Synopses & Reviews
Gamma-ray bursts are the most violent events since the birth of the universe. They are about ten times more energetic than the most powerful supernovae. At their peak, gamma-ray bursts are the brightest objects in space, about 100,000 times brighter than an entire galaxy. And yet until recently these titanic eruptions were the most mysterious events in astronomy.
In The Biggest Bangs, astrophysicist Jonathan Katz offers a fascinating account of the scientific quest to unravel the mystery of these incredible phenomena. With an eye for colorful detail and a talent for translating scientific jargon into plain English, Katz ranges from the accidental discovery of gamma-ray bursts (by a Cold War satellite system monitoring the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty) to the frustrating but ultimately successful efforts to localize these bursts in distant galaxies. He describes the theories, the equipment (the most recent breakthrough was made with a telescope you could carry under your arm), and the pioneers who have finally begun to explain these strange bursts. And along the way, he offers important lessons about science itself, arguing that "small science" is as valuable as institutionalized "big science," that observations are more the product of advances in technology than of theory, and that theory is only "the concentrated essence of experiment."
With the advent of the space age a mere 40 years ago, we have grown used to strangeness in the universe--and confident in science's ability to explain it. In The Biggest Bangs, Jonathan Katz shows that there are still wonders out there that exceed the bounds of our imagination and defy our ability to understand them.
"Delightful and informative, in a style reminiscent of Richard Rhodes. Katz combines history with physical insight to make the unfolding story of gamma ray bursts read like a novel. He shows forefront astrophysics being done by humans, in an illuminating way that only a true expert and insider could." --Richard A. Muller, Professor of Physics at Berkeley, author of Ice Ages and their Astronomical Origins
"A wonderful book for the intellectually curious of all ages: from high school to high table. Katz takes us through the history and the mystery of the biggest bangs of all, the gamma-ray bursts. He also manages to explain the essence of some of the other major puzzles in modern astronomy. All of this Katz accomplishes with a style that is simple and easy to read. Because he has such a mastery of the technical aspects of the subject, Katz is able to distill the main points of the argument into non-mathematical prose that is fun and informative. I would recommend this book highly to young people thinking of entering a career into science and to senior citizens seeking intellectual excitement, and everyone in between." --John Bahcall, author of Neutrino Astrophysics
"This unusual and stimulating book on Gamma Ray Bursts describes theory and observations in laymen's language, mixed with history, science politics, controversy and personalities. Beyond the single topic of Gamma Ray Bursts it illustrates the chaotic way which science usually follows, by showing not only the successes but the many false starts which nevertheless help the process." --Edwin E. Salpeter, J.G. White Distinguished Professor of Physical Sciences, Emeritus, Cornell University
Sparkling with witty dialogue, Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare's most enjoyable and theatrically successful comedies. This up-to-date edition offers a newly edited text and an exceptionally helpful and critically aware introduction which discusses Shakespeare's social
transformation of his source material, and rethinks the attitudes to gender relations that underlie the comedy and determine its view of marriage.
About the Author
earned his Ph.D. at Cornell University at the age of twenty-two. A Professor of Physics at Washington University in St. Louis, he has worked on problems as diverse as X-ray stars, earthquakes, the fracture of glass, and gamma-ray bursts.