Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe

Jeremiah P Ostriker, Author, Simon Mitton, Author
Jeremiah P. Ostriker and Simon Mitton. Princeton Univ., $27.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-691-13430-7
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For Conrad, it was the Congo; for Ostriker (Formation of Structure in the Universe) and Mitton (The Young Oxford Book of Astronomy), it’s deep space, dark matter, and dark energy. In this stimulating study, the Princeton astrophysics professor and University of Cambridge scholar offer a compelling insider’s take on how astronomers have worked to reveal the mystery that is our universe. After a quick review of the long history of astronomy, the duo dive headlong into the 20th century and Einstein’s paradigm-crushing work on relativity, gravity, and time, which—coupled with technological improvements—laid the foundations for a modern cosmology based on “expansion—of vision, mind-set, and of the physical universe itself.” Indeed, the Big Bang sent galaxies racing outward, and the resulting universe is a “quantum soup” riddled with “ ‘holes,’ ‘filaments,’ and ‘walls.’ ” Here the authors prove their scientific mettle, exploring current research into the structure of the universe, including dark matter that holds galaxies together, and mind-boggling dark energy, whose strength uniquely increases in proportion to expanding intergalactic distances. Ostriker and Mitton’s knowledge is vast, and while they acknowledge that our understanding of the universe is far from complete, this thought-provoking presentation is as accessible as it is exciting. Photos & illus. (Feb.)
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