Einstein's Monsters: The Life and Times of Black Holes

Einstein's Monsters: The Life and Times of Black Holes

by Chris Impey


View All Available Formats & Editions
Members save with free shipping everyday! 
See details


The astonishing science of black holes and their role in understanding the history and future of our universe.

Black holes are the most extreme objects in the universe, and yet they are ubiquitous. Every massive star leaves behind a black hole when it dies, and every galaxy harbors a supermassive black hole at its center. Frighteningly enigmatic, these dark giants continue to astound even the scientists who spend their careers studying them. Which came first, the galaxy or its central black hole? What happens if you travel into one—instant death or something weirder? And, perhaps most important, how can we ever know anything for sure about black holes when they destroy information by their very nature?

In Einstein’s Monsters, distinguished astronomer Chris Impey takes readers on an exploration of these and other questions at the cutting edge of astrophysics, as well as the history of black holes’ role in theoretical physics—from confirming Einstein’s equations for general relativity to testing string theory. He blends this history with a poignant account of the phenomena scientists have witnessed while observing black holes: stars swarming like bees around the center of our galaxy; black holes performing gravitational waltzes with visible stars; the cymbal clash of two black holes colliding, releasing ripples in space-time.

Clear, compelling, and profound, Einstein’s Monsters reveals how our comprehension of black holes is intrinsically linked to how we make sense of the universe and our place within it. From the small questions to the big ones—from the tiniest particles to the nature of space-time itself—black holes might be the key to a deeper understanding of the cosmos.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781324000938
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 11/13/2018
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 1,248,507
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Chris Impey is a distinguished professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona and the critically-acclaimed author of Beyond, How It Began, and How It Ends, and four other books, as well as two astronomy textbooks. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xv

Foreword xvii

Part A Evidence for Black Holes, Large and Small 1

1 The Heart of Darkness 3

An English Clergyman Imagines Dark Stars 3

A Great French Mathematician Weighs In 5

Understanding the Fabric of Space-Time 7

A Singularity and a Life Cut Short 12

The Master of Implosions and Explosions 14

Coining the Perfect Term for the Inscrutable 16

A Genius Struggles with Gravity and Disease 18

Betting on Black Holes 23

The Golden Age of Black Hole Theory 26

2 Black Holes from Star Death 30

The Forces of Light and Darkness 30

Gravity and Darkness Are the Final Victors 33

Finding the First Black Swan 38

Weighing the Invisible Dance Partner 40

Black Holes with Gold-Plated Credentials 43

Using Gravitational Optics 47

Physics at the Edge of the Maelstrom 50

A Tour of the Binary Star Bestiary 54

3 Supermassive Black Holes 57

The Only Radio Astronomer in the World 57

Galaxies with Bright Nuclei 61

Radio Astronomy Comes of Age 62

A Dutch Astronomer Discovers Quasars 68

Astronomers Harvest Distant Points of Light 71

Hypothesizing Massive Black Holes 74

Mapping Radio Jets and Lobes 77

The Zoo of Active Galaxies 81

A Matter of Perspective 85

4 Gravitational Engines 88

The Big Black Hole Next Door 89

Stars at the Edge of the Abyss 93

The Dark Core in Every Galaxy 95

Baron Rees of Ludlow Tames the Beast 100

Using Quasars to Probe the Universe 103

Weighing Black Holes by the Thousand 106

Accretion Power in the Cosmos 113

Massive Black Holes Are Not Scary 116

Part B Black Holes, Past, Present, and Future 121

5 The Lives of Black Holes 123

Seeds of the Universe 123

First Light and First Darkness 125

Black Hole Birth by Stellar Cataclysm 129

Finding the Missing Links 133

Simulating Extreme Gravity in a Computer 137

How Black Holes and Galaxies Grow 143

The Universe as a Black Hole 148

Making Black Holes in the Lab 150

6 Black Holes as Tests of Gravity 153

Gravity from Newton to Einstein and Beyond 154

What Black Holes Do to Space-Time 158

How Black Holes Affect Radiation 162

Inside the Iron Curtain 166

X-Rays Flickering Near the Abyss 168

When a Black Hole Eats a Star 171

Taking a Black Hole for a Spin 174

The Event Horizon Telescope 177

7 Seeing with Gravity Eyes 181

A New Way of Seeing the Universe 181

Ripples in Space-Time 185

An Eccentric Millionaire and a Solitary Engineer 188

When Black Holes Collide 194

The Most Precise Machine Ever Built 197

Meet the Maestro of Gravity 204

Viewing the Universe with Gravity Eyes 207

Collisions and Mergers of Massive Black Holes 213

Gravity and the Big Bang 216

8 The Fate of Black Holes 219

The New Age of Gravity 219

Quasar on Our Doorstep 224

Merging with Andromeda 227

The Biggest Black Holes in the Universe 230

The Era of Stellar Corpses 234

A Future of Evaporation and Decay 236

Living with Black Holes 239

Notes 245

Index 283

Customer Reviews