Ian Stewart's up-to-the-minute guide to the cosmos moves from the formation of the Earth and its Moon to the planets and asteroids of the solar system and from there out into the galaxy and the universe. He describes the architecture of space and time, dark matter and dark energy, how galaxies form, why stars implode, how everything began, and how it will end. He considers parallel universes, what forms extra-terrestrial life might take, and the likelihood of Earth being hit by an asteroid.
Mathematics, Professor Stewart shows, has been the driving force in astronomy and cosmology since the ancient Babylonians. He describes how Kepler's work on planetary orbits led Newton to formulate his theory of gravity, and how two centuries later irregularities in the motion of Mars inspired Einstein's theory of general relativity. In crystal-clear terms he explains the fundamentals of gravity, spacetime, relativity and quantum theory, and shows how they all relate to each other. Eighty years ago the discovery that the universe is expanding led to the Big Bang theory of its origins. This in turn led cosmologists to posit features such as dark matter and dark energy. But does dark matter exist? Could another scientific revolution be on the way to challenge current scientific orthodoxy? These are among the questions Ian Stewart raises in his quest through the realms of astronomy and cosmology.
Stewart (Professor Stewart's Incredible Numbers), emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Warwick (U.K.), demonstrates how scientific inquiry and math go hand in hand in this accessible mathematical history of science. Each chapter revolves around a vexing cosmic concept Earth's unusually large Moon, Saturn's "ears," time stopping near a black hole, and fallibility in the Big Bang theory and the math that explains or disproves it. Telling the story of how scientists and mathematicians harness abstract mathematical relationships to figure out the real world, Stewart deftly highlights the interdependent nature of ideas. Readers see how many people taking small steps forward keep science advancing. It is easy to see why "one of the common delights of mathematical physics is that equations often seem to know more than their creators do." Stewart is sure to please math lovers, history buffs, and science enthusiasts alike by covering an array of eras, innovators, and disciplines. With virtually no equations, readers learn about complicated mathematical theory in a friendly, conversational tone; whether he's discussing "white holes," why "relativity and quantum mechanics are uneasy bedfellows," or the shape of space itself, Stewart's pages flip of their own accord. Illus.