A theoretical astrophysicist explores the ideas that transformed our knowledge of the 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.
“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
“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