This challenging collection of problems is organized into seven carefully crafted, thoughtful chapters on the Sun and the nature of the solar system; the motion of the planets; the Sun, Earth, and Moon; the sky as observed from the rotating, revolving Earth; other planets, their satellites, their rings; asteroids, comets, and meteoroids; and the radiations and telescopes. From question 1, "List characteristics of the solar system that are major clues in devising a hypothesis of its origin and evolution," through question 924, "Give a brief list of the contributions of radio and radar technologies in lunar and planetary astronomy," the problems range in difficulty from ones requiring only simple knowledge to ones requiring significant understanding and analysis. Many of the answers, in turn, illuminate the questions by providing basic explanations of the concepts involved.
Pioneer 10 and 11 are now halfway to the edge of the solar system. All beginning and advanced students of astronomy and their instructors as well as all dedicated amateurs can join James Van Allen on this journey by exploring the questions and answers in this stimulating book.
"I am confident [this book] will become the aurora watcher's bible for many years to come." (Sky & Telescope)
"This is participatory science at its best!" (Midwest Book Review)
"A delightful book, highly recommended." (CHOICE )
"A complete course for the layman with an interest in the northern lights." (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner)
"[Davis] has written the book in a smooth, how-it-works style, and his presentation is remarkably clear. . . . [He] expended much effort on this book, forming from his lifetime of knowledge a coherent and comprehensible picture of the aurora for the non-specialist." (ARCTIC)
"For a comprehensive guide to the northern lights, read Neil Davis's The Aurora." (Small Press Magazine)
Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity describes the effect of gravitation on the shape of space and the flow of time. But for more than four decades after its publication, the theory remained largely a curiosity for scientists; however accurate it seemed, Einstein’s mathematical code—represented by six interlocking equations—was one of the most difficult to crack in all of science. That is, until a twenty-nine-year-old Cambridge graduate solved the great riddle in 1963. Roy Kerr’s solution emerged coincidentally with the discovery of black holes that same year and provided fertile testing ground—at long last—for general relativity. Today, scientists routinely cite the Kerr solution, but even among specialists, few know the story of how Kerr cracked Einstein’s code.
Fulvio Melia here offers an eyewitness account of the events leading up to Kerr’s great discovery. Cracking the Einstein Code vividly describes how luminaries such as Karl Schwarzschild, David Hilbert, and Emmy Noether set the stage for the Kerr solution; how Kerr came to make his breakthrough; and how scientists such as Roger Penrose, Kip Thorne, and Stephen Hawking used the accomplishment to refine and expand modern astronomy and physics. Today more than 300 million supermassive black holes are suspected of anchoring their host galaxies across the cosmos, and the Kerr solution is what astronomers and astrophysicists use to describe much of their behavior.
By unmasking the history behind the search for a real world solution to Einstein’s field equations, Melia offers a first-hand account of an important but untold story. Sometimes dramatic, often exhilarating, but always attuned to the human element, Cracking the Einstein Code is ultimately a showcase of how important science gets done.
Why is the sky dark at night?The answer to this ancient and celebrated riddle, says Edward Harrison, seems relatively simple: the sun has set and is now shining on the other side of the earth. But suppose we were space travelers and far from any star. Out in the depths of space the heavens would be dark, even darker than the sky seen from the earth on cloudless and moonless nights. For more than four centuries, astronomers and other investigators have pondered the enigma of a dark sky and proposed many provocative but incorrect answers. Darkness at Night eloquently describes the misleading trails of inquiry and strange ideas that have abounded in the quest for a solution.In tracing this story of discovery—one of the most intriguing in the history of science—astronomer and physicist Harrison explores the concept of infinite space, the structure and age of the universe, the nature of light, and other subjects that once were so perplexing. He introduces a range of stellar intellects, from Democritus in the ancient world to Digges in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, followed by Kepler, Newton, Halley, Chéseaux, Olbers, Poe, Kelvin, and Bondi.Harrison’s style is engaging, incisive yet poetic, and his strong grasp of history—from the Greeks to the twentieth century—adds perspective, depth, and scope to the narrative. Richly illustrated and annotated, this book will delight and enlighten both the casual reader and the serious inquirer.
