professor of the Practice, Graduate Program in Science Writing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the award-winning author of five previous books, including most recently The Day We Found the Universe. She lives in Sudbury, MA.
Table of Contents
1 It Is Therefore Possible That the Largest Luminous Bodies in the Universe May Be Invisible 1
2 Newton, Forgive Me 16
3 One Would Then Find Oneself… in a Geometrical Fairyland 35
4 There Should Be a Law of Nature to Prevent a Star from Behaving in This Absurd Way! 44
5 I'll Show Those Bastards 60
6 Only Its Gravitational Field Persists 70
7 I Could Not Have Picked a More Exciting Time in Which to Become a Physicist 87
8 It Was the Weirdest Spectrum I'd Ever Seen 110
9 Why Don't You Call It a Black Hole? 122
10 Medieval Torture Rack 142
11 Whereas Stephen Hawking Has Such a Large Investment in General Relativity and Black Holes and Desires an Insurance Policy 148
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