Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe

Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe

by Jeremiah P. Ostriker, Simon Mitton


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Heart of Darkness describes the incredible saga of humankind's quest to unravel the deepest secrets of the universe. Over the past thirty years, scientists have learned that two little-understood components—dark matter and dark energy—comprise most of the known cosmos, explain the growth of all cosmic structure, and hold the key to the universe's fate. The story of how evidence for the so-called "Lambda-Cold Dark Matter" model of cosmology has been gathered by generations of scientists throughout the world is told here by one of the pioneers of the field, Jeremiah Ostriker, and his coauthor Simon Mitton.

From humankind's early attempts to comprehend Earth's place in the solar system, to astronomers' exploration of the Milky Way galaxy and the realm of the nebulae beyond, to the detection of the primordial fluctuations of energy from which all subsequent structure developed, this book explains the physics and the history of how the current model of our universe arose and has passed every test hurled at it by the skeptics. Throughout this rich story, an essential theme is emphasized: how three aspects of rational inquiry—the application of direct measurement and observation, the introduction of mathematical modeling, and the requirement that hypotheses should be testable and verifiable—guide scientific progress and underpin our modern cosmological paradigm.

This monumental puzzle is far from complete, however, as scientists confront the mysteries of the ultimate causes of cosmic structure formation and the real nature and origin of dark matter and dark energy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691165776
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 05/26/2015
Series: Science Essentials , #18
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 328
Sales rank: 530,386
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Jeremiah P. Ostriker is professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University. His books include Formation of Structure in the Universe and Unsolved Problems in Astrophysics (Princeton). Simon Mitton is affiliated research scholar in the history and philosophy of science and a fellow of St. Edmund's College, University of Cambridge. His books include Fred Hoyle: A Life in Science and The Young Oxford Book of Astronomy.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Preface xiii

  • Cosmology Becomes Data-driven Science xiii
  • Outline of the Journey We Will Take xix

Prologue: From Myth to Reality 1

  • Astronomy: The Endless Frontier 1
  • Charting and Modeling the Heavens 3
  • Copernicus: "The Last of the Greek Cosmologists" 6
  • Galileo: A New Approach to Mechanics and Cosmology 9
  • The Impact of Copernicus: Kepler's Laws 13
  • Isaac Newton and Gravity 15
  • William Herschel Discovers the Universe 20
  • Understanding the Universe Becomes a New Kind of Science 24

One: Einstein's Toolkit, and How to Use It 27

  • Overconfidence among the Cognoscenti at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century 27
  • Revolution in Physics: The Inception of Quantum Theory and Relativity 30
  • Special Relativity 33
  • General Relativity 36
  • General Relativity Is Tested, Passes the Test, and Is a Sensation 41
  • Cosmological Solutions to Einstein's Equations 47

Two: The Realm of the Nebulae 52

  • New Instruments in a Better Climate Unveil a New World 52
  • A Universe of Galaxies Is Confirmed 63
  • A Cosmological Model to Fit the New Data: Enter, Georges Lemaître 66
  • Physical Cosmology and the Expanding Universe 70
  • Lemaître's Synthesis Model Foretells the Contribution of Dark Energy 75
  • Hubble's Achievements 79
  • Big Science to Attack the Big Problem 81
  • The Steady State Model Universe and the Big Bang 84

Three: Let's Do Cosmology! 89

  • The Big Bang: A Starting Point That Cannot Be Escaped 89
  • Observational Cosmology, the Biggest Puzzle to Be Solved with the Biggest Telescope 93
  • The Grand Project Was Initially Too Difficult 97

Four: Discovering the Big Bang 102

  • Did Our Universe Have an Explosive Birth? 102
  • What Makes the Stars Shine? 104
  • Nuclear Astrophysics Moves to the Cosmos 109
  • The Fireball in Which the First Chemical Elements Were Made 114
  • Direct Radio Observations of the Big Bang Fireball 118
  • Understanding the Big Bang 125

Five: The Origin of Structure in the Universe 130

  • "In the Beginning"--Why an Explanation Is Needed 130
  • Structure within the Expanding Universe 136
  • The Elusive Standard Candle: Beatrice Tinsley Changes the Game 139
  • Real Cosmic Structure Found and Cataloged by Fritz Zwicky 146
  • Understanding the Origin of Structure Becomes Serious Science 149
  • Cosmic Inflation 155
  • The Seeds of Cosmic Structure Are Discovered 162
  • Closing the Loop: How Do Seeds Grow to Galaxies? 168

Six: Dark Matter--or Fritz Zwicky's Greatest Invention 174

  • How the Earth Was Weighed 174
  • Finding the Mass of the Andromeda Galaxy 181
  • Zwicky Finds Dark Matter in Clusters of Galaxies in the 1930s 184
  • The Rediscovery of Dark Matter in the 1970s 187 Rotation Curves Confirm the Case for Dark Matter 193
  • More Recent Multiple Lines of Evidence for Dark Matter 197

Seven: Dark Energy--or Einstein's Greatest Blunder 202

  • A Curious Situation 202
  • Will Gravity Lead to a Collapse of the Solar System? 203
  • Expected and Unexpected Motions of Thrown Stones and Hubble's Universe 205
  • The Invention of the Cosmological Constant or Dark Energy: 1915 209
  • The Revival of Dark Energy in the 1970s 215
  • New Arguments and New Evidence--Dark Energy Confirmed in the 1990s 220
  • Dark Energy Fills the Gap, Allowing the Flat, "Just Right" Universe 222

Eight: The Modern Paradigm and the Limits of Our Knowledge 229

  • We Have Come a Long Way 229
  • The Matter and Energy Content of the Universe 231
  • The Global Cosmological Solution and the Cosmic Triangle 238
  • In the Beginning 244
  • Structure in the Universe 245
  • The Supercomputer Approach 248

Nine: The Frontier: Major Mysteries That Remain 253

  • Dark Matter 253
  • Dark Energy 255
  • Inflation 257
  • Giant Black Holes 260
  • Fine-Tuning 261
  • Summing Up 262

Appendixes 263
Glossary 281
Bibliography 291
Index 295

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"The invisible rules the visible while the infinitesimal determines the cosmic. This is not fuzzy mysticism. It is the clear-eyed logic of the world observed by astronomers, described here with precision and verve by Ostriker and Mitton. Read this book and let them guide you to enlightenment."—Robert P. Kirshner, author of The Extravagant Universe

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