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Academic & Professional Books  Reference  Physical Sciences  Cosmology & Astronomy

Heart of Darkness Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe

Popular Science
By: Jeremiah P Ostriker(Author), Simon Mitton(Author)
288 pages, 16 colour & 40 b/w photos
Heart of Darkness
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  • Heart of Darkness ISBN: 9780691165776 Paperback Jun 2015 Usually dispatched within 4 days
  • Heart of Darkness ISBN: 9780691134307 Hardback Feb 2013 Usually dispatched within 4 days
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About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Heart of Darkness describes the incredible saga of humankind's quest to unravel the deepest secrets of the universe. Over the past thirty years, scientists have learned that two little-understood components – dark matter and dark energy – comprise most of the known cosmos, explain the growth of all cosmic structure, and hold the key to the universe's fate. The story of how evidence for the so-called "Lambda-Cold Dark Matter" model of cosmology has been gathered by generations of scientists throughout the world is told here by one of the pioneers of the field, Jeremiah Ostriker, and his coauthor Simon Mitton.

From humankind's early attempts to comprehend Earth's place in the solar system, to astronomers' exploration of the Milky Way galaxy and the realm of the nebulae beyond, to the detection of the primordial fluctuations of energy from which all subsequent structure developed, this book explains the physics and the history of how the current model of our universe arose and has passed every test hurled at it by the skeptics. Throughout this rich story, an essential theme is emphasized: how three aspects of rational inquiry - the application of direct measurement and observation, the introduction of mathematical modeling, and the requirement that hypotheses should be testable and verifiable – guide scientific progress and underpin our modern cosmological paradigm. The story is far from complete, however, as scientists confront the mysteries of the ultimate causes of cosmic structure formation and the real nature and origin of dark matter and dark energy.


Acknowledgments ix

Preface xiii
    Cosmology Becomes Data-driven Science xiii
    Outline of the Journey We Will Take xix

Prologue: From Myth to Reality 1
    Astronomy: The Endless Frontier 1
    Charting and Modeling the Heavens 3
    Copernicus: "The Last of the Greek Cosmologists" 6
    Galileo: A New Approach to Mechanics and Cosmology 9
    The Impact of Copernicus: Kepler's Laws 13
    Isaac Newton and Gravity 15
    William Herschel Discovers the Universe 20
    Understanding the Universe Becomes a New Kind of Science 24

One: Einstein's Toolkit, and How to Use It 27
    Overconfidence among the Cognoscenti at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century 27
    Revolution in Physics: The Inception of Quantum Theory and Relativity 30
    Special Relativity 33
    General Relativity 36
    General Relativity Is Tested, Passes the Test, and Is a Sensation 41
    Cosmological Solutions to Einstein's Equations 47

Two: The Realm of the Nebulae 52
    New Instruments in a Better Climate Unveil a New World 52
    A Universe of Galaxies Is Confirmed 63
    A Cosmological Model to Fit the New Data: Enter, Georges Lemaître 66
    Physical Cosmology and the Expanding Universe 70
    Lemaître's Synthesis Model Foretells the Contribution of Dark Energy 75
    Hubble's Achievements 79
    Big Science to Attack the Big Problem 81
    The Steady State Model Universe and the Big Bang 84

Three: Let's Do Cosmology! 89
    The Big Bang: A Starting Point That Cannot Be Escaped 89
    Observational Cosmology, the Biggest Puzzle to Be Solved with the Biggest Telescope 93
    The Grand Project Was Initially Too Difficult 97

Four: Discovering the Big Bang 102
    Did Our Universe Have an Explosive Birth? 102
    What Makes the Stars Shine? 104
    Nuclear Astrophysics Moves to the Cosmos 109
    The Fireball in Which the First Chemical Elements Were Made 114
    Direct Radio Observations of the Big Bang Fireball 118
    Understanding the Big Bang 125

Five: The Origin of Structure in the Universe 130
    "In the Beginning"--Why an Explanation Is Needed 130
    Structure within the Expanding Universe 136
    The Elusive Standard Candle: Beatrice Tinsley Changes the Game 139
    Real Cosmic Structure Found and Cataloged by Fritz Zwicky 146
    Understanding the Origin of Structure Becomes Serious Science 149
    Cosmic Inflation 155
    The Seeds of Cosmic Structure Are Discovered 162
    Closing the Loop: How Do Seeds Grow to Galaxies? 168

Six: Dark Matter--or Fritz Zwicky's Greatest Invention 174
    How the Earth Was Weighed 174
    Finding the Mass of the Andromeda Galaxy 181
    Zwicky Finds Dark Matter in Clusters of Galaxies in the 1930s 184
    The Rediscovery of Dark Matter in the 1970s 187 Rotation Curves Confirm the Case for Dark Matter 193
    More Recent Multiple Lines of Evidence for Dark Matter 197

Seven: Dark Energy--or Einstein's Greatest Blunder 202
    A Curious Situation 202
    Will Gravity Lead to a Collapse of the Solar System? 203
    Expected and Unexpected Motions of Thrown Stones and Hubble's Universe 205
    The Invention of the Cosmological Constant or Dark Energy: 1915 209
    The Revival of Dark Energy in the 1970s 215
    New Arguments and New Evidence--Dark Energy Confirmed in the 1990s 220
    Dark Energy Fills the Gap, Allowing the Flat, "Just Right" Universe 222

