A NEW YORK TIMES EDITOR'S CHOICE
Einstein’s Shadow follows a team of elite scientists on their historic mission to take the first picture of a black hole, putting Einstein’s theory of relativity to its ultimate test and helping to answer our deepest questions about space, time, the origins of the universe, and the nature of reality
Photographing a black hole sounds impossible, a contradiction in terms. But Shep Doeleman and a global coalition of scientists are on the cusp of doing just that.
With exclusive access to the team, journalist Seth Fletcher spent five years following Shep and an extraordinary cast of characters as they assembled the Event Horizon Telescope, a virtual radio observatory the size of the Earth. He witnessed their struggles, setbacks, and breakthroughs, and along the way, he explored the latest thinking on the most profound questions about black holes. Do they represent a limit to our ability to understand reality? Or will they reveal the clues that lead to the long-sought Theory of Everything?
Fletcher transforms astrophysics into something exciting, accessible, and immediate, taking us on an incredible adventure to better understand the complexity of our galaxy, the boundaries of human perception and knowledge, and how the messy human endeavor of science really works.
Weaving a compelling narrative account of human ingenuity with excursions into cutting-edge science, Einstein’s Shadow is a tale of great minds on a mission to change the way we understand our universe—and our place in it.
Fletcher (Bottled Lightning), Scientific American's chief features editor, falls short in his attempt to engage readers in the story of a group of astronomers, led by astrophysicist Shep Doeleman, "on a quest to take the first picture of a black hole" that began in 2012. Noting that "no one has ever gotten a direct look" at one, Fletcher makes plain the effort's value, citing how important it could be to reconciling Einstein's theory of relativity with quantum mechanics. He starts intriguingly, by grounding the project in human vanity, recounting a discussion among astronomers working on the Event Horizon Telescope an array of radio telescopes spread over several continents that he realized was actually about "who gets their name on Nobel Prize." Unfortunately, despite the author's best efforts, making the phenomenon of black holes comprehensible proves an uphill battle. Unlike the best popular science books, this narrative doesn't make the scientific concepts sufficiently clear to the lay reader.