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Einstein's Unfinished Symphony: Listening to the Sounds of Space-Time Paperback – Bargain Price, February 4, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Einstein is hot this year; not only has his brain traveled cross-country but his personal and scientific lives are being explored in depth. Gravity waves aren't as well known as the more familiar theory of E=mc2 (which is getting its own book this season, see Forecasts, Sept. 18), but cross-promotion of related titles will boost sales of this graceful little book about the mysterious subject. Those waves are the only form of radiation predicted by Einstein's theory of relativity that remain undetected (a gravity wave is created by the movement of an object; it is not the same as gravitational attraction). Unlike a wave of light, which moves through a medium, space-time, a gravity wave is similar to a wave in water, which is movement of the medium; however, a wave on a pond will go around you as you sit in a fishing boat, whereas a gravity wave will go through an astronaut in a spaceship as easily as it will pass through a star. Scientists predict the only gravity waves we will be able to detect at first are those from such galaxy-shaking events as supernova explosions or the collisions of binary neutron stars, but once gravity waves are graphed and analyzed, we should be able to confirm the existence of black holes, explore time back to the threshold of the big bang, and accurately map the dimensions of the universe. Today kilometers-long interferometer detectors are going online in Washington and Louisiana to detect gravity waves. Tomorrow scientists hope to have a space-based observatory tagging along behind Earth as it orbits the sun. Bartusiak (Thursday's Universe) has been writing about gravity waves for more than a decade, and her familiarity with the search and the scientists involved results in a thorough, engrossing and valuable chronicle.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Delightful and clearly written. -- Science --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0425186202
  • ASIN: B000H2MXQA
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,348,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Combining her training as a journalist with a master's degree in physics, Marcia Bartusiak has been covering the fields of astronomy and physics for more than three decades. She is currently a professor of the practice in the Graduate Program in Science Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has published in a variety of publications, including Science, Smithsonian, Discover, Technology Review, National Geographic, and Astronomy. She is the author of "Thursday's Universe," a guide to the frontiers of astrophysics; "Through a Universe Darkly," a history of astronomers' quest to discover the universe's composition; and "Einstein's Unfinished Symphony," a chronicle of the international attempt to detect cosmic gravity waves. All three were named notable books by the New York Times. She went on to write "Archives of the Universe," an anthology and commentary on the historic discovery papers in astronomy, and "The Day We Found the Universe," on the birth of modern cosmology, which won the Davis Prize from the History of Science Society. Her latest book is "Black Hole." Bartusiak is a two-time winner of the American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award and in 2006 garnered the AIP's prestigious Gemant Award for her "significant contributions to the cultural, artistic, or humanistic dimension of physics." In 2008 Bartusiak was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, cited for "exceptionally clear communication of the rich history, the intricate nature, and the modern practice of astronomy to the public at large." Bartusiak lives with her husband, mathematician Steve Lowe, and their dog Hubble, a bearded collie, in a suburb of Boston.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Galileo could drop balls of various weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to investigate gravity, but the latest in gravity research, finding gravity waves, is high cost, big science, it is enormously complicated, and no one even knows if it will find anything. _Einstein's Unfinished Symphony_ is the story of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, a series of facilities in different places that will use lasers traveling in vacuum tubes that are over two miles long to detect any gravity waves as they stretch and compress us when they flow by. Catching a gravity wave would be the last major experimental confirmation of Einstein's ideas. The problem is that any gravity wave effect is unimaginably small, thousands of times smaller than an atomic nucleus. Bartusiak has interviewed many of the scientists involved in the project, and explains their work in good but not numbing detail. Her explanations of the weirdness of Relativity are excellent. Her examples and descriptions are good fun to read, and a model of clear scientific writing for the public.
What will LIGO find? That's something like asking Galileo what he would see in the telescope before he looked through it. LIGO will not be a one-task apparatus, but will be more like an observatory. The biggest game it is after is black holes; after all the theory, we still have only circumstantial evidence that black holes exist, and this could be a way of getting hard data. It would be very nice to see two of them collide, or whirl around each other before the inevitable collision in thousands of years. Neutron star collisions and supernovas are targets, too. We are going to have a new instrument and we don't know what we are going to find; that's an exciting scientific stance. _Einstein's Unfinished Symphony_ communicates that excitement, and those who read it will be well prepared to understand the upcoming results.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Robert Adler on December 31, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book provides a rare opportunity for non-scientists to understand an important scientific advance before it happens.

Bartusiak provides readers with a thorough history of the decades of theorizing, organizing, and development that have led to the current generation of gravitational-wave observatories eagerly awaiting the first detection of the space-distorting pulses predicted by Einstein's theory of relativity nearly a century ago.

From my point of view, the book presents a bit more of the history and politics of gravitational-wave research, and a bit less of the science, than I might like. Still, Bartusiak tells a very important story in great detail. She clearly did her homework; the book is full of the kind of details that come only from visiting sites and interviewing key players face-to-face.

I thought that the most important point Bartusiak made did not come until at least two-thirds of the way through the book. She finally made it clear that the key problem in detecting gravitational waves rippling through spacetime is isolating the detector from every other influence, insulating and quieting it to the point that a change in length no larger than a fraction of the diameter of an atom can be detected. That's why, when gravitational waves are finally detected, it will be a great technical triumph as well as a vindication of Einstein's theory and a powerful new window on the universe.

On the whole I'd describe Bartusiak's writing as clear and well organized, but not inspiring. However, she did come up with one delightful metaphor.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is an amazing book for both its historical and scientific content. The prose is clear and engaging; the subject matter, i.e., the attempts at detecting of gravity waves, is fascinating. Although gravity waves have never been knowingly and officially detected as yet, projects to build expensive apparatus to detect them are actually getting funded. This is clearly tribute to the confidence that the scientific community has on Albert Einstein and the General Theory of Relativity. This is a great book that deserves to be read by all!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jarrod D. Knudson on April 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
The book takes you on a journey through the history of physics since Einstein published his theories of relativity. Sufficient background information is provided without the mathematical details that might handicap those of us in other fields. Ms. Bartusiak does a fine job of explaining the many intricacies of relativity and gravitational wave physics in a clear and concise manner (for the physics layperson).

A detailed account of the testing of Einstein's theories during his lifetime and over the decades since he left us is provided. Einstein's insight was phenomenal (at least as far as I am concerned, being a non-physicist/engineer). I'm still amazed by the leap that he was able to take, thus changing physics forever. Not since Newton has anyone changed the face of our perception of the physical world around us (the universe's many objects and the evolution of the concept of space-time).

The majority of the text is devoted to the decades of research and development over gravitational wave detection. The concerted effort in the field is actually quite phenomenal. Since gravitational waves have never officially been detected, one might surmise that the book can't be very exciting. On the contrary, the history of the development of the technology for modern day test detection systems is very fascinating. I learned a great deal about the basic premises of relativity physics without having to take three or four courses in calculus. I was actually quite thrilled to find a book so easy to follow.

I will be rejoycing for Einstein (and all of humankind) when the headlines read, "for the first time, ripples through space-time have been recorded across the globe". What a glorious day for science. I can't wait!!!
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