Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe Hardcover – Illustrated, October 27, 2015
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“A cracking read, combining storytelling of the highest order with a trove of information on subjects as diverse as astrophysics, evolutionary biology, geology and particle physics. What’s remarkable is that it all fits together.” (Wall Street Journal)
“The universe, Randall eloquently argues, is an organic thing, a symphonic thing, with all its myriad parts contributing their own notes.” (Time Magazine)
“Randall succeeds in guiding the reader through the history of the cosmos and the Earth from the Big Bang to the emergence of life as we know it in a fun and captivating way. . . . [This is] a very enjoyable read for both lay readers and scientists.” (Science Magazine)
“The nature of the impactor remains unknown, but if it was indeed a comet dislodged from the Oort Cloud, then Randall’s book provides an entertaining and radical explanation of the events leading up to their ultimate extinction.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)
“Through Randall’s brilliant research we see a universe unfold that is far grander than anyone at any time could have imagined… She is a progressive thinker, a visionary capable of bridging the vast gulf between speculation and reality science.” (San Francisco Book Review)
“Randall, a Harvard professor, is one of the world’s leading experts on particle physics and cosmology. In Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, she takes readers on an illuminating scientific adventure, beginning 66 million years ago, that connects dinosaurs, comets, DNA, and the future of the planet.” (Huffington Post)
“Brilliant and thought provoking…The greatest strength of Randall’s book is that it lacks any overly academic jargon and is reasonably easy to understand. Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs illustrates beautifully that there is so much left to be discovered about ourselves and the universe that we call home.” (BUST)
“The nature of the impactor remains unknown, but if it was indeed a comet dislodged from the Oort Cloud, then Randall’s book provides an entertaining and radical explanation of the events leading up to their ultimate extinction.” (Physics World)
“The nature of the impactor remains unknown, but if it was indeed a comet dislodged from the Oort Cloud, then Randall’s book provides an entertaining and radical explanation of the events leading up to their ultimate extinction.” (WHYY Radio Times)
From the Back Cover
Bestselling author of Warped Passages and Knocking on Heaven's Door and one of today's most influential and highly cited theo-retical physicists, Professor Lisa Randall once again effortlessly delivers fascinating science to the general reader. Weaving together the cosmos' his-tory and our own in an expanding intellectual adventure story, Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs takes us from the mysteries of dark matter and our cosmic environment to the conditions for life on Earth.
Sixty-six million years ago, an object the size of a city descended from space to crash into Earth, creating a cata-clysm that killed off the dinosaurs, along with three-quarters of the other species on the planet. What was its origin? Randall proposes it was a comet that was dislodged from its orbit as the Solar System passed through a disk of dark matter that is embedded in the plane of the Milky Way. Her research challenges the usual assumptions about the simple nature of dark matter and demonstrates how scientists formulate and establish new ideas. In a sense, it might have been dark matter that killed the dinosaurs.
With her unique and wide-ranging perspective, Randall connects dark matter to the history of the world in the broadest terms. Bringing in pop culture and social and political viewpoints, she shares with us the latest findings—established and speculative—regarding dark matter, the cosmos, the galaxy, asteroids, comets, and impacts, as well as life's development and extinctions. Randall makes clear how connected the planet is to the makeup of the Universe, but also how fragile our place in the Universe, which evolved over billions of years, might be.
In this brilliant and fresh exploration of our cosmic environment, Professor Randall explains the underlying science of our world in the breathtaking tale of a Universe in which the small and the large, the visible and the hidden are intimately related. Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs illuminates the deep relationships that are critical to our world as well as the astonishing beauty of the structures and connections that surround us. It's impossible to read this book and look at either Earth or sky again in the same way.
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In the first part, we are introduced to this thing called dark energy – something that remains constant over time as the universe expands. That's why this type of energy can be called a cosmological constant. We can determine the existence of this stuff via gravitational lensing, the characteristics of the Bullet Cluster, supernovae measurements, and the study of the microwave background radiation.- all explained by Randall. This is important stuff, because dark matter makes up 69 percent of the energy in the universe. We are also given here a history lesson on the universe starting with the Big Bang, for which the author provides us with ample evidence of the event's occurrence. Later, we see the development of stars and galaxies, and how the competition of radiation and matter brought this about. Dark matter also played an important role here.
In the second section, we get an introduction to meteors, asteroids, comets, and the planets. Associated with these objects are the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud. There is an excellent primer on how to determine the edge of the Solar System, and an introduction to near-Earth objects. The discussion continues into the five major extinctions that have occurred starting with the Ordovician-Silurian period about 440 million years ago. There were others before this, but these had a major impact on life on Earth. It is the last one, called the K-Pg extinction, that is responsible for the final blow to the dinosaurs, and the author elaborates on this in her book. Actually, it all began with Walter and Luis Alvarez back in 1980 when they discovered a layer of iridium dating back to about 65 million years ago. Over the years, other evidence solidified the findings, such as the discovery of other rare metals, rock droplets called microkrystites, tektites, and other evidence. Eventually the crater at Chicxulub was found clinching the case.
By part three, we are now deciphering the mystery of dark matter. There are a number of possible paradigms for what dark matter is composed of. One prominent candidate are WIMPS. Some others are axions, neutrinos, machos, and asymmetrical dark matter models. Finding the right candidate is the difficult part since “today’s searches rely on a leap of faith that dark matter, despite its near invisibility, has interactions that are sufficiently substantial for detectors built from ordinary matter to register.” We have direct detection method, such as cryogenic detectors, and those that employ noble liquids. Then there are the indirect detections methods that involve looking for the signal that would arise if dark matter particles annihilate with dark matter antiparticles transforming the energy produced into something visible. The author discusses some discrepancies uncovered in the search for dark matter, such as the core-cusp problem, the missing satellite problem, and the too big to fail problem. Further chapters discuss an interesting hypothesis of the author called “double-disk dark matter,” (DDDM) and also something called “partially interacting dark matter,” where you have a small component of the dark matter that interacts through nongravitational forces.
