Three Steps to the Universe: From the Sun to Black Holes to the Mystery of Dark Matter

Three Steps to the Universe: From the Sun to Black Holes to the Mystery of Dark Matter

Three Steps to the Universe: From the Sun to Black Holes to the Mystery of Dark Matter

Three Steps to the Universe: From the Sun to Black Holes to the Mystery of Dark Matter

Synopsis

If scientists can't touch the Sun, how do they know what it's made of? And if we can't see black holes, how can we be confident they exist? Gravitational physicist David Garfinkle and his brother, science fiction writer Richard Garfinkle, tackle these questions and more inThree Steps to the Universe,a tour through some of the most complex phenomena in the cosmos and an accessible exploration of how scientists acquire knowledge about the universe through observation, indirect detection, and theory. The authors begin by inviting readers to step away from the Earth and reconsider our Sun. What we can directly observe of this star is limited to its surface, but with the advent of telescopes and spectroscopy, scientists know more than ever about its physical characteristics, origins, and projected lifetime. From the Sun, the authors journey further out into space to explore black holes. The Garfinkle brothers explain that our understanding of these astronomical oddities began in theory, and growing mathematical and physical evidence has unexpectedly supported it. From black holes, the authors lead us further into the unknown, to the dark matter and energy that pervade our universe, where science teeters on the edge of theory and discovery. Returning from the depths of space, the final section of the book brings the reader back down to Earth for a final look at the practice of science, ending with a practical guide to discerning real science from pseudoscience among the cacophony of print and online scientific sources. Three Steps to the Universewill reward anyone interested in learning more about the universe around us and shows how scientists uncover its mysteries.

Excerpt

How do you know the Sun will rise tomorrow? What justifies our day-to-day confidence that ice is slippery, or that a match put to the gas on the burner of a stove will make fire appear?

We learn these things by experience. We have seen the Sun rise, slipped on the ice, and time and again set the gas alight. But how can we learn about those things that are not at hand—the Sun and stars, for example—and how can we learn about things that do not even give us light to see them by, such as the dark objects physicists talk about: black holes, dark matter, and dark energy? We will seek to find these things out by a journey through three worlds that exist in the minds of scientists: the world we see, the world we can find out about, and the world we think we know.

WHERE WE WALK

On our journey out into the cosmos, we will explore three different metaphoric universes: the perceived universe, the detected universe, and the theoretical universe. It is in the interaction of these three universes that scientific understanding is created. The . . .

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