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The Runaway Universe: The Race to Find the Future of the Cosmos Paperback – December 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It could be even bigger than we thought: not only is the universe expanding (as astronomers have long known) but its rate of expansion is increasing. Observations of supernovas in 1998, if accurate, show that the cosmos is spreading and dispersing. In a neat, up-to-date introduction to cosmology and astrophysics, prolific astronomy popularizer Goldsmith (The Astronomers; The Hunt for Life on Mars) explains how the universe might be "shaped" and why its sped-up growth is such a surprise. Einstein's theories introduced a number called the cosmological constant: if that number had a certain (below-zero) value, the universe would stay the same size. Recent models of the expanding universe set Einstein's constant at zero. Now it turns out the constant has a value above zero. On his way toward the new science of supernovae, Goldsmith covers Einstein and general relativity, telescope maestro Edwin Hubble and his rival Harlow Shapley, such 1980s quantum theorists as Alan Guth and the mysterious "dark matter" dispersed through intergalactic space. It turns out that "all the structure in the cosmos has grown from tiny fluctuations in the density of matter from place to place"; moreover, we live in a 10-billion-year window of cosmological history during which space is curved, but not too curved--earlier or later, life could never arise. Outlining these theories and discoveries, Goldsmith can sound like a stage magician: his new knowledge "will prove so amazing that your friends and family will doubt what you have to tell them." On the other hand, he's exceptionally good at explaining math in layperson's terms--a talent welcome in a complicated subject such as this. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The universe has been expanding ever since the Big Bang, but gravity is slowing its expansion over time. So held conventional astronomical wisdom until 1998, when two teams of researchers presented data indicating that the expansion of the universe is actually accelerating under the influence of a mysterious antigravity force. How the scientists reached their astonishing conclusion, and how they might in turn be proved wrong, is the subject of this book. Goldsmith, an astronomer and science writer (Einstein's Greatest Blunder?), has received awards for popularizing astronomy. His text is well organized and at times witty. But this is one of his less accessible works; before settling down with it, readers would benefit from completing an undergraduate-level introductory astronomy course, and the math-shy will find it downright intimidating. Recommended for academic libraries.
-Nancy Curtis, Univ. of Maine Lib., Orono
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (December 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738204293
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738204291
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,936,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Frank Paris on April 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"The Runaway Universe" is the latest news on the cosmological constant, reincarnated (after Einstein called it his worst blunder) because of evidence recently discovered that the rate the universe is expanding is actually increasing. This is a fascinating book that doesn't back away from informing us about just how tentative these latest findings are. The book also is good at describing the almost frightening consequences of these findings, if they are true: the universe will basically evaporate away much faster than we'd ever dreamed of before (but it will still take billions of years, so don't worry about it at the personal level). This is one of many popular books that appear each year on cosmology. Generally I judge them by how many times I feel satisfied that I am understanding for the first time something I've run across many times before in my readings but it never sunk in. The chapter on the various types of supernova struck me this way: absolutely outstanding and clear, and worth the price of the book alone, in my opinion.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Phyllis Yellin on January 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Looking at Supernovas which exploded so long ago is a way of looking back into time, analagous to archaelogy. Challenging as it is to grasp these theories and the data which supports them, the effort is rewarded. Thanks to the Hubble telescope, we are the recipients of data which previous astronomers could only dream of...if they could even dream of it. Chapter nine, The race to find the future of the universe', is particularly fascinating. The author Donald Goldsmith has included personal accounts of the astrophysicists who have interpreted the data and made these astonishing discoveries, adding a human element to these cosmic concepts. We are looking back in time in order to learn more about our origins as as well as to predict our future.
Other books I recommend in this area of interest are:
Galileo's Daughter God and the Big Bang
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Regnal the Caretaker on December 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
Supernova stars observations in the end of 1990s suggest a nonzero Constant capable of accelerating universal expansion and validate inflationary model.
How true are determinations indicating the fifth significant break through in modern cosmology?
This work is a pure scientific report revolving essentially around two equations containing only two unknown parameters.
First equation is a sum: Density (of all types of matter in the Universe) + Constant (called Einstein's cosmological constant).
Second equation is just a difference between these two.
Density and Constant provide us with the view of our Universe and its current behavior. I enjoyed this book. It describes all-important practical ways used by scientists and astronomers to look into depth of our sky. Then it shows how the valuable information is extracted from observations. Knowing sum and a difference of Density and Constant allow us to calculate value of each single parameter separately. Simple isn't it?
But how accurate are the observations and what obstacles have to be overcome?
Read about it and you will know about history of modern observational cosmology and mysteries of our cosmos.
Certain sections of this book are more difficult and require extra focusing power to get by (for example: dependence of peak luminosity on light curve- for supernova observation or: how the curvature of space determines the angular size on which we now see the largest "surfaces of last scattering"-for cosmic background radiation study).
Do not get discouraged however, just glide through these parts and author will eventually clarify most of it later, leaving you with the good idea what has been tried to accomplish.
Read more ›
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The universe isn't just expanding - it's doing so at an accelerated pace. This details the scientific probe of the universe's origins and expansion process, the struggles to date events, and the various theories surrounding the future of the cosmos. Lay readers who enjoy physics and astronomy titles will relish this lively account.
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