“A cracking read, combining storytelling of the highest order with a trove of information. . . . What’s remarkable is that it all fits together.”—Wall Street Journal
“Successful science writing tells a complete story of the ‘how’—the methodical marvel building up to the ‘why’—and Randall does just that.”—New York Times Book Review
“[Randall] is a lucid explainer, street-wise and informal. Without jargon or mathematics, she steers us through centuries of sometimes tortuous astronomical history.”—The Guardian
In Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, Professor Lisa Randall, one of today’s most influential theoretical physicists, takes readers on an intellectual adventure through the history of the cosmos, showing how events in the farthest reaches of the Universe created the conditions for life—and death—on our planet.
Sixty-six million years ago, an object the size of a city crashed into Earth, killing off the dinosaurs, along with three-quarters of the planet’s species. Challenging the usual assumptions about the simple makeup of the unseen material that constitutes 85% of the matter in the Universe, Randall explains how a disk of dark matter in the Milky Way plane might have triggered the cataclysm.
But Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs does more than present a radical idea. With clarity and wit, it explains the nature of the Universe, dark matter, the Milky Way galaxy, comets, asteroids, and impacts. This breathtaking synthesis, illuminated by pop culture references and social and political viewpoints, reveals the deep relationships among the small and the large, the visible and the hidden, as well as the astonishing beauty of the connections that surround us. It’s impossible to read this book and look at either the Earth or the sky again in the same way.
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About the Author
Lisa Randall studies theoretical particle physics and cosmology at Harvard University, where she is Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of Science. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she is the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees. Professor Randall was included in Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" of 2007 and was among Esquire magazine's "75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century." Professor Randall's two books, Warped Passages (2005) and Knocking on Heaven's Door (2011) were New York Times bestsellers and 100 Notable Books. Her stand-alone e-book, Higgs Discovery: The Power of Empty Space, was published in 2012.
Table of Contents
Part I The Development of the Universe
1 The Clandestine Dark Matter Society 1
2 The Discovery of Dark Matter 11
3 The Big Questions 25
4 Almost the Very Beginning: A Very Good Place to Start 35
5 A Galaxy Is Born 55
Part II An Active Solar System
6 Meteoroids, Meteors, and Meteorites 75
7 The Short, Glorious Lives of Comets 95
8 The Edge of the Solar System 117
9 Living Dangerously 123
10 Shock and Awe 147
11 Extinctions 155
12 The End of the Dinosaurs 189
13 Life in the Habitable Zone 219
14 What Goes Around Comes Around 237
15 Flinging Comets from the Oort Cloud 251
Part III Deciphering Dark Matter's Identity
16 The Matter of the Invisible World 271
17 How to See in the Dark 289
13 Socially Connected Dark Matter 303
19 The Speed of Dark 315
20 Searching for the Dark Disk 331
21 Dark Matter and Comet Strikes 347
Conclusion: Looking Lip 363
List of Illustrations 376
Supplementary Reading 377
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs by Lisa Randall concerns some of the most intriguing questions facing scientists. As cutting-edge as the material is, the book reads almost like a mystery novel. It is as if the police have a suspect and only need to find enough evidence to convict. It is a murder mystery, the dinosaurs are dead and one of the prime suspects, at least as an accomplice, is dark matter. The investigators are astrophysicists, particle physicists, mathematicians, biologists, astronomers, archaeologists, and many other scientists from varying fields of science. Dr. Randall, in this book as in her earlier books, brings difficult concepts into the realm of the ordinary reader, a reader who does not hold a degree in math or physics. Her sense of humor smiles through, as does her impeccable sense of order, bringing a bit of understanding to chaos. Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs is readable; it is understandable, and it is a jewel in the genre of books making science accessible to the average reader. Did dark matter initiate the 65 million year-old demise of the dinosaurs? Randall admits we don't know for sure, but she builds a convincing case for dark matter as the instigator. She looks at facts we know about the universe and the formation of the solar system; she explores craters found in various earthly locations; she integrates what we know about dark matter, as little as it is at the present. Not enough evidence against dark matter is yet available for a jury trial, but Randall brings enough evidence, and comes to conclusions that make a strong argument for the Universal Grand Jury to take under advisement. Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs is highly recommended reading for those who are interested in how we came to be as we are, how our planet Earth was and is under the influence of universal forces and the cascading events of matter, ordinary and dark. Read this book and you become a member of the cosmic grand jury.