Empire of the Stars: Obsession, Friendship and Betrayal in the Quest for Black Holes


Arthur I. Miller - 2005
    Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar--Chandra, as he was called--calculated that certain stars would suffer a strange and violent death, collapsing to virtually nothing. This extraordinary claim, the first mathematical description of black holes, brought Chandra into direct conflict with Sir Arthur Eddington, one of the greatest astrophysicists of the day. Eddington ridiculed the young man's idea at a meeting of the Royal Astronomy Society in 1935, sending Chandra into an intellectual and emotional tailspin--and hindering the progress of astrophysics for nearly forty years. Empire of the Stars is the dramatic story of this intellectual debate and its implications for twentieth-century science. Arthur I. Miller traces the idea of black holes from early notions of "dark stars" to the modern concepts of wormholes, quantum foam, and baby universes. In the process, he follows the rise of two great theories--relativity and quantum mechanics--that meet head on in black holes. Empire of the Stars provides a unique window into the remarkable quest to understand how stars are born, how they live, and, most portentously (for their fate is ultimately our own), how they die. It is also the moving tale of one man's struggle against the establishment--an episode that sheds light on what science is, how it works, and where it can go wrong. Miller exposes the deep-seated prejudices that plague even the most rational minds. Indeed, it took the nuclear arms race to persuade scientists to revisit Chandra's work from the 1930s, for the core of a hydrogen bomb resembles nothing so much as an exploding star. Only then did physicists realize the relevance, truth, and importance of Chandra's work, which was finally awarded a Nobel Prize in 1983. Set against the waning days of the British Empire and taking us right up to the present, this sweeping history examines the quest to understand one of the most forbidding phenomena in the universe, as well as the passions that fueled that quest over the course of a century.

Wrinkles in Time


George Smoot - 1993
    Dr. George Smoot, a distinguished cosmologist and adventurer whose quest for cosmic knowledge had taken him from the Brazilian rain forest to the South Pole, unveiled his momentous discovery, bringing to light the very nature of the universe. For anyone who has ever looked up at the night sky and wondered, for anyone who has ever longed to pull aside the fabric of the universe for a glimpse of what lies behind it. Wrinkles in Time is the story of Smoot's search to uncover the cosmic seeds of the universe.Wrinkles in Time is the Double Helix of cosmology, an intimate look at the inner world of men and women who ask. "Why are we here?" It tells the story of George Smoot's dogged pursuit of the cosmic wrinkles in the frozen wastes of Antarctica, on mountaintops, in experiments borne aloft aboard high-altitude balloons, U-2 spy planes, and finally a space satellite. Wrinkles in Time presents the hard science behind the structured violence of the big bang theory through breathtakingly clear, lucid images and meaningful comparisons. Scientists and nonscientists alike can follow with rapt attention the story of how, in a fiery creation, wrinkles formed in space ultimately to become stars, galaxies, and even greater delicate structures. Anyone can appreciate the implications of a universe whose end is written in its beginnings - whose course developed according to a kind of cosmic DNA, which guided the universe from simplicity and symmetry to ever-greater complexity and structure. As controversial as it may seem today, Wrinkles in Time reveals truths that, in an earlier century, would have doomed its proclaimers to the fiery stake. For four thousand years some people have accepted the Genesis account of cosmic origin; for most of this century, scientists debated two rival scientific explanations known as the steady state and big bang theories. And now, Wrinkles in Time tells what really happened. The personal story behind astrophysicist George Smoot's incredible discovery of the origin of the cosmos, hailed by Stephen Hawking as "The scientific discovery of the century, if not of all time."

