Mapping the Heavens The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos Priyamvada Natarajan

Format:
Hardback
Publication date:
07 Jun 2016
ISBN:
9780300204414
Imprint:
Yale University Press
Dimensions:
288 pages: 235 x 156 x 25mm
Illustrations:
14 color + 33 b-w illus.

For all curious readers, a lively introduction to radical ideas and discoveries that are transforming our knowledge of the universe

This book provides a tour of the “greatest hits” of cosmological discoveries—the ideas that reshaped our universe over the past century. The cosmos, once understood as a stagnant place, filled with the ordinary, is now a universe that is expanding at an accelerating pace, propelled by dark energy and structured by dark matter. Priyamvada Natarajan, our guide to these ideas, is someone at the forefront of the research—an astrophysicist who literally creates maps of invisible matter in the universe. She not only explains for a wide audience the science behind these essential ideas but also provides an understanding of how radical scientific theories gain acceptance.

The formation and growth of black holes, dark matter halos, the accelerating expansion of the universe, the echo of the big bang, the discovery of exoplanets, and the possibility of other universes—these are some of the puzzling cosmological topics of the early twenty-first century. Natarajan discusses why the acceptance of new ideas about the universe and our place in it has never been linear and always contested even within the scientific community. And she affirms that, shifting and incomplete as science always must be, it offers the best path we have toward making sense of our wondrous, mysterious universe.

Priyamvada Natarajan is professor of astronomy and physics at Yale University and holds the Sophie and Tycho Brahe Professorship at the Dark Center, Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and an honorary professorship at the University of Delhi, India.

Mapping the Heavens gives a highly readable, insider's view of recent discoveries in astronomy with unusual attention to the instruments used and the human drama of the scientists.”—Alan Lightman, author of The Accidental Universe and Einstein's Dream

“This excellent book describes the boisterous debates and hard slog whereby our current understanding of the cosmos has emerged. It's especially welcome as a faithful portrayal of how science is actually done.”—Martin Rees, author of Just Six Numbers

“Priyamvada Natarajan’s love affair with the heavens began in childhood, continues with her notable work in astrophysics, and is now enhanced with this insightful overview of the hottest topics in astronomy today—including black holes, dark matter, dark energy, and exoplanets. Moreover, she traces how these ideas struggled to get accepted, providing the reader with an excellent peek at how science gets done.”—Marcia Bartusiak, author of Black Hole and The Day We Found the Universe

“Part history, part science, all illuminating. If you want to understand the greatest ideas that shaped our current cosmic cartography, read this book.”—Adam G. Riess, Nobel Laureate in Physics, 2011

“In this delightful tour of the cosmos, Priyamvada Natarajan traces the intellectual journey that has led to today’s understanding of the universe. Deftly weaving centuries of scientific progress with the curiosity, skepticism, and fortitude that made such progress possible, Natarajan captures well humanity’s passionate drive to discover.”—Brian Greene, author of The Hidden Reality and The Elegant Universe

“Natarajan bring a philosophical and well-informed historical depth to [her topic], consistently tying them  in the theme of her passion for mapping… She deals with subjects that are extremely complex but makes them very clear, and the book is packed with well-researched facts,”—Hazel Muir, BBC Sky at Night

“By introducing the major players behind each discovery, Natarajan adds a lively human touch to her discussion, reinforcing the dynamism of a field that ‘fans human curiosity and is driven by it as well.’”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Fascinating. . . shows that our current knowledge of our universe keeps on expanding month-to-month. . . a beautiful book.”—Deepak Chopra, via Facebook

"Here is an authoritative guide to the major cosmological breakthroughs of the past century. Natarajan writes as an accomplished guide to contemporary astronomy including dark matter and dark energy."—Owen Gingerich, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

“Both novel and absorbing . . . Her phrase ‘Mapping the Heavens’ is both literal and metaphorical. Natarajan describes the revolutions that have taken place in our ability to explore the structure of our universe. But the point she makes is deeper. By describing developments in cosmology—including the discovery of other galaxies, the discovery of the expansion of the universe, the existence of dark matter, black holes, and the mysterious dark energy causing the observed expansion of the universe to be speeding up—she succeeds in demonstrating how the progress of fundamental science often challenges the mental ‘maps’ that scientists conceive to represent their ideas.”—Lawrence M. Krauss, New York Review of Books

Won an Honorable Mention in the Cosmology and Astronomy category for the 2017 American Publishers Awards for Professional & Scholarly Excellence (PROSE).

“A tour de force of the cosmos… an instructive and thought-provoking exploration of the connections, tensions and mishaps that so often accompany scientific venture.”—Lionel London, Physics World

“I am studying the big picture as thrillingly projected in Mapping the Heavens, a strikingly lucid account of the expansion, not just of the universe, but of the way we have tried to understand it, from the Babylonians to black holes and dark matter.”—Richard Holmes, “By the Book,” New York Times Book Review