The epic, behind-the-scenes story of an astounding gap in our scientific knowledge of the cosmos.
In the past few years, a handful of scientists have been in a race to explain a disturbing aspect of our universe: only 4 percent of it consists of the matter that makes up you, me, our books, and every planet, star, and galaxy. The rest--96 percent of the universe--is completely unknown.
Richard Panek tells the dramatic story of how scientists reached this conclusion, and what they're doing to find this "dark" matter and an even more bizarre substance called dark energy. Based on in-depth, on-site reporting and hundreds of interviews--with everyone from Berkeley's feisty Saul Perlmutter and Johns Hopkins's meticulous Adam Riess to the quietly revolutionary Vera Rubin--the book offers an intimate portrait of the bitter rivalries and fruitful collaborations, the eureka moments and blind alleys, that have fueled their search, redefined science, and reinvented the universe.
Beginning with the Babylonian integration of mathematics into the study of astronomy and cosmology, Stewart traces the evolution of our understanding of the cosmos: How Kepler's laws of planetary motion led Newton to formulate his theory of gravity. How, two centuries later, tiny irregularities in the motion of Mars inspired Einstein to devise his general theory of relativity. How, eighty years ago, the discovery that the universe is expanding led to the development of the Big Bang theory of its origins. How single-point origin and expansion led cosmologists to theorize new components of the universe, such as inflation, dark matter, and dark energy. But does inflation explain the structure of today's universe? Does dark matter actually exist? Could a scientific revolution that will challenge the long-held scientific orthodoxy and once again transform our understanding of the universe be on the way? In an exciting and engaging style, Calculating the Cosmos is a mathematical quest through the intricate realms of astronomy and cosmology.
How can you make sense of a world where no one has ever lived? Acclaimed science writer Oliver Morton tells the story of the heroic landscapes of Mars, now better mapped in some ways than the Earth itself. Mapping Mars introduces the reader to the nineteenth-century visionaries and spy-satellite pioneers, the petroleum geologists and science-fiction writers, the artists and Arctic explorers who have devoted themselves to the discovery of Mars. In doing so they have given a new world to the human imagination, a setting for our next great adventure.
Our sun is one star among 50 billion in the galaxy. Our galaxy is only one among 50 billion in the universe. With a vastness this incomprehensible, it is easy to feel like we are mere specks of sand on an endless shore. But our sun is special. Though roughly 150 million kilometers separate us, we could not be more connected. Literally, everything you see comes from the sun. The words you are reading now are really photons that left the sun about 8 minutes ago only to bounce off this page and into your eyes. We owe our very existence to our sun. It provides just enough heat to keep our fragile bodies from freezing to ice or burning to a crisp. Every bite of food we eat we owe to the sun, whose energy is converted into plants that provide sustenance for everything up the food chain.
We have understood the sun's importance for millennia. The earliest humans, awestruck by its blazing splendor, left drawings of the sun on cave walls. Nearly every civilization, no matter where it sprang up on the planet, has revered the sun. Myths about the sun were the basis of the earliest deities of ancient Sumerian, Hindu, Egyptian, Chinese, and Meso-American cultures. Before Apollo, the ancient Greeks worshiped the sun-god Helios. Before Zeus, the ancient Romans worshiped Sol.
Throughout our history, the sun has been central to humanity's quest for meaning in the universe. But our history has been a brief moment in our sun's 4.5 billion year life. Only recently, through advances in science and technology, have we begun to understand our sun - where it came from, how it functions, how it affects our lives and how it eventually will destroy our planet.
Our Sun is a comprehensive, easy-to-understand guide to everything we know about our closest star. Illustrated with stunning pictures from NASA's newly-launched Solar Dynamics Observatory, Our Sun will reveal the science behind the sun, trace its impact on human history, and reveal its growing importance to our future way of life.
"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.
On July 20, 1969, the world stood still to watch thirty-eight-year-old American astronaut Neil A. Armstrong become the first person to step on the surface of another heavenly body. Perhaps no words in human history became better known than those few he uttered at that historic moment. In a penetrating exploration of American hero worship, Hansen addresses the complex legacy of the First Man, as an astronaut and an individual.