- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux (August 7, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374114129
- ISBN-13: 978-0374114121
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 26.3 x 233.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 56 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #579,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gravity's Engines: How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos
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“Scharf makes vivid the mind-boggling nature of the universe . . . [there are] bright beams of knowledge coming from this excellent book.” ―Wall Street Journal
“To call this an absorbing read is an understatement. I felt dreamily transplanted . . . When I did emerge from the book to look up at the summer stars, the night seemed more brightly lit, slightly more known but also more awesome, more wonderfully strange.” ―The Barnes & Noble Review
“With Gravity's Engines, Caleb Scharf establishes himself as one of the finest space storytellers.” ―The Christian Science Monitor
“Using rich language and a brilliant command of metaphor, [Scharf] takes on some of the most intricate topics in theoretical and observational astronomical research. He weaves a wonderfully detailed tapestry of what modern astronomy is all about, from the complexities of cosmic microwave background studies to the X-ray mapping of galaxy clusters.” ―Nature
“[H]eady stuff, but luckily for readers . . . who lack a deep understanding of cosmology, Scharf populates his book with images and colorful metaphors.” ―The Chronicle of Higher Education
“[A]n excellent overview of the state of black hole research . . . to explain why black holes are so important, Scharf provides a tour of much of modern astronomy and cosmology along with some requisite history, an impressive feat for such a relatively short book.” ―Ars Technica
“The subtitle of this most readable book about supermassive black holes exemplifies Scharf's playful tone...Highly recommended. Teen and adult fans of astronomy, as well as scientists looking for ways to explain black holes to nonscientists, will all enjoy this text.” ―Library Journal (starred review)
“Scharf's explanations are vivid and accessible, evoking the awe of cosmic grandeur in a way that's as humbling as it is fascinating.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Scharf is a writer you'll gladly follow to the end of the universe.” ―Zocalo Public Square
“[S]tunning. I can't remember when I last read a popular science book where I learned as much I hadn't come across before.” ―Popular Science Book Review (five stars)
“In Gravity's Engines, Caleb Scharf deftly tells you all you wanted to know about Black Holes, as well as all you never knew you wanted to know. By the end of the book your conclusion will surely match mine: Black holes are terrifying yet awesome constituents of the cosmos.” ―Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, author of Space Chronicles and Death by Black Hole
“Superbly accessible . . . Scharf's breathtaking cosmic vision will appeal to anyone whose curiosity is aroused by gazing at a star-filled sky.” ―Booklist
“An intelligent explanation of a weird but essential feature of the universe . . . rich, satisfying.” ―Kirkus
“Scharf provides a virtuosic history of the universe . . . he also serves as an appealing tour guide to the eerie, infinite corridors of the cosmos in which we reside.” ―Prospect (UK
About the Author
Caleb Scharf is the director of the Columbia Astrobiology Center. He writes the Life, Unbounded blog for Scientific American; has written for New Scientist, Science, and Nature, among other publications; and has served as a consultant for the Discovery Channel, the Science Channel, The New York Times, and more. Scharf has served as a keynote speaker for the American Museum of Natural History and the Rubin Museum of Art, and is the author of Extrasolar Planets and Astrobiology, winner of the 2011 Chambliss Astronomical Writing Award from the American Astronomical Society. He lives in New York City with his wife and two daughters.
Top customer reviews
1) The topic is an immense one and a very difficult one which deals with several very counter-intuitive areas of astrophysics and cosmology. Seldom can a thorough explanation be done in a single volume or even two. But the general reader will find that after reading this volume they have acquired a good understanding of some very complex and intricate phenomena. The writing is lucid and structured in a way that concepts fall into an ordered pattern and make sense on an intuitive level (if these topics can ever be intuitive.)
2) Popular science writing in general, and popular astrophysics-cosmology in particular usually comes with a severe disservice to the general reader that this author has done very well in avoiding. All to often the expert writing for the general reader, in order to convey difficult subjects in a manner that can be understood by an outsider, will make the topic seem so simple that the general reader comes away thinking "this is really simple and easy stuff,,, I could be the next Einstein". Often authors in this genre of books don't present the topic in an accessible way, while also relating just how their presentation fits into the real difficulties that are involved with studying the phenomena at a fundamental level. The reader either feels bogged down and overwhelmed with the minutiae, or leaves with the wrong impression that they now "understand all there is know".
Astrophysics and cosmology are huge subjects. Most people in the profession spend the major part of their careers studying a single phenomenon, or a related group of phenomena. Out of hundreds of choices of phenomena to study. For a basic introduction for the general reader into the nature of one phenomenon, black holes, this book will answer most of your questions, and leave you with a good feeling of understanding a difficult topic, AND an appreciation of just how challenging professional studies of this small part of a huge general field can be.
If you buy this book, you'll certainly get your money's worth and more.
He keeps his narrative on the level of known mechanical processes regarding black holes instead of delving into the theoretical constructs that Hawking, Maldacena and Suskind focus on in their work. If you like the theoretical/cosmological insights of those physicists, you might read further into The Black Hole Wars, or The Elegant Universe.
Yet, the best aspect of the book is that the author is a good writer. He makes excellent use of analogies to help the lay reader understand his points. His writing is entertaining.
I have read many popular science novels on astronomy, astrophysics, regular physics and cosmology. Thus, I found the book easy to understand and parts of it cover material I was already familiar with, albeit in an entertaining fashion.
I raise that background just to point out that I could see how someone who has not done any reading in this area might want more background for some of the subjects the author introduces.
Most recent customer reviews
It's called "Everything About Black Holes" and it explains everything with science. It's on Amazon.