Measuring the Universe: Our Historic Quest to Chart the horizons of Space and Time


Kitty Ferguson - 1900
    Today, scientists are attempting to measure the entire universe and to determine its origin. Although the methods have changed, the quest to chart the horizons of space and time continues to be one of the great adventures of science.Measuring the Universe is an eloquent chronicle of the men and women– from Aristarchus to Cassini, Sir Isaac Newton to Henrietta Leavitt and Stephen Hawking–who have gradually unlocked the mysteries of "how far" and in so doing have changed our ideas about the size and nature of the universe and our place in it. Kitty Ferguson reveals their methods to have been as inventive as their results were–and are–eye-opening. Advances such as Copernicus's revolutionary insights about the arrangement of the solar system, William Herschel's meticulous creation of the first three-dimensional map of the universe, and Edwin Hubble's astonishing discovery that the universe is expanding have by turns revolutionized our concept of the universe. Connecting centuries of breakthroughs with the political and cultural events surrounding them, Ferguson makes astronomy part of the sweep of history.To measure the seemingly immeasurable, scientists have always pushed the boundaries of the imagination–today, for example, facing the paradox of an ever-expanding universe that doesn't appear to expand into anything. In Kitty Fergeson's skillfill hands, the unimaginable becomes accessible and the splendid quest something we all can share.

Parallax: The Race to Measure the Cosmos


Alan W. Hirshfeld - 2001
    Not until the nineteenth century would three men, armed with the best telescopes of their age, race to conquer this astronomical Everest. Parallax tells the fast-moving story of their contest, which ended in a dead heat. Against a sweeping backdrop filled with kidnappings, dramatic rescue, swordplay, madness, and bitter rivalry, Alan W. Hirshfeld brings to life the heroes -- and heroines -- of this remarkable chapter in history. Characters include the destitute boy plucked from a collapsed building who grew up to become the world's greatest telescope maker; the hot-tempered Dane whose nose was lopped off in a duel over mathematics; a merchant's apprentice forced to choose between the lure of money and his passion for astronomy; and the musician who astounded the world by discovering a new planet from his own backyard.Generously illustrated with period engravings and paintings, Parallax is an unforgettable ride through time and space.

Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era, 1961-1965


Francis French - 2007
    But it was also a time of human drama, of moments less public but no less dramatic in the lives of those who made the golden age of space flight happen. These are the moments and the lives that Into That Silent Sea captures, a book that tells the intimate stories of the men and women, American and Russian, who made the space race their own and gave the era its compelling character. These pages chronicle a varied and riveting cavalcade of human stories, including a look at Yuri Gagarin’s harrowing childhood in war-ravaged Russia and Alan Shepard’s firm purchase on the American dream. It also examines the controversial career of cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, and the remarkable struggle and ultimate disappointment of her American counterparts. It tries to uncover the truth behind the allegations that shadowed Gus Grissom and Scott Carpenter and then allows the reader to share the heart-stopping suspense of Alexei Leonov’s near-fatal first space walk. Through dozens of interviews and access to Russian and American official documents and family records, the authors bring to life the experiences that shaped the lives of the first astronauts and cosmonauts and forever changed their world and ours.

The Perfect Machine: Building the Palomar Telescope


Ronald Florence - 1994
    As huge as the Pantheon of Rome and as heavy as the Statue of Liberty, this magnificent instrument is so precisely built that its seventeen-foot mirror was hand-polished to a tolerance of 2/1,000,000 of an inch. The telescope's construction drove some to the brink of madness, made others fearful that mortals might glimpse heaven, and transfixed an entire nation. Ronald Florence weaves into his account of the creation of "the perfect machine" a stirring chronicle of the birth of Big Science and a poignant rendering of an America mired in the depression yet reaching for the stars.