A Seminary Co-op Notable BookA BBC Sky at Night Best Book“An impressively comprehensive bird’s-eye view of a research topic that is both many decades established and yet still at the very cutting edge of astronomy and physics.”—Katie Mack, Wall Street Journal“Schilling has craftily combined his lucid and accessible descriptions of science with the personal story of those unlocking the finer details of the missing mass mystery. The result is enthralling…A captivating scientific thriller.”—BBC Sky at Night“Fascinating…A thorough and sometimes troubling account of the hunt for dark matter…You will come away with a very good understanding of how the universe works. Well, our universe, anyway.”—Michael Brooks, New ScientistWhen you train a telescope on outer space, you can see luminous galaxies, nebulae, stars, and planets. But if you add all that together, it constitutes only 15 percent of the matter in the universe. Despite decades of research, the nature of the remaining 85 percent is unknown. We call it dark matter.Physicists have devised huge, sensitive instruments to search for dark matter, which may be unlike anything else in the cosmos—some unknown elementary particle. Yet so far dark matter has escaped every experiment. It is so elusive that some scientists are beginning to suspect there might be something wrong with our theories about gravity or with the current paradigms of cosmology. Govert Schilling interviews believers and heretics and paints a colorful picture of the history and current status of dark matter research. The Elephant in the Universe is a vivid tale of scientists puzzling their way toward the true nature of the universe.
“How do alien, faraway worlds reveal their existence to Earthlings? Let Donald Goldsmith count the ways. As an experienced astronomer and a gifted storyteller, he is the perfect person to chronicle the ongoing hunt for planets of other stars.” —Dava SobelAstronomers have recently discovered thousands of planets that orbit stars throughout our Milky Way galaxy. With his characteristic wit and style, Donald Goldsmith presents the science of exoplanets and the search for extraterrestrial life in a way that Earthlings with little background in astronomy or astrophysics can understand and enjoy.Much of what has captured the imagination of planetary scientists and the public is the unexpected strangeness of these distant worlds, which bear little resemblance to the planets in our solar system. The sizes, masses, and orbits of exoplanets detected so far raise new questions about how planets form and evolve. Still more tantalizing are the efforts to determine which exoplanets might support life. Astronomers are steadily improving their means of examining these planets’ atmospheres and surfaces, with the help of advanced spacecraft sent into orbits a million miles from Earth. These instruments will provide better observations of planetary systems in orbit around the dim red stars that throng the Milky Way. Previously spurned as too faint to support life, these cool stars turn out to possess myriad planets nestled close enough to maintain Earthlike temperatures.The quest to find other worlds brims with possibility. Exoplanets shows how astronomers have broadened our planetary horizons, and suggests what may come next, including the ultimate discovery: life beyond our home planet.
Orienting us with an insider’s tour of our cosmic home, the Milky Way, William Waller and Paul Hodge then take us on a spectacular journey, inviting us to probe the exquisite structures and dynamics of the giant spiral and elliptical galaxies, to witness colliding and erupting galaxies, and to pay our respects to the most powerful galaxies of all—the quasars. A basic guide to the latest news from the cosmic frontier—about the black holes in the centers of galaxies, about the way in which some galaxies cannibalize each other, about the vast distances between galaxies, and about the remarkable new evidence regarding dark energy and the cosmic expansion—this book gives us a firm foundation for exploring the more speculative fringes of our current understanding.This is a heavily revised and completely updated version of Hodge’s Galaxies, which won an Association of American Publishers PROSE Award for Best Science Book of the Year in 1986.
A sweeping account of the century of experimentation that confirmed Einstein’s general theory of relativity, bringing to life the science and scientists at the origins of relativity, the development of radio telescopes, the discovery of black holes and quasars, and the still unresolved place of gravity in quantum theory.Albert Einstein did nothing of note on May 29, 1919, yet that is when he became immortal. On that day, astronomer Arthur Eddington and his team observed a solar eclipse and found something extraordinary: gravity bends light, just as Einstein predicted. The finding confirmed the theory of general relativity, fundamentally changing our understanding of space and time.A century later, another group of astronomers is performing a similar experiment on a much larger scale. The Event Horizon Telescope, a globe-spanning array of radio dishes, is examining space surrounding Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. As Ron Cowen recounts, the foremost goal of the experiment is to determine whether Einstein was right on the details. Gravity lies at the heart of what we don’t know about quantum mechanics, but tantalizing possibilities for deeper insight are offered by black holes. By observing starlight wrapping around Sagittarius A*, the telescope will not only provide the first direct view of an event horizon—a black hole’s point of no return—but will also enable scientists to test Einstein’s theory under the most extreme conditions.Gravity’s Century shows how we got from the pivotal observations of the 1919 eclipse to the Event Horizon Telescope, and what is at stake today. Breaking down the physics in clear and approachable language, Cowen makes vivid how the quest to understand gravity is really the quest to comprehend the universe.
