- Hardcover: 248 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books (January 1, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0738200689
- ISBN-13: 978-0738200682
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,131,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Runaway Universe : The Race to Discover the Future of the Cosmos (Helix Books) Hardcover – January 1, 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
It could be even bigger than we thought: not only is the universe expanding (as astronomers have long known) but its rate of expansion is increasing. Observations of supernovas in 1998, if accurate, show that the cosmos is spreading and dispersing. In a neat, up-to-date introduction to cosmology and astrophysics, prolific astronomy popularizer Goldsmith (The Astronomers; The Hunt for Life on Mars) explains how the universe might be "shaped" and why its sped-up growth is such a surprise. Einstein's theories introduced a number called the cosmological constant: if that number had a certain (below-zero) value, the universe would stay the same size. Recent models of the expanding universe set Einstein's constant at zero. Now it turns out the constant has a value above zero. On his way toward the new science of supernovae, Goldsmith covers Einstein and general relativity, telescope maestro Edwin Hubble and his rival Harlow Shapley, such 1980s quantum theorists as Alan Guth and the mysterious "dark matter" dispersed through intergalactic space. It turns out that "all the structure in the cosmos has grown from tiny fluctuations in the density of matter from place to place"; moreover, we live in a 10-billion-year window of cosmological history during which space is curved, but not too curved--earlier or later, life could never arise. Outlining these theories and discoveries, Goldsmith can sound like a stage magician: his new knowledge "will prove so amazing that your friends and family will doubt what you have to tell them." On the other hand, he's exceptionally good at explaining math in layperson's terms--a talent welcome in a complicated subject such as this. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
The universe has been expanding ever since the Big Bang, but gravity is slowing its expansion over time. So held conventional astronomical wisdom until 1998, when two teams of researchers presented data indicating that the expansion of the universe is actually accelerating under the influence of a mysterious antigravity force. How the scientists reached their astonishing conclusion, and how they might in turn be proved wrong, is the subject of this book. Goldsmith, an astronomer and science writer (Einstein's Greatest Blunder?), has received awards for popularizing astronomy. His text is well organized and at times witty. But this is one of his less accessible works; before settling down with it, readers would benefit from completing an undergraduate-level introductory astronomy course, and the math-shy will find it downright intimidating. Recommended for academic libraries.
-Nancy Curtis, Univ. of Maine Lib., Orono
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Before going into the main topic of the finding of the accelerating expansion, Goldsmith gives an introductory chapters on the discovery of galaxies, the expansion of the universe, the inflationary theory of the cosmos, and the existence of dark matter in the universe. These chapters might be somewhat tedious for those who already learned about them. When the story comes to the central theme, however, almost all readers would be fascinated by the author's clear explanation of painstaking research into cosmic riddles. Without using equations but effectively using some photographs and diagrams, Goldsmith succeeds in telling what has happened and is going to happen at the forefront of cosmology. The last chapter deals with pleasant prospects of astronomical observations in the nearest future, which will use new satellites and other powerful instruments to resolve many of the mysterious issues of cosmology including the fate of the universe.
In order to guide the reader through the theories, Goldsmith starts with the historical facts, starting with Einstein's view of the Universe, deciphering the results of the "type Ia Supernovae" research groups, and explaining the COBE satellite data and the gravitationnal lensing effect. Each concept is explained, each theory gradually introduced, and, as the reader understands more and more of it, Goldsmith even manages to expand the book with the alternative explanations that might be revealed with the futures set of instruments (MAP and Planck).
So, on the science side, Goldsmith did a great job, complete and objective, similar in quality to his other book "The Hunt for Life on Mars".
However, several paragraphs (and even one or two chapters), that deal more with the scientists involved, are too long, not very well written, breaking the rythm of the book. Also, he sometimes try to explain some formulas without even writing them once, which makes everything more confusing than necessary.
Anyway, this book is worth reading, and is probably the most complete introduction you can get on this topic. And now that MAP is flying, you can expect more results to be published in the next few years, and you will understand what it's all about.
How true are determinations indicating the fifth significant break through in modern cosmology?
This work is a pure scientific report revolving essentially around two equations containing only two unknown parameters.
First equation is a sum: Density (of all types of matter in the Universe) + Constant (called Einstein's cosmological constant).
Second equation is just a difference between these two.
Density and Constant provide us with the view of our Universe and its current behavior. I enjoyed this book. It describes all-important practical ways used by scientists and astronomers to look into depth of our sky. Then it shows how the valuable information is extracted from observations. Knowing sum and a difference of Density and Constant allow us to calculate value of each single parameter separately. Simple isn't it?
But how accurate are the observations and what obstacles have to be overcome?
Read about it and you will know about history of modern observational cosmology and mysteries of our cosmos.
Certain sections of this book are more difficult and require extra focusing power to get by (for example: dependence of peak luminosity on light curve- for supernova observation or: how the curvature of space determines the angular size on which we now see the largest "surfaces of last scattering"-for cosmic background radiation study).
Do not get discouraged however, just glide through these parts and author will eventually clarify most of it later, leaving you with the good idea what has been tried to accomplish.
I am, and I have always been impressed by careers of top world-class astronomers, their knowledge, ability to design observational methods and skills for processing obtained spectra. Goldsmith gives many stories of dedication and determination, stories about geniuses contributing to total understanding of what Universe was and what will become.
You will find very little in this book about extra dimensions, falling into black holes, traveling in time, strings, TOE and other mumbo-jumbo theories existing only on paper. What we learn here is only about what we perceive and deduce from it.
"The Runaway Universe" is a great update on astronomy and astrophysics, compact and easy to read. Do not miss it if you like to be in space from time to time.