The Sun Kings: The Unexpected Tragedy of Richard Carrington and the Tale of How Modern Astronomy Began


Stuart Clark - 2007
    Around the world, telegraph systems crashed, machines burst into flames, and electric shocks rendered operators unconscious. Compasses and other sensitive instruments reeled as if struck by a massive magnetic fist. For the first time, people began to suspect that the Earth was not isolated from the rest of the universe. However, nobody knew what could have released such strange forces upon the Earth--nobody, that is, except the amateur English astronomer Richard Carrington.In this riveting account, Stuart Clark tells for the first time the full story behind Carrington's observations of a mysterious explosion on the surface of the Sun and how his brilliant insight--that the Sun's magnetism directly influences the Earth--helped to usher in the modern era of astronomy. Clark vividly brings to life the scientists who roundly rejected the significance of Carrington's discovery of solar flares, as well as those who took up his struggle to prove the notion that the Earth could be touched by influences from space. Clark also reveals new details about the sordid scandal that destroyed Carrington's reputation and led him from the highest echelons of science to the very lowest reaches of love, villainy, and revenge. The Sun Kings transports us back to Victorian England, into the very heart of the great nineteenth-century scientific controversy about the Sun's hidden influence over our planet.

First on the Moon: A Voyage with Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr.


Buzz Aldrin - 1970
    Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin give us the exclusive story of Apollo 11: from the earliest preparations to the final touchdown back on Planet Earth. Theirs is the inspiring tale of a truly heroic adventure. Photographs accompany the text.

Asteroid Hunters


Carrie Nugent - 2017
    For the first time ever, we are reaching the point where we may be able to prevent the horrible natural disaster that would result from an asteroid collision. In Asteroid Hunters, Nugent reveals what known impact asteroids have had: the extinction of the dinosaurs, the earth-sized hole Shoemaker Levy 9 left in Jupiter just a few decades ago, how the meteorite that bursted over Chelyabinsk in Russia could have started a war, and unlucky Ms. Anne Hodges—the only person (that we know of) in US history to be the victim of a direct hit. Nugent also introduces the telescope she uses to detect near-Earth asteroids. Ultimately, detection is the key to preventing asteroid impact, and these specialized scientists are working to prevent the unthinkable from happening. If successful, asteroid hunting will lead to the first natural disaster humans have the know-how and the technology to prevent. The successful hunt and mapping of asteroids could mean nothing less than saving life on earth.

Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science


Michael White - 1992
    With a career that began over thirty years ago at Cambridge University, he has managed to do more than perhaps any other scientist to broaden our basic understanding of the universe. His theoretical work on black holes and his progress in advancing our knowledge of the origin and nature of the cosmos have been groundbreakinga "if not downright revolutionary.Stephen Hawking has also spent much of his adult life confined to a wheelchair, a victim of ALS, a degenerative motor neuron disease. Clearly his physical limitations have done nothing to confine him intellectually. He simply never allowed his illness to hinder his scientific development. In fact, many would argue that his liberation from the routine chores of life has allowed him to focus his efforts more keenly on his science.Hawking certainly would have been remarkable for his cutting edge work in theoretical physics alone. However, he has also managed to popularize science in a way unparalleled by other scientists of his stature. He became a household name, achieving almost cult-like fame, with the release of his best-selling book, A Brief History of Time. Although steeped in the potentially overwhelming complexities of cosmology, he succeeded in selling millions of copies to audiences eager to learn even some of what he has to offer.Science writers White and Gribbin have skillfully painted a portrait of an indefatigable genius and a scientific mind that seemingly knows no bounds. Knitting together clear explanations of Hawkinga (TM)s science with a detailed personal history that is both balanced as well as sensitive, we come to knowa "and appreciatea "both.As Stephen Hawkinga (TM)s new book, The Universe in a Nutshell, hits the best-seller lists, it is the ideal time for readers to learn more about this remarkable man and his vast body of accomplishments.