In theory, at least, gravitational waves do exist. We are constantly bathed in gravitational radiation, which is generated when stars explode or collide and a portion of their mass becomes energy that ripples out like a disturbance on the surface of a serene pond. But unfortunately no gravitational wave has ever been directly detected even though the search has lasted more than forty years.
As the leading chronicler of the search for gravitational waves, Harry Collins has been right there with the scientists since the start. The result of his unprecedented access to the front lines of physical science is Gravity’s Ghost, a thrilling chronicle of high-stakes research and cutting-edge discovery. Here, Collins reveals that scientific discovery and nondiscovery can turn on scientific traditions and rivalries, that ideal statistical analysis rests on impossible procedures and unattainable knowledge, and that fact in one place is baseless assumption in another. He also argues that sciences like gravitational wave detection, in exemplifying how the intractable is to be handled, can offer scientific leadership a moral beacon for the twenty-first century. In the end, Gravity’s Ghost shows that discoveries are the denouements of dramatic scientific mysteries.
A rigorous and scientific analysis of the myriad possibilities of life beyond our planet.“Are we alone in the universe?” This tantalizing question has captivated humanity over millennia, but seldom has it been approached rigorously. Today the search for signatures of extraterrestrial life and intelligence has become a rapidly advancing scientific endeavor. Missions to Mars, Europa, and Titan seek evidence of life. Laboratory experiments have made great strides in creating synthetic life, deepening our understanding of conditions that give rise to living entities. And on the horizon are sophisticated telescopes to detect and characterize exoplanets most likely to harbor life.Life in the Cosmos offers a thorough overview of the burgeoning field of astrobiology, including the salient methods and paradigms involved in the search for extraterrestrial life and intelligence. Manasvi Lingam and Avi Loeb tackle three areas of interest in hunting for life “out there”: first, the pathways by which life originates and evolves; second, planetary and stellar factors that affect the habitability of worlds, with an eye on the biomarkers that may reveal the presence of microbial life; and finally, the detection of technological signals that could be indicative of intelligence. Drawing on empirical data from observations and experiments, as well as the latest theoretical and computational developments, the authors make a compelling scientific case for the search for life beyond what we can currently see.Meticulous and comprehensive, Life in the Cosmos is a master class from top researchers in astrobiology, suggesting that the answer to our age-old question is closer than ever before.
A concise introduction to the greatest questions of modern cosmology.What came before the big bang? How will the universe evolve into the future? Will there be a big crunch? Questions like these have no definitive answers, but there are many contending theories. In A Little Book about the Big Bang, physicist and writer Tony Rothman guides expert and uninitiated readers alike through the most compelling mysteries surrounding the nature and origin of the universe.Cosmologists are busy these days, actively researching dark energy, dark matter, and quantum gravity, all at the foundation of our understanding of space, time, and the laws governing the universe. Enlisting thoughtful analogies and a step-by-step approach, Rothman breaks down what is known and what isn’t and details the pioneering experimental techniques scientists are bringing to bear on riddles of nature at once utterly basic and stunningly complex. In Rothman’s telling, modern cosmology proves to be an intricate web of theoretical predictions confirmed by exquisitely precise observations, all of which make the theory of the big bang one of the most solid edifices ever constructed in the history of science. At the same time, Rothman is careful to distinguish established physics from speculation, and in doing so highlights current controversies and avenues of future exploration.The idea of the big bang is now almost a century old, yet with each new year comes a fresh enigma. That is scientific progress in a nutshell: every groundbreaking discovery, every creative explanation, provokes new and more fundamental questions. Rothman takes stock of what we have learned and encourages readers to ponder the mysteries to come.
