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The Edge of Physics: A Journey to Earth's Extremes to Unlock the Secrets of the Universeby Anil Ananthaswamy
Synopses & Reviews
In this deeply original book, science writer Anil Ananthaswamy sets out in search of the telescopes and detectors that promise to answer the biggest questions in modern cosmology. Why is the universe expanding at an ever faster rate? What is the nature of the "dark matter" that makes up almost a quarter of the universe? Why does the universe appear fine-tuned for life? Are there others besides our own?
Ananthaswamy soon finds himself at the ends of the earth—in remote and sometimes dangerous places. Take the Atacama Desert in the Chilean Andes, one of the coldest, driest places on the planet, where not even a blade of grass can survive. Its spectacularly clear skies and dry atmosphere allow astronomers to gather brilliant images of galaxies billions of light-years away. Ananthaswamy takes us inside the European Southern Observatorys Very Large Telescope on Mount Paranal, where four massive domes open to the sky each night "like dragons waking up."
He also takes us deep inside an abandoned iron mine in Minnesota, where half-mile-thick rock shields physicists as they hunt for elusive dark matter particles. And to the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, where engineers are drilling 1.5 miles into the clearest ice on the planet. Theyre building the worlds largest neutrino detector, which could finally help reconcile quantum physics with Einsteins theory of general relativity.
The stories of the people who work at these and other dramatic research sites—from Lake Baikal in Siberia to the Indian Astronomical Observatory in the Himalayas to the subterranean lair of the Large Hadron Collider—make for a compelling new portrait of the universe and our quest to understand it. An atmospheric, engaging, and illuminating read, The Edge of Physics depicts science as a human process, bringing cosmology back down to earth in the most vivid terms.
"Despite 20th-century physics' revelations, from relativity and quantum mechanics to the physics of the atom's nucleus and the life cycles of stars, 'ninety-odd percent of the universe is a complete mystery,' says a scientist quoted by Ananthaswamy, a consulting editor for New Scientist. Dark matter, dark energy, quantum gravity: these are the topics that keep physicists awake at night, requiring bigger, more massive, more extreme experiments to test theories and uncover clues. The author takes readers behind the scenes of these experiments in some of the most inhospitable places in the world, leading the tour with wit and an eye for compelling detail. First is a 'pilgrimage' to Mount Wilson Observatory, where astronomers first measured the expansion of the universe. Next we go 2,341 feet underground in a defunct Minnesota iron mine to search for particles that could reveal dark matter. Sensitive telescopes embedded in the thick ice of Siberia's Lake Baikal and Antarctica search for neutrinos. These experiments and others are heroic in every sense, and Ananthaswamy captures their excitement — and the personalities of the scientists behind them — with enthusiasm and insight. Illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
An atmospheric, engaging and illuminating read, "The Edge of Physics" depicts science as a human process and, in a very real sense, brings cosmology--with all its rarefied concepts--back down to earth.
The story of modern cosmology told through a tour of the most extraordinary detectors and telescopes in the world.
Physics is in crisis. For more than two centuries, our understanding of the laws of nature expanded rapidly. But in the last few decades, we've made astonishingly little progress. What will finally break the impasse and get physics back on track? In this timely and original book, science writer Anil Ananthaswamy sets out in search of the world's most audacious physics experiments: the telescopes and detectors that promise to shed new light on things like dark matter, dark energy, and the phenomenon of quantum gravity (which string theory tries to explain). He soon finds himself at the ends of the earth--in cold and remote and sometimes dangerous places. As it turns out, extreme physics requires extreme environments.
Reporting back from some of the most inhospitable and dramatic research sites on our planet--from the Atacama Desert in Chile, to the Indian Observatory in the Himalayas, to the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica to deep within an abandoned iron mine in Minnesota--Ananthaswamy weaves together stories about the people and places at the heart of this research, while beautifully explaining the problems that scientists are trying to solve. In so doing, he provides a unique portrait of the universe and our quest to understand it. An atmospheric, engaging and illuminating read, The Edge of Physics depicts science as a human process and, in a very real sense, brings cosmology--with all its rarefied concepts--back down to earth.
About the Author
ANIL ANANTHASWAMY is a consulting editor for New Scientist in London, where he has also worked as a deputy news editor. He also contributes to National Geographic News.
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