The Runaway Universe : The Race to Discover the Future of the Cosmos (Helix Books)

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9780738200682: The Runaway Universe : The Race to Discover the Future of the Cosmos (Helix Books)
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For decades, astronomers have sought to discover the ultimate fate of the univers. Will the cosmos continue forever in its expansion, which began billions of years ago with the big bang? Or will gravity someday reverse the process, producing a "big crunch?" Within the past few years, two rival groups of astronomers have announced a discovery that seems to resolve the issue: Instead of slowing down, the expansion of the universe seems to be accelerating. This finding has shaken the science of cosmology to its very foundation. This is the story of the astronomers who have stood the world of cosmology on its ear--and of their competitive race to discover the future of the cosmos. It is also an investigation into whether their remarkable findings will stand the test of time. If the new results are verified in the coming years, we will eventually find ourselves in a "runaway universe," in which every bit of matter is extremely far from its closest neighbor. Then the cosmological constant, which Einstein once rued as his "greatest blunder," will turn out to be one of his finest insights into the nature of space itself.A vivid picture of an unexpected turn of events, The Runaway Universe presents the startling new discovery that is revolutionizing our view of the cosmos.

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About the Author:

Donald W. Goldsmith has won many prizes, including the prestigious American Institute of Physics' Science Writing Award, for his wonderful books on science. He is the author of The Hunt for Life on Mars and Einstein's Greatest Blunder? He lives in Berkeley, California.

From Publishers Weekly:

It could be even bigger than we thought: not only is the universe expanding (as astronomers have long known) but its rate of expansion is increasing. Observations of supernovas in 1998, if accurate, show that the cosmos is spreading and dispersing. In a neat, up-to-date introduction to cosmology and astrophysics, prolific astronomy popularizer Goldsmith (The Astronomers; The Hunt for Life on Mars) explains how the universe might be "shaped" and why its sped-up growth is such a surprise. Einstein's theories introduced a number called the cosmological constant: if that number had a certain (below-zero) value, the universe would stay the same size. Recent models of the expanding universe set Einstein's constant at zero. Now it turns out the constant has a value above zero. On his way toward the new science of supernovae, Goldsmith covers Einstein and general relativity, telescope maestro Edwin Hubble and his rival Harlow Shapley, such 1980s quantum theorists as Alan Guth and the mysterious "dark matter" dispersed through intergalactic space. It turns out that "all the structure in the cosmos has grown from tiny fluctuations in the density of matter from place to place"; moreover, we live in a 10-billion-year window of cosmological history during which space is curved, but not too curved--earlier or later, life could never arise. Outlining these theories and discoveries, Goldsmith can sound like a stage magician: his new knowledge "will prove so amazing that your friends and family will doubt what you have to tell them." On the other hand, he's exceptionally good at explaining math in layperson's terms--a talent welcome in a complicated subject such as this. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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