An engaging critique of the science and metaphysics behind our understanding of the universe
The James Webb Space Telescope, when launched in 2021, will be the premier orbital observatory, capable of studying every phase of the history of the universe, from the afterglow of the Big Bang to the formation of our solar system. Examining the theoretical basis for key experiments that have made this latest venture in astrophysics possible, Bjørn Ekeberg reveals that scientific cosmology actually operates in a twilight zone between the physical and metaphysical.
Metaphysical Experiments explains how our current framework for understanding the universe, the Big Bang theory, is more determined by a deep faith in mathematical universality than empirical observation. Ekeberg draws on philosophical insights by Spinoza, Bergson, Heidegger, and Arendt; on the critical perspectives of Latour, Stengers, and Serres; and on cutting-edge physics research at the Large Hadron Collider, to show how the universe of modern physics was invented to reconcile a Christian metaphysical premise with a claim to the theoretical unification of nature.
By focusing on the nonmathematical assumptions underlying some of the most significant events in modern science, Metaphysical Experiments offers a critical history of contemporary physics that demystifies such concepts as the universe, particles, singularity, gravity, blackbody radiation, the speed of light, wave/particle duality, natural constants, black holes, dark matter, and dark energy. Ekeberg’s incisive reading of the metaphysical underpinnings of scientific cosmology offers an innovative account of how we understand our place in the universe.
The astonishing science of neutron stars and the stories of the scientists who study them.Neutron stars are as bewildering as they are elusive. The remnants of exploded stellar giants, they are tiny, merely twenty kilometers across, and incredibly dense. One teaspoon of a neutron star would weigh several million tons. They can spin up to a thousand times per second, they possess the strongest magnetic fields known in nature, and they may be the source of the most powerful explosions in the universe. Through vivid storytelling and on-site reporting from observatories all over the world, Neutron Stars offers an engaging account of these still-mysterious objects.Award-winning science journalist Katia Moskvitch takes readers from the vast Atacama Desert to the arid plains of South Africa to visit the magnificent radio telescopes and brilliant scientists responsible for our knowledge of neutron stars. She recounts the exhilarating discoveries, frustrating disappointments, and heated controversies of the past several decades and explains cutting-edge research into such phenomena as colliding neutron stars and fast radio bursts: extremely powerful but ultra-short flashes in space that scientists are still struggling to understand. She also shows how neutron stars have advanced our broader understanding of the universe—shedding light on topics such as dark matter, black holes, general relativity, and the origins of heavy elements like gold and platinum—and how we might one day use these cosmic beacons to guide interstellar travel.With clarity and passion, Moskvitch describes what we are learning at the boundaries of astronomy, where stars have life beyond death.
The award-winning former editor of Science News shows that one of the most fascinating and controversial ideas in contemporary cosmology—the existence of multiple parallel universes—has a long and divisive history that continues to this day.We often consider the universe to encompass everything that exists, but some scientists have come to believe that the vast, expanding universe we inhabit may be just one of many. The totality of those parallel universes, still for some the stuff of science fiction, has come to be known as the multiverse.The concept of the multiverse, exotic as it may be, isn’t actually new. In The Number of the Heavens, veteran science journalist Tom Siegfried traces the history of this controversial idea from antiquity to the present. Ancient Greek philosophers first raised the possibility of multiple universes, but Aristotle insisted on one and only one cosmos. Then in 1277 the bishop of Paris declared it heresy to teach that God could not create as many universes as he pleased, unleashing fervent philosophical debate about whether there might exist a “plurality of worlds.”As the Middle Ages gave way to the Renaissance, the philosophical debates became more scientific. René Descartes declared “the number of the heavens” to be indefinitely large, and as notions of the known universe expanded from our solar system to our galaxy, the debate about its multiplicity was repeatedly recast. In the 1980s, new theories about the big bang reignited interest in the multiverse. Today the controversy continues, as cosmologists and physicists explore the possibility of many big bangs, extra dimensions of space, and a set of branching, parallel universes. This engrossing story offers deep lessons about the nature of science and the quest to understand the universe.
