A lucid but not oversimplified popular account of 21st-century cosmology.
In the late 20th century, work by Einstein and quantum physicists seemed on the verge of explaining everything when confusion descended. Astronomers discovered that galaxies were moving too fast. Their stars and dust produced far too little gravity to accomplish this, so most matter in the universe is not only “dark,” but it can’t be the particles, atoms and molecules familiar to us because even invisible normal matter is fairly easy to detect. No one knows the makeup of dark matter. If this weren’t frustrating enough, in 1998 scientists discovered that the expansion of the universe was accelerating. This requires immense energy; in fact “dark energy” makes up nearly three-quarters of matter-energy in the universe. New Scientist consulting editor Ananthaswamy traveled the world interviewing theorists attempting to understand this avalanche of distressing new information; all yearn for more details about the largest objects in the universes—galaxies and galaxy clusters. Turning to efforts at gathering these details, the author describes dazzling high-tech telescopes now operating or under construction from Chile to Hawaii to outer space. Because theorists also need to know about the universe’s smallest objects, ghostlike neutrinos and muons, Ananthaswamy devotes chapters to machines that produce them—the titanic new particle accelerator in Switzerland—or detect them from deep under Siberian lakes or Antarctic icecaps.
A meticulous, accessible update of the latest ideas and instruments that contribute to the clarification of an increasingly puzzling universe.