The Day We Found the Universe


Marcia Bartusiak - 2009
    This discovery dramatically reshaped how humans understood their place in the cosmos, and once and for all laid to rest the idea that the Milky Way galaxy was alone in the universe. Six years later, continuing research by Hubble and others forced Albert Einstein to renounce his own cosmic model and finally accept the astonishing fact that the universe was not immobile but instead expanding. The fascinating story of these interwoven discoveries includes battles of will, clever insights, and wrong turns made by the early investigators in this great twentieth-century pursuit. It is a story of science in the making that shows how these discoveries were not the work of a lone genius but the combined efforts of many talented scientists and researchers toiling away behind the scenes. The intriguing characters include Henrietta Leavitt, who discovered the means to measure the vast dimensions of the cosmos . . . Vesto Slipher, the first and unheralded discoverer of the universe’s expansion . . . Georges Lemaître, the Jesuit priest who correctly interpreted Einstein’s theories in relation to the universe . . . Milton Humason, who, with only an eighth-grade education, became a world-renowned expert on galaxy motions . . . and Harlow Shapley, Hubble’s nemesis, whose flawed vision of the universe delayed the discovery of its true nature and startling size for more than a decade.Here is a watershed moment in the history of astronomy, brought about by the exceptional combination of human curiosity, intelligence, and enterprise, and vividly told by acclaimed science writer Marcia Bartusiak.

Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis Aboard Mir


Bryan Burrough - 1997
    It was to be a routine mission, the 4th of seven trips to Mir that NASA astronauts would take as dress rehearsals for the two countries' partnership in a new Intern'l Space Station they were building back on Earth. But there'd been bad omens: a Moscow psychic who predicted a mysterious disaster; a Russian doctor who warned that the crew was psychologically incompatible. Within two weeks the omens were borne out, as the three were suddenly forced to fight the worst fire in space history. This was only the beginning of what became the most dangerous mission in the 36-year history of manned space travel--a 6-month misadventure that would climax in the most harrowing accident faced in space since Apollo 13. In Dragonfly, bestselling author Burrough tells the story of how a joint Russian-American crew narrowly survived almost every trauma imaginable: fire, power blackouts, chemical leaks, docking failures, nail-biting spacewalks & constant mechanical breakdowns, all climaxing in a dramatic midspace collision that left all on board scrambling for their lives. Based on hundreds of hours of interviews with the cosmonauts, astronauts, ground controllers, psychologists & scientists involved, Dragonfly is the saga of a mission as fraught with political & bureaucratic intrigues as any DC potboiler. Using never-before-released internal NASA memoranda, flight logs & debriefings, Burrough portrays a US space program in which many astronauts refuse to raise safety concerns for fear they'll be frozen out of future missions. It offers an unprecedented look inside the rattletrap Russian space program, where the desperate thirst for hard currency leads to safety shortcuts as exhausted, puppetlike cosmonauts endure inhuman pressures from their unfeeling, all-powerful masters on the ground. In Dragonfly, the American astronauts who journeyed to Mir speak out about the failings of the program, from the rigors of training at Russia's Star City military base to the slapdash experiments they were required to perform. Yet thru it all the men & women of the two space programs persevered, forging friendships that will serve them well as the two countries prepare for the 1st launches of the Intern'l Space Station in late 1998. Theirs is a story of a triumph over adversity, destined to be one of the most enduring & widely celebrated adventure stories of our time.

Hello, Is This Planet Earth?: My View from the International Space Station


Tim Peake - 2016
    During his historic mission, he captured hundreds of dazzling photographs, the very best of which are collected here.Tim captures the majesty of the cosmos and of the planet we call home: breath-taking aerial photos of the world's cities illuminated at night, the natural beauty of the northern lights, and unforgettable views of oceans, mountains, and deserts.Tim's lively stories about life in space appear alongside these photographs, including the tale from which the title is taken: his famous wrong number dialed from space, when he accidentally called a stranger and asked: "Hello, is this planet Earth?" With this truly unique perspective on the incredible sights of our planet, Tim demonstrates that while in space, hundreds of miles above his friends and family, he never felt closer to home.

Dr. Space: The Life of Wernher Von Braun


Bob Ward - 2005
    Explores the life and achievements of the rocketry pioneer who designed rockets for the Nazi war effort early in his career and later became a leading figure in the American space program.

Curie and Radioactivity


Paul Strathern - 1999
    A biography of the first family of radioactivity, focuses on their ground-breaking contributions to science, including the discovery of radium.