A BBC Sky at Night Best Astronomy and Space Book of the Year“[A] luminous guide to the cosmos…Jo Dunkley swoops from Earth to the observable limits, then explores stellar life cycles, dark matter, cosmic evolution and the soup-to-nuts history of the Universe.”—Nature“A grand tour of space and time, from our nearest planetary neighbors to the edge of the observable Universe…If you feel like refreshing your background knowledge…this little gem certainly won’t disappoint.”—Govert Schilling, BBC Sky at NightMost of us have heard of black holes and supernovas, galaxies and the Big Bang. But few understand more than the bare facts about the universe we call home. What is really out there? How did it all begin? Where are we going?Jo Dunkley begins in Earth’s neighborhood, explaining the nature of the Solar System, the stars in our night sky, and the Milky Way. She traces the evolution of the universe from the Big Bang fourteen billion years ago, past the birth of the Sun and our planets, to today and beyond. She then explains cutting-edge debates about such perplexing phenomena as the accelerating expansion of the universe and the possibility that our universe is only one of many. Our Universe conveys with authority and grace the thrill of scientific discovery and a contagious enthusiasm for the endless wonders of space-time.
Almost weightless and able to pass through the densest materials with ease, neutrinos seem to defy the laws of nature. But these mysterious particles may hold the key to our deepest questions about the universe, says physicist Heinrich Päs. In The Perfect Wave, Päs serves as our fluent, deeply knowledgeable guide to a particle world that tests the boundaries of space, time, and human knowledge.The existence of the neutrino was first proposed in 1930, but decades passed before one was detected. Päs animates the philosophical and scientific developments that led to and have followed from this seminal discovery, ranging from familiar topics of relativity and quantum mechanics to more speculative theories about dark energy and supersymmetry. Many cutting-edge topics in neutrino research--conjectures about the origin of matter, extra-dimensional spacetime, and the possibility of time travel--remain unproven. But Päs describes the ambitious projects under way that may confirm them, including accelerator experiments at CERN and Fermilab, huge subterranean telescopes designed to detect high-energy neutrino radiation, and the Planck space observatory scheduled to investigate the role of neutrinos in cosmic evolution.As Päs's history of the neutrino illustrates, what is now established fact often sounded wildly implausible and unnatural when first proposed. The radical side of physics is both an exciting and an essential part of scientific progress, and The Perfect Wave renders it accessible to the interested reader.
Circumstellar disks are vast expanses of dust that form around new stars in the earliest stages of their birth. Predicted by astronomers as early as the eighteenth century, they weren’t observed until the late twentieth century, when interstellar imaging technology enabled us to see nascent stars hundreds of light years away. Since then, circumstellar disks have become an area of intense study among astrophysicists, largely because they are thought to be the forerunners of planetary systems like our own—the possible birthplaces of planets.
This volume brings together a team of leading experts to distill the most up-to-date knowledge of circumstellar disks into a clear introductory volume. Understanding circumstellar disks requires a broad range of scientific knowledge, including chemical processes, the properties of dust and gases, hydrodynamics and magnetohydrodynamics, radiation transfer, and stellar evolution—all of which are covered in this comprehensive work, which will be indispensable for graduate students, seasoned researchers, or even advanced undergrads setting out on the study of planetary evolution.
It has already been called the scientific breakthrough of the century: the detection of gravitational waves. Einstein predicted these tiny ripples in the fabric of spacetime nearly a hundred years ago, but they were never perceived directly until now. Decades in the making, this momentous discovery has given scientists a new understanding of the cataclysmic events that shape the universe and a new confirmation of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Ripples in Spacetime is an engaging account of the international effort to complete Einstein’s project, capture his elusive ripples, and launch an era of gravitational-wave astronomy that promises to explain, more vividly than ever before, our universe’s structure and origin.The quest for gravitational waves involved years of risky research and many personal and professional struggles that threatened to derail one of the world’s largest scientific endeavors. Govert Schilling takes readers to sites where these stories unfolded—including Japan’s KAGRA detector, Chile’s Atacama Cosmology Telescope, the South Pole’s BICEP detectors, and the United States’ LIGO labs. He explains the seeming impossibility of developing technologies sensitive enough to detect waves from two colliding black holes in the very distant universe, and describes the astounding precision of the LIGO detectors. Along the way Schilling clarifies concepts such as general relativity, neutron stars, and the big bang using language that readers with little scientific background can grasp.Ripples in Spacetime provides a window into the next frontiers of astronomy, weaving far-reaching predictions and discoveries into a gripping story of human ambition and perseverance.
