"Halpern writes for the educated layperson, and excels at using analogies to describe abstract astronomical concepts in terms easier to understand ... This book offers a useful, highly readable overview of the topic."
--The Space Review
"Halpern breaks down complex concepts such as the big bang, dark energy, dark flow, dark matter and why the edge of the universe is speeding farther and farther away from us."
--The Washington Post
"A fantastic romp along the frontiers of modern cosmology--and beyond."
--Dr. Cliff Pickover, author of The Physics Book
"A delightful introduction to all the major topics in modern cosmology. In user-friendly language, Halpern manages to describe the ins and outs of this complex subject, from the well-established to the highly speculative. Truly a remarkable accomplishment."
--Gino Segre, author of Faust in Copenhagen: A Struggle for the Soul of Physics
"Cosmology today is more exciting than it has ever been in its 2500-year history. In this lively book, Halpern explains why and leaves us desperate to see what surprises the universe has in store."
--Graham Farmelo, author of The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom
"Edge of the Universe is a breezy romp through the universe as we know it. Paul Halpern covers all the big topics in cosmology with a crisp and engaging tone, at a level that even a novice can follow, and pairs it with pop cultural references and very engaging scientific history."
--Dave Goldberg, author of A User's Guide to the Universe
From the Author
These are extraordinary times for humanity's quest to understand the universe. Cosmology has entered an age of unprecedented precision. Long sought questions such as the age and shape of the universe have finally been resolved. We now know that the time since the Big Bang is 13.8 billion years. In contrast to earlier views that space could be curved or saddle-shaped, we now know that it is as flat as a pancake.
Yet, despite these tremendous advances, science has come to realize that much of the universe is made of unknown substances and influences. Approximately 95 percent of the universe is made of dark energy and dark matter, with about 5 percent constituting the familiar stuff of atoms, molecules, people, and planets. Dark energy makes itself felt through its unseen influence on galaxies, causing them to move away from each other at a faster and faster pace. Dark matter, on the other hand, steers the outer stars of galaxies, binding them to galactic cores. It also supplies the gravitational "glue" needed to keep clusters of galaxies intact. Experiments have failed so far to reveal the true nature of these mysterious entities.
These are far from the only cosmological enigmas. A strange dark flow seems to be driving galaxy clusters toward an unknown destination. Scientists wonder if it could be a sign of tugs from regions beyond the observable universe. Indeed the theory of inflation, the leading explanation for why the observable is relatively uniform, offers the intriguing possibility that our universe is a mere bubble in an immeasurably vast multiverse. Researchers are examining the cosmic microwave background searching for signs of collisions with other universes.
The cosmic microwave background offers ample conundrums. A strange alignment, called the "axis of evil," has perplexed astronomers. While other oddities, such as Stephen Hawking's initials displayed in the radio sky, can be explained by coincidence, could the "axis of evil" represent a preferred direction in the cosmos? Cosmic dragons, unidentified sources lurking in the gamma-ray fog, offer another intriguing puzzle.
Is time travel possible? Does the universe have unseen extra dimensions? Could an advanced civilization construct traversable wormholes to expedite interstellar travel? What is the fate of the universe? Could there have been cycles of time before the Big Bang?
Edge of the Universe: A Voyage to the Cosmic Horizon and Beyond explores these mysteries and more. It offers a passport to the frontiers of contemporary cosmology, examining the latest discoveries and debates in the scientific quest to unravel the mysteries of the universe.