HEART OF DARKNESS by Jeremiah P. Ostriker


Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe
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A lucid history of cosmology.

Ostriker (Astrophysical Sciences/Princeton Univ.; Development of Large Scale Structure in the Universe, 1992, etc.) and British science historian Mitton (Fred Hoyle: A Life in Science, 2005, etc.) illustrate J.B.S. Haldane’s famous quote that “the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.” The Greeks proved that the Earth was round and determined its circumference. Copernicus placed the sun at the center of the solar system, and Kepler described planetary movements. Newton founded cosmology by asserting that his laws applied everywhere. Einstein showed how gravity rules the universe, and Hubble proved that it was expanding. By 1970, scientists agreed that everything (matter, energy, space, even time) began with the Big Bang 14 billion years ago. Having delivered the history, the authors pose obvious questions: Will the universe expand forever, or will gravity reverse matters? Since the Big Bang produced a uniform soup of energy and simple elements, how did stars, galaxies and planets form? Where did heavier elements come from? Where did we come from? Astrophysicists can explain how galaxies formed and how exploding stars produced heavier elements and eventually us. The universe’s future seemed comprehensible until two discoveries muddied the waters. By 1980, it was clear that most matter in the universe is “dark”—literally invisible, detectable only because of gravitational effects. By the 1990s, researchers realized that most energy is also “dark,” permeating space, opposing gravity and accelerating expansion. With infectious enthusiasm, diagrams and even a little high school math, the authors deliver the available answers along with the increasing confusion.

A fine introduction to cosmology but rich enough to inform readers familiar with other introductions.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-691-13430-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Princeton Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2012


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