So how is all this related to the dinosaurs? Well, according to the DDDM theory, our galaxy would contain two types of disks, the dark matter disk and the visible matter disk. As the Solar System oscillated through the dark matter disk as we moved through the galaxy, gravitational forces could have slung “comets out of the Oort cloud so that they periodically catapulted into Earth, possible even precipitating a mass extinction.” The Oort cloud is a cloud of icy bodies found beyond Pluto. Who would have known?
“Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs” combines stars, galaxies, comets, meteors, particle interactions, and of course dinosaurs. What could be better? The book is well written and totally fascinating. We know of the existence of dark matter by its effects on ordinary matter, in particular, through the rotational speed of galaxies, and also by its role in the gravitational lensing of light. Dark matter permeates the universe. There is five times as much dark matter as there is ordinary matter. We also think that the dinosaurs died 66 million years ago when a large meteoroid, e.g., comet or asteroid, crashed into the Earth.
Is there a connection between dark matter and the extinction of the dinosaurs? Did a dark matter disk lying in the plane of our galaxy nudge the meteoroid into a collision course with the Earth? As an atomic/nuclear physicist I am captivated by the idea that dark matter may form atom-like objects. Once you have self-interacting dark matter, everything else follows: the galactic disk, period passage of the solar system through the disk, the meteoroid nudge, and the tragic end of the dinosaurs. However, I think that we will have to learn more about dark matter. Satellite observations of the motion of stars may tell us about the disk of dark matter. More about the nature of dark matter may be revealed at the LHC or at the bottom of a gold mine in South Dakota, a land once ruled by dinosaurs.
Three stars because there are several editing issues that are distracting for this reader. The most egregious error I've found is this sentence on page 216 (hardcover edition): "The ejecta fell exactly on the paleontological boundary, confirming that the impact occurred at the " That's the entire sentence! Where is the end of it? And isn't this kind of an important thought to finish, in a chapter discussing a life-ending impact event? Hopefully the publisher will require a second round of proofreading before the paperback is released.
Top international reviews
Raising these questions leads to a discussion of the formation of the Universe itself, our galaxy and solar system, and the intriguing role of Dark Matter. Her theory is that the Dark Matter may have helped nudged an asteroid out of its usual orbit, putting it on a direct path to Earth.
She is clearly a very knowledgeable scientist and passionate about her field of study and to her credit, she doesn't oversell her theory. Her passion and enthusiasm comes through in her writing. She also does her best to breakdown very complex concepts of physics and cosmology for the ordinary layperson. Nevertheless, Dark Matter, for me at least, was a very elusive and difficult concept to grasp. There were many times I felt like the character of Penny in the episode of the Big Bang Theory where Penny asks Sheldon to explain to her "what does Leonard do?". I think in the end, as much as I applaud her for trying to grapple with these big questions of "why" and "what", I felt overwhelmed.
Und von Dunkler Materie natürlich auch nichts, diesem so ebenso elusiven wie ambivalenten Stoff, der einerseits die Welt im Innersten zusammenhält, andererseits dazu beizutragen scheint, dass das Leben auf der Erde in regelmäßigen, wenn auch langen Abständen brutal zurechtgestutzt wird, und bei dem es auch unter Wissenschaftlern immer noch ein paar Zweifler gibt, ob er überhaupt existiert. Lisa Randall, weltweit anerkannte elementarteilchenphysikalische Frontfrau und 2007 einer der 100 einflussreichsten Timesmenschen, ist fest davon überzeugt, dass sich ohne die Schwerkraft einer gigantischen Scheibe Dunkler Materie (nicht zu verwechseln mit Schwarzen Löchern!) Aufbau und Dynamik der Milchstraße nicht erklären ließe, und das periodisch wiederkehrende Aufschlagen zerstörerischer Kometen auf der Erde auch nicht (das aber manchmal auch sein Gutes hatte, jedenfalls aus anthropozentrischer Sicht, denn solange Dinosaurier die Nahrungskette anführten, war an die Entwicklung größerer Säugetiere nicht zu denken).
Es begeistert mich immer wieder, wie es englischsprachigen Wissenschaftlern gelingt, ihre Leser behutsam an komplexeste Sachverhalte heranzuführen und Unerklärbares so zu erklären, sodass sie schließlich auch von etwas so Rätselhaftem wie der unsichtbaren und unberührbaren Dunklen Materie eine gewisse Vorstellung entwickeln. Lisa Randall zeichnet dabei ein höchst anschauliches Bild, wie Wissenschaftler denken und arbeiten und wie dramatisch sich unser Verständnis für den Aufbau des Universums in den letzten Jahrzehnten weiterentwickelt hat, durch enge Zusammenarbeit zwischen Astrophysikern, Teilchenphysikern und Geologen. Ein spannendes, lehrreiches und mitreißend geschriebenes Buch, auch und gerade für Leser von außerhalb der drei genannten Fakultäten.
It is good for the people that have no prior knowledge about the Universe and how things work. Introduction is nice and smooth. It is good to read before going to sleep, since it is quite relaxing and soft way that is written. The topic is build gradually and leaves enough time for the matter to sink in and to digest it.
Highly recommend this book. Really fun to read.
Given the very different areas of interest of this book it can become boring for non-passionates, in some of the chapters. That's why I left one star off the vote.
No se pierdan este libro: dinosaurios y materia oscura, ¡¿qué más se puede pedir?! ¡Cómprenlo ya!