Humankind has grappled for millennia with the fundamental questions of the origin and end of the universe--it was a focus of ancient religions and myths and of the inquiries of Aristotle, Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton. Today we are at the brink of discoveries that should soon reveal the deepest secrets of the universe.
Alpha and Omega is a dispatch from the front lines of the cosmological revolution that is being waged at observatories and laboratories around the world-in Europe, in America, and even in Antarctica--where scientists are actually peering into both the cradle of the universe and its grave. Scientists--including galaxy hunters and microwave eavesdroppers, gravity theorists and atom smashers, all of whom are on the trail of dark matter, dark energy, and the growing inhabitants of the particle zoo-now know how the universe will end and are on the brink of understanding its beginning. Their findings will be among the greatest triumphs of science, even towering above the deciphering of the human genome.
This is the book you need to help understand the frequent front-page headlines heralding dramatic cosmological discoveries. It makes cutting-edge science both crystal clear and wonderfully exciting.
Did the universe really begin with a bang, and will it end with a whimper? Well-known science journalist Seife gives a comprehensive survey of "theories of everything" from the ancients to the latest discoveries. He explains why some scientists now theorize that the universe may have begun and may end with a "big splat," and explains the "ekpyrotic scenario," which says a parallel universe, like a giant membrane, may be floating toward our universe. The recent, highly publicized discovery that the universe is expanding at an ever faster rate seems to support this idea. Another theory of everything that is sure to be encountered more and more frequently in magazines and newspapers is "M-theory," which combines the weird worlds of supersymmetry and string theory. According to supersymmetry, every particle has a twin superpartner endowed with very different properties than familiar subatomic particles. This helps solve the question of where the missing matter in the universe is, since the baryonic particles that we are able to detect make up only 5% of the total. String theory postulates the existence of membranes unimaginably minuscule and curled up in multiple dimensions. Seife also explains how large-scale projects in Louisiana and other sites are aimed at detecting gravity waves, one of the holy grails in science. In an appendix, he lays odds on which scientists look destined to win a Nobel Prize for their discoveries and the areas of research that we will probably see in tomorrow's headlines. In short, Seife provides lucid explanations of very complicated topics for the science buff or well-rounded general reader. (On sale July 14)