When at the beginning of this century, new instrumentation in astronomy came together with innovative concepts in physics, a science was born that has yielded not only staggering quantities of information about the universe but an elegant and useful conception of its origins and behavior. This volume in Harvard’s distinguished series of Source Books serves to record the achievements of this science and illuminate its brief history by bringing together the major contributions through the year 1975.The volume is organized to trace the development of the basic ideas of astrophysics. The 132 selections document chronologically the changing answers to such fundamental questions as: How did the solar system originate? What makes the stars shine? What lies in the vacuous space between the stars? Are the spiral nebulae distant “island universes”? Will the universe expand forever? The articles range from Hale’s popular piece in Harper’s Magazine to the tensor calculus of Schwarzschild and Einstein. They include Chamberlain and Moulton’s account of the collision hypothesis; Edwin Hubble’s identification of the Crab Nebula with the supernova of 1054; Ralph Fowler’s work on the application of degenerate gas statistics to white dwarfs; and Jan Oort’s detection of galactic rotation. The complexity and richness of twentieth-century astrophysics is felt in these selections and a sense of discovery is provided in reading, in the words of the pioneer scientist, accounts of the first observations of the cosmic rays, the Van Allen belts, the Martian volcanoes and canyons, pulsars, interstellar hydrogen, cosmic magnetic fields, quasars and the remnant background of the primeval big bang.About half of the papers are printed in their entirety and the others in careful abridgment. Editors Kenneth Lang and Owen Gingerich provide substantial commentary that describes related developments before, during and after the selected research. Works by Heinrich Vogt, Carl Friedrich von Weizsacker, Karl Schwarzschild, Albert Einstein, Aleksandr Friedman and many others appear for the first time in translation.
Insightful, good-humored essays on the possibilities of alien life and the uses of space exploration, based on an astrobiologist’s everyday conversations with his fellow humans—taxi drivers, to be precise.If you’ve ever sat in the back seat of a taxi, you know that cabbies like to talk. Sports or politics, your job or theirs, taxi drivers are fine conversationalists on just about any topic. And when the passenger is astrobiologist Charles Cockell, that topic is usually space and what, if anything, lives out there.Inspired by conversations with drivers all over the world, Taxi from Another Planet tackles the questions that everyday people have about the cosmos and our place in it. Will we understand aliens? What if there isn’t life out in the universe? Is Mars our Plan B? And why is the government spending tax dollars on space programs anyway? Each essay in this genial collection takes questions like these as a starting point on the way to a range of insightful, even poignant, observations. Cockell delves into debates over the inevitability of life and looks to both human history and scientific knowledge to consider what first contact will be like and what we can expect from spacefaring societies. He also offers a forceful argument for the sympathies between space exploration and environmentalism.A shrewd and entertaining foray into the most fundamental mysteries, Taxi from Another Planet brings together the wisdom of scientific experts and their fellow citizens of Earth, the better to understand how life might unfold elsewhere.
To see video demonstrations of key concepts from the book, please visit this website: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/sites/timewarp/
Sci-fi makes it look so easy. Receive a distress call from Alpha Centauri? No problem: punch the warp drive and you're there in minutes. Facing a catastrophe that can't be averted? Just pop back in the timestream and stop it before it starts. But for those of us not lucky enough to live in a science-fictional universe, are these ideas merely flights of fancy—or could it really be possible to travel through time or take shortcuts between stars?
Cutting-edge physics may not be able to answer those questions yet, but it does offer up some tantalizing possibilities. In Time Travel and Warp Drives, Allen Everett and Thomas A. Roman take readers on a clear, concise tour of our current understanding of the nature of time and space—and whether or not we might be able to bend them to our will. Using no math beyond high school algebra, the authors lay out an approachable explanation of Einstein's special relativity, then move through the fundamental differences between traveling forward and backward in time and the surprising theoretical connection between going back in time and traveling faster than the speed of light. They survey a variety of possible time machines and warp drives, including wormholes and warp bubbles, and, in a dizzyingly creative chapter, imagine the paradoxes that could plague a world where time travel was possible—killing your own grandfather is only one of them!
Written with a light touch and an irrepressible love of the fun of sci-fi scenarios—but firmly rooted in the most up-to-date science, Time Travel and Warp Drives will be a delightful discovery for any science buff or armchair chrononaut.
