The Routledge Companion to the New Cosmology

The Routledge Companion to the New Cosmology

The Routledge Companion to the New Cosmology

The Routledge Companion to the New Cosmology

Synopsis

Just what is Einstein's Theory of Relativity? The Big Bang Theory? Curvature of Spacetime? What do astronomers mean when they talk of a 'flat universe'?This approachable and authoritative guide to the cosmos answers these questions, and more. Taking advantage of the distinctive Companion format, readers can use the extensive, cross-referenced background chapters as a fascinating and accessible introduction to the current state of cosmological knowledge - or, they can use the convenient A-Z body of entries as a quick reference to a wide range of terms and concepts. Entries include topics such as: Black Hole; Doppler Effect; Fermi, Enrico; Heat Death of the Universe; Life in the Universe; Olber's Paradox; Quantum Field Theory; Supernova; and much more.

Excerpt

On the cosmic scale, things have fallen out rather well for cosmologists here on planet Earth. We could have found ourselves ensconced on an overcast planet whose weather forecast was all scattered showers and no sunny intervals. Our Solar System might easily have been located in one of the dustier parts of the Milky Way, through which visible light from neither stars nor galaxies could penetrate. Both outcomes would have left astronomers down on their luck. We would have been thousands of years behind in our knowledge of planetary motions and the laws that govern the changing of the sky. Our deep understanding of Nature's laws of motion and gravity, gleaned primarily from our study of the magisterial celestial motions, would have been stunted; our view of ourselves and the immensity of the Universe around us smaller and more parochial.

Instead, Nature has been kind to us, allowing us to see enough to begin to build up something of the big picture of the expanding Universe in which we live. Nearly four hundred years ago, observations made with the unaided eye were first supplemented by telescopes that magnified images in visible light, but the 20th century has witnessed the unveiling of the Universe across the whole electromagnetic spectrum. We have telescopes and receivers that eavesdrop on the Universe in the radio, millimetre, ultraviolet, infrared and X-ray wavebands. Each paints a different portrait of the Universe, clearly revealing things that once could be seen only through a glass darkly.

Technical developments have played a key role. Physicists and engineers have provided instruments whose sensitivity was undreamt of just twenty-five years ago. Where once we had to build bigger and bigger mirrors if our telescopes were to see farther and fainter than ever before, we can now advance more rapidly, more cheaply and more flexibly, by improving the quality of the receivers that register photons from billions of light years away. And, most dramatically of all, we have at last placed a telescope in space. High above the twinkling of the Earth's atmosphere, the Hubble Space Telescope has provided us with breathtaking images of the Universe. They have a sharpness and unsuspected intricacy that has turned them into some of our most instantly recognisable natural works of art.

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