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The Extravagant Universe:
Exploding Stars, Dark Energy, and the Accelerating Cosmos
Robert P. Kirshner

With an epilogue by the author

Winner of the 2002 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Physics and Astronomy, Association of American Publishers
Finalist for the 2003 Aventis General Prize

Paperback | 2016 | $19.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691173184
304 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 11 color illus. 29 halftones. 12 line illus.
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The Extravagant Universe tells the story of a remarkable adventure of scientific discovery. One of the world's leading astronomers, Robert Kirshner, takes readers inside a lively research team on the quest that led them to an extraordinary cosmological discovery: the expansion of the universe is accelerating under the influence of a dark energy that makes space itself expand. In addition to sharing the story of this exciting discovery, Kirshner also brings the science up-to-date in a new epilogue. He explains how the idea of an accelerating universe--once a daring interpretation of sketchy data--is now the standard assumption in cosmology today.

This measurement of dark energy--a quality of space itself that causes cosmic acceleration--points to a gaping hole in our understanding of fundamental physics. In 1917, Einstein proposed the "cosmological constant" to explain a static universe. When observations proved that the universe was expanding, he cast this early form of dark energy aside. But recent observations described first-hand in this book show that the cosmological constant--or something just like it--dominates the universe's mass and energy budget and determines its fate and shape.

Warned by Einstein's blunder, and contradicted by the initial results of a competing research team, Kirshner and his colleagues were reluctant to accept their own result. But, convinced by evidence built on their hard-earned understanding of exploding stars, they announced their conclusion that the universe is accelerating in February 1998. Other lines of inquiry and parallel supernova research now support a new synthesis of a cosmos dominated by dark energy but also containing several forms of dark matter. We live in an extravagant universe with a surprising number of essential ingredients: the real universe we measure is not the simplest one we could imagine.

Robert P. Kirshner is the Clowes Professor of Science at Harvard University.

Reviews:

"Kirshner is a talented writer, and both experts and general readers will find his book a consistently enjoyable read. . . . The Extravagant Universe is a personal book. . . . For the general reader interested in the excitement of how science is done, this strategy makes for a fascinating account. . . . The story . . . is irresistible in its own right, and is related with verve and good humor. . . . Books like this one will help inspire the next generation of physicists."--Sean Carroll, Nature

"An extravagant and thoroughly enjoyable account of our amazing universe."--Michael S. Turner, Science

"Robert Kirshner has written an excellent insider's account of the race to discover the fate of the cosmos. . . . Kirshner shows an impressively deft touch with complex explanations, and he doesn't hesitate to bridge gaps in the reader's knowledge with an apt metaphor. . . . The Extravagant Universe delivers the promise of its subtitle extremely well, and should serve as the definitive insider's story of how Kirshner led his motley group of astronomers to glory in their search to find the fate of the universe."--Donald Goldsmith, Natural History

"Fellow astronomers--and generations of Harvard undergraduates--have long appreciated [Kirshner] as a raconteur of exceptional eloquence, so it is hard to imagine anyone better suited to give us the inside story on the new discoveries. [He] does not disappoint. He tells, in large part, a story of how improved technology has enabled astronomers to look farther into the distance and thus further into the past."--Laurence Marschall, Discover Magazine

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Table of Contents:

PREFACE ix
CHAPTER 1: The Big Picture 1
CHAPTER 2: Violent Agents of Cosmic Change 15
CHAPTER 3: Another Way to Explode 34
CHAPTER 4: Einstein Adds a Constant 49
CHAPTER 5: Cosmic Expansion 60
CHAPTER 6: What Time Is It? 83
CHAPTER 7: A Hot Day in Holmdel 114
CHAPTER 8: Learning to Swim 136
CHAPTER 9: Getting It First 158
CHAPTER 10: Getting It Right 194
CHAPTER 11: The Smoking Gun? 234
NOTES 263
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 275
INDEX 277

This book has been translated into:

  • Japanese
  • Spanish
  • Czech
  • Portuguese (Portugal)

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