Heart of Darkness describes the incredible saga of humankind's quest to unravel the deepest secrets of the universe. Over the past thirty years, scientists have learned that two little-understood components--dark matter and dark energy--comprise most of the known cosmos, explain the growth of all cosmic structure, and hold the key to the universe's fate. The story of how evidence for the so-called "Lambda-Cold Dark Matter" model of cosmology has been gathered by generations of scientists throughout the world is told here by one of the pioneers of the field, Jeremiah Ostriker, and his coauthor Simon Mitton.
From humankind's early attempts to comprehend Earth's place in the solar system, to astronomers' exploration of the Milky Way galaxy and the realm of the nebulae beyond, to the detection of the primordial fluctuations of energy from which all subsequent structure developed, this book explains the physics and the history of how the current model of our universe arose and has passed every test hurled at it by the skeptics. Throughout this rich story, an essential theme is emphasized: how three aspects of rational inquiry--the application of direct measurement and observation, the introduction of mathematical modeling, and the requirement that hypotheses should be testable and verifiable--guide scientific progress and underpin our modern cosmological paradigm.
This monumental puzzle is far from complete, however, as scientists confront the mysteries of the ultimate causes of cosmic structure formation and the real nature and origin of dark matter and dark energy.
For Conrad, it was the Congo; for Ostriker (Formation of Structure in the Universe) and Mitton (The Young Oxford Book of Astronomy), it's deep space, dark matter, and dark energy. In this stimulating study, the Princeton astrophysics professor and University of Cambridge scholar offer a compelling insider's take on how astronomers have worked to reveal the mystery that is our universe. After a quick review of the long history of astronomy, the duo dive headlong into the 20th century and Einstein's paradigm-crushing work on relativity, gravity, and time, which coupled with technological improvements laid the foundations for a modern cosmology based on "expansion of vision, mind-set, and of the physical universe itself." Indeed, the Big Bang sent galaxies racing outward, and the resulting universe is a "quantum soup" riddled with " holes,' filaments,' and walls.' " Here the authors prove their scientific mettle, exploring current research into the structure of the universe, including dark matter that holds galaxies together, and mind-boggling dark energy, whose strength uniquely increases in proportion to expanding intergalactic distances. Ostriker and Mitton's knowledge is vast, and while they acknowledge that our understanding of the universe is far from complete, this thought-provoking presentation is as accessible as it is exciting. Photos & illus.