Eight: The Modern Paradigm and the Limits of Our Knowledge 229
    We Have Come a Long Way 229
    The Matter and Energy Content of the Universe 231
    The Global Cosmological Solution and the Cosmic Triangle 238
    In the Beginning 244
    Structure in the Universe 245
    The Supercomputer Approach 248

Nine: The Frontier: Major Mysteries That Remain 253
    Dark Matter 253
    Dark Energy 255
    Inflation 257
    Giant Black Holes 260
    Fine-Tuning 261
    Summing Up 262

Appendixes 263
Glossary 281
Bibliography 291
Index 295

Customer Reviews


Jeremiah P. Ostriker is professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University. His books include Formation of Structure in the Universe and Unsolved Problems in Astrophysics (Princeton).

Simon Mitton is affiliated research scholar in the history and philosophy of science and a fellow of St. Edmund's College, University of Cambridge. His books include Fred Hoyle: A Life in Science and The Young Oxford Book of Astronomy.

Popular Science
By: Jeremiah P Ostriker(Author), Simon Mitton(Author)
288 pages, 16 colour & 40 b/w photos
Media reviews

"In this stimulating study, the Princeton astrophysics professor and the University of Cambridge scholar offer a compelling insider's take on how astronomers have worked to reveal the mystery that is our universe [...] 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."
Publishers Weekly

"Jeremiah Ostriker and science historian Simon Mitton seamlessly blend historical narrative with lucid scientific explication, from the deeps of classical time to the data-fuelled hyperdrive of the past 50 years."

"A lucid history of cosmology [...] 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 introductions."
Kirkus Reviews

"This is a strong, confident book, easily one of the best guides to why cosmologists make the claims they do."
New Scientist

"[H]eart of Darkness [...] traces the implications of modern cosmology and more. The path is a fascinating history from the first debates over the cosmic redshift and the Hubble constant through the discovery of the cosmic microwave background by Penzias and Wilson in the 1960s right up to the big questions being raised today."
– Astro Guyz

"An excellent book celebrating the contribution to cosmology by many unsung heroes such as Tinsley, Slipher, Lemaitre and Friedman."
– Dave Mannion, Popular Astronomy

"Here is a new and welcome perspective on modern cosmology that any reader can easily grasp and appreciate. Excellent archival photos and a very useful appendix that clearly and simply explains some of the essential mathematical concepts add to the pleasure of reading this book. Written with authority and flair, this is one of the very best books on the topic. Recommended reading for any science bluff."

"Ostriker's and Mitton's book is a lively and informative account of the story of modern cosmology [...] "
– Helge Kragh, Journal for the History of Astronomy

"I enjoyed Heart of Darkness hugely. Rare among astronomy books, it was a 'page-turner', an exciting, intriguing, authoritative historical review of past cosmological endeavors coupled with an informed assessment of where we are at the present time. It is accurately aimed at the general reader and non-expert."
– David W. Hughes, Observatory

"Heart of Darkness is a cheerful and accessible introduction to some of the most fascinating topics in astronomy today. It presents the concepts clearly, tells the stories about the discoverers with remarkable detail, and explains the logic leading to the hypotheses of dark matter and dark energy. I would not hesitate to recommend it for both general readers and scientists."
– John C. Mather, Physics Today

"What does come through in [this book], is a real sense of the excitement that these scientists feel in not knowing everything, together with the confidence that one day we'll work it out."
– Clive Prince, Magonia Review of Books

"The invisible rules the visible while the infinitesimal determines the cosmic. This is not fuzzy mysticism. It is the clear-eyed logic of the world observed by astronomers, described here with precision and verve by Ostriker and Mitton. Read this book and let them guide you to enlightenment."
– Robert P. Kirshner, author of The Extravagant Universe

"If you want a clear and fair assessment of the astonishing recent progress in understanding the cosmos – and of the mysteries that remain to be addressed – then this is the book for you. Ostriker and Mitton write with authority, and with style as well."
– Martin Rees, Master of Trinity College, University of Cambridge, and Astronomer Royal

"Heart of Darkness offers an engaging historical perspective on cosmology, and fluently moves onto the key modern issues in the dark sector. It is full of anecdotes and insights that will intrigue a general readership."
– Joseph Silk, author of On the Shores of the Unknown: A Short History of the Universe

"Heart of Darkness offers a fresh perspective on the development of cosmology from one of its pioneers and most original thinkers, Jeremiah Ostriker, in collaboration with an exceptional science writer, Simon Mitton. This engaging history introduces nonexperts to the discoveries and basic concepts behind our current understanding of the universe."
– Abraham Loeb, author of How Did the First Stars and Galaxies Form?

"Heart of Darkness is a penetrating and thorough narrative of how humans discovered the universe. Ostriker and Mitton are strong advocates for the tenacity and creativity of physicists and astronomers. This is an upbeat and inspiring story, told with vigor and enthusiasm."
– Alan Dressler, author of Voyage to the Great Attractor: Exploring Intergalactic Space

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