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The Hunt for Vulcan: . . . And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe Hardcover – November 3, 2015

4.6 out of 5 stars 163 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Delightful . . . a charming tale about an all-but-forgotten episode in science history.”The Wall Street Journal
 
“Engaging . . . At heart, this is a story about how science advances, one insight at a time. But the immediacy, almost romance, of [Thomas] Levenson’s writing makes it almost novelistic.”
The Washington Post
 
“Captures the drama of the tireless search for this celestial object.”Science
 
“Levenson’s narrative is a well-structured, fast-paced example of exemplary science writing. A scintillating popular account of the interplay between mathematical physics and astronomical observations.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Hunt for Vulcan is a short, beautifully produced book that tells a cautionary tale. . . . Levenson is a breezy writer who renders complex ideas in down-to-earth language . . . and colorfully illustrates the limits of scientific theory as it faces new data and even more persuasive theories.”The Boston Globe
 
“Thomas Levenson wonderfully tells the story of Vulcan. . . . Looping through science history from Isaac Newton onwards, Levenson elegantly reveals the evolutionary nature of scientific thought, and the marvel of the revolution that Einstein wrought.”
Nature
 
“An essential read . . . a compelling story that successfully portrays how science deals with ambiguity . . .
The Hunt for Vulcan succeeds spectacularly at displaying the intricate, confusing, and sometimes quirky way science progresses.”Ars Technica

“This delightful and enlightening drama tells the story of the hunt for a planet that did not exist and how Einstein resolved the mystery with the most beautiful theory in the history of science.
The Hunt for Vulcan is an inspiring tale about the quest for discovery and the challenges and joys of understanding our universe.”—Walter Isaacson
 
The Hunt for Vulcan is equal to the best science writing I’ve read anywhere, by any author. Beautifully composed, rich in historical context, deeply researched, it is, above all, great storytelling. Levenson gives a true picture of the scientific enterprise, with all its good and bad guesses, wishful thinking, passion, human ego, and desire to know and understand this strange and magnificent cosmos we find ourselves in.”—Alan Lightman, author of The Accidental Universe
 
“The forgotten story of Vulcan could no longer remain untold. Tom Levenson tells us where it came from, how it vanished, and why its spirit lurks today. Along the way, we learn more than a bit of just how science works—when it succeeds as well as when it fails.”
—Neil deGrasse Tyson
 
“Thomas Levenson’s brilliance as a writer is in setting the evolution of scientific ideas into their appropriate historical contexts, allowing us to see their wider implications. In this engaging, informative book, laced with lovely anecdotes, Levenson elegantly teaches us about both the laws of physics and the less law-abiding ways in which physics advances occur.”
—Lisa Randall, professor of physics, Harvard University, and author of Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs
 
The Hunt for Vulcan is science writing at its best. As Levenson unravels the history, the drama, and, yes, the physics behind the now-forgotten Vulcan, he also shows how science actually advances in our world and, in the process, reveals how none of our endeavors—even our most empirical—are immune to our penchant for self-deception. This book is not just learned, passionate, and witty—it is profoundly wise.”—Junot Díaz
 
“Thomas Levenson tells the tale of Newton, Einstein, and the missing planet Vulcan with verve, showing how observations and calculations clashed in a battle that decided the fate of the universe.”
—Sean Carroll, author of The Particle at the End of the Universe
 
“Scorched and blackened by the fires of the Sun, Vulcan is the innermost planet that never was. Thomas Levenson illuminates the untold story of a world concocted to explain a planetary anomaly whose existence heralded a shocking new picture of space and time. Packed with colorful anecdotes, this is a vivid, well-paced, thoroughly enjoyable tale of human delusion and ultimate scientific triumph.”
—Marcus Chown, author of Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You

“Levenson deftly draws readers into a quest that shows how scientists think and argue, as well as how science advances: one discovery at a time.”
Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Thomas Levenson is a professor at MIT and head of its science writing program. He is the author of several books, including Einstein in Berlin and Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist. He has also made ten feature-length documentaries (including a two-hour Nova program on Einstein) for which he has won numerous awards.
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Random House; First Edition (November 3, 2015)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 256 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0812998987
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0812998986
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 10.4 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5 x 0.9 x 7.6 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 163 ratings

About the author

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My day job has me professing science writing at MIT, where I teach in the Institute's Graduate Program in Science Writing.

I continue to do what I did before I joined the professoriat: write books (and the occasional article), and make documentary films about science, its history, and its interaction with the broader culture in which scientific lives and discoveries unfold.

I've written six books. "Money for Nothing" explores the connection between the revolutionary advances in science of th 17th century with the birth of financial capitalism by retelling the story of the first great stock market boom, fraud and crash: the South Sea Bubble of 1720. "The Hunt For Vulcan" tells the story of the planet that wasn't there -- and yet was discovered over and over again. It is both a tale of scientific undiscovery and breakthrough, and an investigation into how advances in science really occur (as opposed to what they tell us in high school). My previous books include "Newton and the Counterfeiter" -- which is a great story from a little-known corner of Isaac Newton's life -- and "Einstein in Berlin," which is, I have reason to hope, on the verge of reissue.

Besides writing, film making and generally being dour about the daily news, I lead an almost entirely conventional life in one of Boston's inner suburbs with a family that gives me great joy.

Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
163 global ratings

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Dr Michael Bennett
5.0 out of 5 stars A valuable study of the nature of scientific enquiry
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on October 18, 2022
Christopher Mathews
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly enjoyable, true story
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Andrew Robotham
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly fascinating book
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ken
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Story
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prudence davison
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Albert Einstein, brilliant mind
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