- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press (April 26, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300204418
- ISBN-13: 978-0300204414
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 40 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #424,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos Hardcover – April 26, 2016
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And with that being said, we begin our journey about 2000 to 1600 BCE with one of the first recorded images of the heavens discovered in eastern Germany – the Nebra Sky Disk. Another notable discovery was the Venus Tablet of the seventh century BCE Babylon. As we move beyond the sixth century BCE, we are introduced to the great Greek minds of the time and their contributions to science – think Eratosthenes and Ptolemy among many other great minds. By the sixteenth century CE we learn of the Copernican heliocentric system. There are so many contributors through the ages. Some others are Tycho Brahe, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, and Newton. In recent times, we have the work of Einstein who revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos. Hubble showed us that galaxies were moving away from us with velocity increasing with distance. It appeared we lived in an expanding universe.
Our attention now turns to black holes and their accompanying event horizon, but let's not forget the neutron stars, pulsars, and quasars. All of this discovery is "emblematic of how instruments have helped make theory real." Perplexing discoveries led to the eventual acceptance of something called dark matter. The whole story of this thing called dark matter is detailed quite nicely by the author.
Another interesting story is the discovery that the universe is not just expanding, it is accelerating in its expansion. In this story we learn of the cosmological constant and something called dark energy. This energy makes up about 70 percent of the total mass-energy sum of the universe. How little we know about this strange universe we live in. Next, we learn about the history of the discovery of the cosmic background radiation – the primordial remnant of the big bang era (380,000 years after the bang). The energy of this radiation is estimated to exceed "that from all the starlight in all the galaxies combined and accounts for 99 percent of the total radiation in the universe."
In the next to last chapter, I learned an interesting thing. It seems that to fully specify all the relevant properties of our universe, we need to know just six numbers. These numbers have been empirically determined, and even the slightest deviation would result in our nonexistence. For example, one is D, the number of spatial dimensions in our universe. Together these are called the cosmological parameters.
Discoveries today are generally not made by lone individuals according to the author. Today's challenges "require massive teams of hundreds of bright scientists contributing specialized training to nearly corporate endeavors." We now require large, expensive equipment and significant resources in order to make discoveries – large telescopes, supercomputers, etc. I can't wait to see what new discoveries lay ahead.
Of the seven chapters, I enjoyed the first four and struggled to complete the last two. In the last chapter, the author just went in all directions. Another complaint I have is the writing style - long sentences and too many complicated words.
The best part to me was chapter four on dark matter. It answered some fundamental questions that I had (Why do we call them 'matter'). I would have liked the entire book from then on to focus on just dark matter.