The twentieth century was astonishing in all regards, shaking the foundations of practically every aspect of human life and thought, physics not least of all. Beginning with the publication of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, through the wild revolution of quantum mechanics, and up until the physics of the modern day (including the astonishing revelation, in 1998, that the Universe is not only expanding, but doing so at an ever-quickening pace), much of what physicists have seen in our Universe suggests that much of our Universe is unseen—that we live in a dark cosmos.
Everyone knows that there are things no one can see—the air you're breathing, for example, or, to be more exotic, a black hole. But what everyone does not know is that what we can see—a book, a cat, or our planet—makes up only 5 percent of the Universe. The rest—fully 95 percent—is totally invisible to us; its presence discernible only by the weak effects it has on visible matter around it.
This invisible stuff comes in two varieties—dark matter and dark energy. One holds the Universe together, while the other tears it apart. What these forces really are has been a mystery for as long as anyone has suspected they were there, but the latest discoveries of experimental physics have brought us closer to that knowledge. Particle physicist Dan Hooper takes his readers, with wit, grace, and a keen knack for explaining the toughest ideas science has to offer, on a quest few would have ever expected: to discover what makes up our dark cosmos.
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Dan Hooper is an associate scientist in the theoretical astrophysics group at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, where he investigates dark matter, supersymmetry, neutrinos, extra dimensions, and cosmic rays. Originally from Cold Spring, Minnesota, Dr. Hooper received his PhD at the University of Wisconsin and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. He is the author of Dark Cosmos: In Search of our Universe's Missing Mass and Energy, a SEED magazine Notable Book.From Publishers Weekly:
As Fermi Lab astrophysicist Hooper tells readers, the mass in any solid object, like a chair or a table, makes up only about 4% of the universe. The other 96% of the cosmos consists of invisible "dark matter" and "dark energy." Scientists have known about dark matter for a long time; some minigalaxies are composed almost entirely of the stuff. Dark energy is a more recent discovery: it's what seems to be pushing the universe apart faster and faster. Hooper explains why he and his colleagues have ruled out many leading candidates for the constituent particles of dark matter, like neutrinos. Today they are betting on particles called superpartners that bear Seussian names like sneutrinos, zinos and Higgsinos. Some researchers believe the missing mass may just be ordinary matter moving through the extra dimensions posited by string theory. Dark energy, which accounts for two-thirds of the energy in the universe, presents even more of a mystery. According to the author, some scientists have theorized that multiple universes may play a role. Hooper's clear presentation in very simple, jargon-free prose should appeal especially to young people just starting to get excited about the mysteries that still await them in science. (Nov. 1)
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