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Three Steps to the Universe: From the Sun to Black Holes to the Mystery of Dark Matter Hardcover – November 1, 2008

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean Carroll
"The Big Picture" by Sean Carroll
The Big Picture is an unprecedented scientific worldview, a tour de force that will sit on shelves alongside the works of Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Daniel Dennett, and E. O. Wilson for years to come. Learn more | See related books
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Meshing their complementary skill sets, physicist David (of Oakland University) and his brother, science fiction writer Richard (Celestial Matter, All of an Instant), explore some of the knottiest problems facing modern cosmologists in this tough but informative primer to modern cosmology. Aside from revealing the science behind the sun, black holes and dark matter, the Garfinkles' demonstrate how science develops, encouraging readers always to ask, "'How do they know that?' as a way of understanding science." The "three steps" of the title begin in the 19th century, when scientists realized that the Earth was, at minimum, millions of years old; they then asked, "How old is the Sun?"-the first sally in a campaign that would unravel the mystery of nuclear energy, reveal how a star becomes a "white dwarf, a neutron star, or a black hole," and spark a fierce, ongoing decades-long debate about the possibility of "black hole evaporation." Arguing that "it is necessary to jump the barrier of user-friendliness and discover the fascinating world beyond that layer of comfort," the Garfinkles aren't afraid to get technical, but this smart, rewarding read is helped by a welcome voice, a feel for narrative and a useful glossary.
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Review

"[The authors] construct a fluid, crystalline presentation of how scientists think. The foundation of their depiction is what is manifestly perceived, such as the presence of that bright orb in the sky. To discover anything about the sun, scientists depend on detection of its emissions, such as light and neutrinos, while ideas of how these emissions arise emanate from the realms of various physical theories. With this three-tiered structure of perception, detection, and theory, the Garfinkles systematically instill how confident lay readers can be in what they read in the popular-science format."
(Booklist)

"Meshing their complementary skill sets, physicist David (of Oakland University) and his brother, science fiction writer Richard (Celestial Matter, All of an Instant), explore some of the knottiest problems facing modern cosmologists in this tough but informative primer to modern cosmology. Aside from revealing the science behind the sun, black holes and dark matter, the Garfinkles' demonstrate how science develops, encouraging readers always to ask, “‘How do they know that?’ as a way of understanding science.” The “three steps” of the title begin in the 19th century, when scientists realized that the Earth was, at minimum, millions of years old; they then asked, “How old is the Sun?”—the first sally in a campaign that would unravel the mystery of nuclear energy, reveal how a star becomes a “white dwarf, a neutron star, or a black hole,” and spark a fierce, ongoing decades-long debate about the possibility of “black hole evaporation.” Arguing that “it is necessary to jump the barrier of user-friendliness and discover the fascinating world beyond that layer of comfort,” the Garfinkles aren't afraid to get technical, but this smart, rewarding read is helped by a welcome voice, a feel for narrative and a useful glossary."
(Publishers Weekly 2008-11-24)

"This book is not only an excellent introduction to the sun, black holes, and dark matter, but also a very good book about
the scientific process. . . .This work offers a great introduction to astronomy and to science. This reviewer envisions using it in either an introductory astronomy course or a general science course. . . .  Essential."
(Choice 2009-05-01)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (November 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226283461
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226283463
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,520,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover
This book takes a novel approach to explaining cosmology to the public. Most attempts give the gee whiz approach and state the findings as if they were set in stone. After all how could the reader understand even in a general sense how cosmological science has come to its findings? The authors have successfully answered this question. They explain how science of cosmology has worked and how we have built up our understanding of the universe by use of critical measurement and logic. I found myself taken through the facts and reasoning in a readable fashion. The discussions of star formation and the forces at work in the eventual collapse to neutron stars and black holes were very illuminating. In one sense this book is a primer on how science is done. What is known is described but the cosmological front lines between the known and unknown are also made clear in descriptions of dark energy and dark matter.
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Format: Hardcover
The Garfinkle brothers have done a real service for popular science writing. Unlike so many other popular
books, they give the reader a taste of how science is ACTUALLY done. Their explanations are both honest and accurate - not at all an easy task for this type of book. Their central emphasis is on the question: "How do they know this?" The Garfinkles divide the universe into three types: the "perceived", the "detected", and the "theoretical", and discuss how the three are necessarily intertwined. They start with the Sun, then discuss black holes, and finally dark matter and dark energy. There is an enormous amount of information presented along the way in this slim volume, e.g. a detailed discussion of the life and properties of stars and the origins of life. Step-by-step the Garfinkle brothers take the reader through what we know with confidence (and how we know it), what we think we know (and what reasons we have to believe it), and what is still up for grabs (and what some of the possibilities are). Their book is for the reader who really wants to UNDERSTAND, not just be "gee-whizzed" and told, "that's how it is." I particularly like the last chapter, which rightly criticizes the way science is usually marketed to the general public.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book offers an interesting review of the Sun, black holes, theory of dark matter and dark energy. In addition, there are brief account of Chemistry (that makes life possible), science of life and medicine. It is vividly written and full of lucid explanations with examples from everyday lives.

The most exciting stuff are the mysterious dark matter and dark energy. Direct searches for them are ongoing. However, the usual suspects of dark matter (gas clouds, low-mass stars, white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes) have all been ruled out. The search is now directed to a hypothesized WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particle). On the other hand, investigation of dark energy began with vacuum energy alone.
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