A Physics Today Best Book of the YearThe first biography of a pioneering scientist who made significant contributions to our understanding of dark matter and championed the advancement of women in science.One of the great lingering mysteries of the universe is dark matter. Scientists are not sure what it is, but most believe it’s out there, and in abundance. The astronomer who finally convinced many of them was Vera Rubin. When Rubin died in 2016, she was regarded as one of the most influential astronomers of her era. Her research on the rotation of spiral galaxies was groundbreaking, and her observations contributed significantly to the confirmation of dark matter, a most notable achievement.In Vera Rubin: A Life, prolific science writers Jacqueline Mitton and Simon Mitton provide a detailed, accessible overview of Rubin’s work, showing how she leveraged immense curiosity, profound intelligence, and novel technologies to help transform our understanding of the cosmos. But Rubin’s impact was not limited to her contributions to scientific knowledge. She also helped to transform scientific practice by promoting the careers of women researchers. Not content to be an inspiration, Rubin was a mentor and a champion. She advocated for hiring women faculty, inviting women speakers to major conferences, and honoring women with awards that were historically the exclusive province of men.Rubin’s papers and correspondence yield vivid insights into her life and work, as she faced down gender discrimination and met the demands of family and research throughout a long and influential career. Deftly written, with both scientific experts and general readers in mind, Vera Rubin is a portrait of a woman with insatiable curiosity about the universe who never stopped asking questions and encouraging other women to do the same.
A New Scientist Book of the YearA Physics Today Book of the YearA Science News Book of the YearThe history of science is replete with women getting little notice for their groundbreaking discoveries. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, a tireless innovator who correctly theorized the substance of stars, was one of them.It was not easy being a woman of ambition in early twentieth-century England, much less one who wished to be a scientist. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin overcame prodigious obstacles to become a woman of many firsts: the first to receive a PhD in astronomy from Radcliffe College, the first promoted to full professor at Harvard, the first to head a department there. And, in what has been called “the most brilliant PhD thesis ever written in astronomy,” she was the first to describe what stars are made of.Payne-Gaposchkin lived in a society that did not know what to make of a determined schoolgirl who wanted to know everything. She was derided in college and refused a degree. As a graduate student, she faced formidable skepticism. Revolutionary ideas rarely enjoy instantaneous acceptance, but the learned men of the astronomical community found hers especially hard to take seriously. Though welcomed at the Harvard College Observatory, she worked for years without recognition or status. Still, she accomplished what every scientist yearns for: discovery. She revealed the atomic composition of stars—only to be told that her conclusions were wrong by the very man who would later show her to be correct.In What Stars Are Made Of, Donovan Moore brings this remarkable woman to life through extensive archival research, family interviews, and photographs. Moore retraces Payne-Gaposchkin’s steps with visits to cramped observatories and nighttime bicycle rides through the streets of Cambridge, England. The result is a story of devotion and tenacity that speaks powerfully to our own time.
“A fitting biography of one of the most brilliant, acerbic, and under-appreciated astrophysicists of the twentieth century. John Johnson has delved deeply into a rich and eventful life, and produced a rollicking account of how Fritz Zwicky split his time between picking fights with his colleagues and discovering amazing things about our universe.”—Sean Carroll, author of The Big PictureFritz Zwicky was one of the most inventive and iconoclastic scientists of his time. He predicted the existence of neutron stars, and his research pointed the way toward the discovery of pulsars and black holes. He was the first to conceive of the existence of dark matter, the first to make a detailed catalog of thousands of galaxies, and the first to correctly suggest that cosmic rays originate from supernovas.Not content to confine his discoveries to the heavens, Zwicky contributed to the United States war against Japan with inventions in jet propulsion that enabled aircraft to launch from carriers in the Pacific. After the war, he was the first Western scientist to interview Wernher von Braun, the Nazi engineer who developed the V-2 rocket. Later he became an outspoken advocate for space exploration, but also tangled with almost every leading scientist of the time, from Edwin Hubble and Richard Feynman to J. Robert Oppenheimer and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.In Zwicky, John Johnson, Jr., brings this tempestuous maverick to life. Zwicky not only made groundbreaking contributions to science and engineering; he rose to fame as one of the most imaginative science popularizers of his day. Yet he became a pariah in the scientific community, denouncing his enemies, real and imagined, as “spherical bastards” and “horses’ asses.” Largely forgotten today, Zwicky deserves rediscovery for introducing some of the most destructive forces in the universe, and as a reminder that genius obeys no rules and has no friends.
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